Wednesday, 28 January 2009


Rather like going to see a stand up comic, the hour I spent listening to the Directors (and a less than exciting chap from the legal firm - I think) was very enjoyable but I cannot really remember exactly what was said. Sorry.

There were, in no particular order, a number of things that I picked up on.

Despite the fact that Derek Chappell was the 'MC' it is clear that Richard Murray is still the main man. This is clearly only my opinion, but he did handle some of the more awkward questions, and he showed more balls in standing up to (standing his ground and defending himself) the criticisms.

Derek Chappell invited the legal chap to go through the mandatory items and resolutions then he opened the floor to questions. I declined to ask one as I am a coward - as you can deduce from the fact that I write under a 'secret identity' and am very good at criticising others from behind your PC screen.

The questions started along the lines of "In the accounts on page x I see this and then on page y I see that..." I won't lie and say that I didn't understand what they were talking about, I just wasn't all that interested. I spent two weeks in December doing nothing other than my company's accounts so I had no interest in how they value the clubs asserts and it's goodwill.

However, it was interesting to to hear the accountant describe the situation regarding the goodwill. Basically he suggested that with the current circumstances, including and not exclusively, income, expected player sales and expected directors injections he had no reason to expect that the club will not still be trading one year from when he signed off the accounts. This being November 2009. If I was not such a coward I would have asked what he had estimated that value of player sales to be. At one point I even clenched my fist and poked my index finger out in anticipation of raising my hand, then I saved myself. Phew!

There were a few other questions - sorry I don't remember them - before Richard Murray advised that in the past when he had chaired these meetings he had thought a good way to start was a summary of where we were. Incidentally he did this at the bloggers meeting in June. On both occasions this summary negated the need for lots of questions as they provided the answers.

Richard's speech has almost completely escaped my mind. I am not hiding anything, and there was nothing controversial in it, but he talked about how we were compared to both Fulham and Middlesbrough in the Premier League. He went on to describe and give numbers for money invested and spent. I cannot remember the numbers exactly so forgive me, but he stated that we had spent c. £45m to Fulham's c. £160 (it might have been £180m - sorry) and Middlesbrough's c. £100m plus. He also pointed out that Fulham don't have a ground as good as ours. He also pointed out that our ground was bought and paid for, unlike the club that we beat last night. I don't want to argue with Richard Murray (ever) but bought and paid for would mean no debt on it, and from what I read in the accounts we do have some debt - but I'll let that one go.

He also went on to expand and say that we were punching above our weight in the Premier League, and those figures he has given do explain that. Sadly the conclusion to this (as if we didn't know already) is that the attendance at matches is no longer a reflection of the financial strength of a club. Another thing Richard pointed out was that we charged the lowest admission prices in the Premier League, and we are among the lowest in the Championship. Can't really argue with that.

Carrying on in no particular order, and I should stress that Richard Murray was not the only director to open up to those in the room - just the one that seemed to say more of what I remember - Richard at one point asked who in the room thought appointing Pardew when we did was a mistake. After the benefit of hindsight had been disallowed it was agreed that no one did.

Dowie (which I have heard before) was admitted as a mistake and this had more people saying they thought so at the time. It would appear that Les Reed (despite what was said at the time and since) was only ever given the job until someone else came along, unless he proved himself adequate in the meantime. Adequate is perhaps not the wright word, and wasn't what Richard said. I think he said good enough, but I'm not sure. It was explained (for the first time for me) that as soon as Pardew left West Ham he was offered the job (well approached I guess).

One think that Richard did mention (and honestly the others did take part) was that despite the fact that Pardew was not given the keys to the safe exactly, the only way you can hope to be successful is to appoint a manager (who you think is up to it) and give him all the support you can. I agree with that 100%, and it is just bad luck (or judgement in recruitment if you want to be point the finger) that the last two managers have been as trustworthy on spending as Mrs Kings Hill is at Bluewater after a bottle of wine with her lunch.

Without trying to remember the direct quotes Richard did show some backbone in the face of continued criticism. I guess his feeling was 'ok I've admitted I've made mistakes, but I was trying to do the best I could.' Included in that was the question as to why we didn't appoint Billy Davis when Curbishley went. The response was that we did offer him the job, and good terms, but he declined as he thought Curbishley had over achieved for a long time, and he didn't want to follow him as he thought we could fail to replicate what had gone before. Clever man, maybe.

As for the rest, I will summarise:

We hope to bring in at least two more players this week, one will be a centre half and one will (hopefully) be a striker. If we do sign a striker Andy Gray may be allowed to leave. It is clear that he has little respect from the board and Richard Murray in particular. It was hinted at (my view) that he is only playing as we have nothing else. He is also on a lot of money, by all accounts.

On the subject of these two players it is hoped that they will be permanent, but if the players want long term contracts on serious money (they are the type of players we are after) we might have to go down the loan route initially. We don't want to be relegated with players we cannot afford. The discussion of loans came up and a question was asked about a month's loan. It was explained that all loans are for a(n initial) month and then extended. This is not the same as a season's loan signed in the summer. I wanted to ask if there was any indication if Murty or Soares would stay longer, but I chickened out. Buk Burrrk!

There have been no permanent offers for Chris Dickson. None. It was suggested by Bob Whitehead (only mentioned to prove it wasn't the Richard Murray show) that we hadn't even had a loan offer for his full wages - and he is not on a fortune. I take that to mean that someone was willing to take him if we paid some of his wages. Gillingham perhaps - again, just my guess. On the subject of Chris Dickson it was suggested that both Pardew and Parkinson thought he was a little inexperienced, and didn't seem to be able to do as he was told during games. It was not unmentioned that Kinsella was screaming at him from the touchline last night to get him to follow instructions. He may, however, get a start soon.

Jonjo Shelvey has been offered what was described as a very lucrative contract. Richard even jokingly apologised to us shareholders for paying so much. There is no doubt that the board are fully aware of how good he is going to be. He can sign the contract when is 17 on 27th February. It is thought (believed) that he will sign the contract, but there are no guarantees.

The only other subject that is relevant and, indeed, important is that of our managers. In no particular order; Pardew was a rather arrogant man and as such Parkinson didn't have much say in what went on before the former was sacked. It is thought that Pardew had a different idea of how to play, rather than how to battle, than Parkinson. The players are, apparently, much more behind Parkinson. It would seem that their attitude has improved since the change of manager. Parkinson had little say in players bought under Pardew's reign, and it is accepted that the players he has signed have been nearer what we need - not to mention much much better value for money.

The justification for appointing Parkinson was discussed, and I can confirm (how arrogant - I was told) that Parkinson, nor his staff, received new contracts or more money. The 'management staff' have contracts that run for another 18 months. Parkinson, it was thought, will not be offered another manager's job if he doesn't deliver with us. Thus he knows how important it is for him.

Had we been able to afford someone better we would have done so. The sum of £200k a year was mentioned, but we were not going to pay £800k a year for three and a half years, which might be what Billy Davis is now on.

As part of the ongoing cost cutting all departments have been asked to identify where they can make savings. That is clearly going to mean more staff losing their jobs. It is sad, and I do feel for the individuals concerned, especially as they are not directly (or even at all, probably) responsible for where we are, but if money has to be saved there are few alternatives.

Derek Chappell was asked about administration and he said that it is not their intention to take us into administration, quite the opposite. Richard Murray did pop up (not literally) and suggest that if a few of the other teams at the bottom of the league could go into administration it would be nice.

Overall I was impressed with what I saw. I have always had faith in the boards intentions, and from what I saw today they are on top of things. The massive job of cost cutting is going to hurt, but at this point I don't think we have much alternative.

Sorry if I've missed something, but like that stand up comic, he always has a fantastic joke that you can never remember.

Up the Addicks!

Charlton 1 - 0 Palace Part II

On reflection I have decided not to write a report, if you were there you would have seen it, and if you weren't you will already have read other accounts of the evenings events and like C3P0, "I'm not very good at telling stories."

There were a few observations, however, that I would like to make. You should bear in mind that I have been to the AGM today, and my thoughts will, no doubt, be affected by what I saw there.

I don't believe that one win turns Parkinson into a good manager if he was not before. Having said that it is clear that his signings are proving to be much more like what we need than what we have - that Pardew signed. We do not need (and nor did we) players that are average for this division on Premier League wages. I have no actual knowledge of how motivated our players are, nor do I know how motivated they would be if they were not earning significantly more than they are worth. All I do know is that from the experience I have of working in a results industry, the greater the proportion of earnings that is guaranteed, the greater the potential for the individual to lose focus and determination.

I'm not saying, for example, that Andy Gray is not bothering because he has a contract that takes him past his best, on more money that he could ever hope to earn elsewhere, but I guess you see my point. I'm saying that I have a particular problem with that kind of human nature attitude. If you offered me a guaranteed income well above what I'm worth until I'm 65, I suspect that once I had my feet under the table, you'd probably have trouble getting me to even turn up at work, never mind put a serious effort in. The blame for that situation lies with the individual that offered the contract in the first place.

On the basis that Pardew filled our squad with players that were earning much more than they were worth (not to mention the transfer fees and related signing on bonuses) it was always going to be a struggle to motivate them.

What Phil Parkinson inherited was basically rotten. The players attitude was not what we have become to expect from Charlton over the years, and that was probably the first thing to be addressed.

I'm not saying that I don't still wish we'd brought in a new manager to take the players out of their comfort zone and get an instant lift, but at this point (helped by a win at last) I'm starting to see what he is trying to do.

Natural conservatism makes me weary of a manager that thinks that the solution is to sign more new players, especially those on loan. Dowie and Pardew spent millions between them (and each) on 'new players' to solve all our ills, and that just got us into the mess we are now in.

I'm not saying that I think we will get out of trouble this season now. Relegation (despite Phil Chappell and Richard Murray saying they think it won't happen) is the most probable outcome. However if the players we currently have on loan intend to stay and give us a chance then I feel more confident. If, however, as has been suggested elsewhere, Murty is only here to get a few games under his belt and if Tom Soares is going to be called into the Stoke side for the run in I am less confident.

As for the game, well Matthew Spring looked solid and a good buy. Murty looked to ooze presence which must have rubbed off onto other players. Soares looks like he has that quality we have been missing. He looks like he has the ability to control the ball, both close in and while on the move. He clearly needs a few more games to get to know how the other players around him play, but he looks good. Dion Burton looks like a limited player, but he is good at what he is good at. He is never going to score 30 goals in a season, but he can hold up the ball, and also has some ball control.

I know it sounds silly to be praising players for having ball control when you think that we are in the second division of the best league in the world, but we have had a few that couldn't do that recently. Having players that can do the basics well that will give 100% is probably a good start. For me the best indication of our hopes will come when we sign that striker Parkinson is hoping will score us out of trouble.

Thus Parkinson is bringing in the kind of players we need. The rest of those out there last night gave a good account of themselves. Andy Gray apart, and I really don't know if his performances are down to lack of ability of lack of interest, I didn't feel that any of the other players gave less than 100% of what they could.

The most significant thing last night, and I don't want to steal any one's thunder, was that we got that important first goal. That and the fact that Palace were actually rubbish. Neil Warnock is a great tactician, but it looks like he got it wrong last night. I think he thought it would not be as hard to beat us as he found it.

The plan was probably to keep us out for twenty minutes or so then come at us and get the first (and probably only necessary) goal. The fact that after we scored they lost their patience and resorted to niggles didn't help them. Either way we did keep a clean sheet, and didn't look like conceding if we'd played all night.

So Parkinson has a win under his belt, clearly has the support of the board and has signed some decent looking players. Only time will tell if we have what it takes to climb the league, but Saturday will give us another clue. Burnley have been poor in the league recently, and back to back wins would certainly send out the right signals.

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Charlton 1 - 0 Palace

Palace Fans:

"Sha la la la la la la la. Sha la la la la la la la. Sha la la la la la la la. Who's f**king laughing now?"

Kings Hill Addick:

"Well, me actually!"

I will complete a full report tomorrow after the AGM, but I would like to be just as quick off the mark to praise Phil Parkinson and his team as I have been to criticise. There were some good performances tonight including, amongst others, Matthew Spring (a Parkinson signing) who looked really solid and Tom Soares (another Parkinson signing) who was outstanding. If this is how he plays against a team that he likes I'd love to see him against one he hates. Hopefully Stoke will allow him to stay for the remainder of the season.

We need not get too carried away, particularly with Watford and Doncaster winning games that I thought they wouldn't, but if nothing else we did beat the team I most wanted to. We are now on winning run of one, unbeaten in one, and haven't even conceded a single goal on our run.

Sha la la la la la la la.

Kings Hill is laughing now.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Next... Palace at home

Last February we entertained Palace on a Friday night in what was quite possibly the most exciting game of the season. I had been to the 1-0 win at Selhurst, and went to the 1-0 defeat this season, but the game was built up and didn't fail to deliver for the Charlton fans.

Sadly that win was just about the last that season and we went on to win just two of the fourteen games before we beat Coventry on the last day. Sadly two wins in fourteen looks fantastic compared to our current run.

The point still remains, however, that despite league form we did manage to win this fixture last season.

The goal hero that night was Luke Varney. The official web site proclaimed that "...Luke Varney etched his name into Addicks legend." Strangely, he also managed to become a legend in my own family when he scored the first goal that my son saw when he scrambled in the opening goal against Sheffield Wednesday in September. For these two reasons, despite his shocking performances at times since, he will always be remembered in the Kings Hill household.

My son only managed one more game before the whether changed for the worst, and his Mummy decided that he would be better off waiting until the spring before he went again. It has only recently become apparent that Charlton have not won a league game since he last went. For those of you that have forgotten, as it was such a long time ago, it was Ipswich on 4th October.

From about the middle of March last season (after a 2-0 defeat at Portman Road) I decided that the season was 'lost' and I would approach each game as I used to when I was a young lad. I took on each game as an event in itself, rather than an opportunity to enhance our league position.

I have made no secret of the fact that I cannot see us escaping relegation now, I hope I'm wrong, but the results required, compared to what we have achieved since December 2007, make it virtually impossible. Thus I am taking each game as it comes.

That means that if we lose a game it is just one defeat. The upside of this is that there is nothing more to lose than a game. However, some games are more important than others.

I have only ever really known one Palace fan. He used to be a Millwall fan when he was a child, but had transferred to Palace as he grew older and had a number of friends that used to go. I worked with this chap for a couple of years, and was working with him when we drew 2-2 and relegated them.

I never sought to take any enjoyment from this man, as he is a genuinely nice bloke, and his football knowledge is second to none. In fact during less busy times at work we used to hold football quizzes and there is nothing about the FA Cup that this man doesn't know. He doesn't only know the the scores and goal scorers, he can also tell you the minute the goal was scored. He was a legend.

He retired and moved abroad a few years ago, but I will be sending him a text before the game to wish him bad luck, No doubt there will be a lot of texts going in one direction after the game, and very few in the other.

As I don't know any Palace fans, save for someone I like and respect, I don't have any banter before, or after, these type of games. It has now been over sixteen years since we played at Selhurst Park but Palace still remain the club I hate the most. This is the team I most want to beat. I can still remember being in the members stand at one of our 'home' games and watching Palace fans being ejected with looks of anger on their faces. Now, nearly twenty years later, I have some sympathy for them. If Charlton were to ground share now I would hate having to look at someone else sitting in my seat.

Anyway, all of that is well in the past (although there is no guarantee that ground sharing will not come back) but the mental scars that I have from that time will probably ensure that there will never be another team that I want to beat as much as this one.

I'm sure my story is similar to many others, and the events on a train in September 2007 are probably worse. I seriously doubt that what happened that day is in the slightest characteristic of all Palace fans, but it does add to the local rivalry, and therefore the tension.

So, back to the game. Sheffield United was, by all accounts, a better performance than the 4-1 hammering the week before, but there were still several reports that we were patchy and only looked good in the latter stages of the game. This can be attributed to the gung-ho attitude of us having nothing to lose, and United merely wanting to hang on to be in the draw for what looks a winnable 5th round tie - for them, not for us had we won.

Thus we are where we were when Pardew was sacked. We have not seen a settled side, and each bad result causes another change to the starting line up. Then change back again the following week when we lose again. When Phil Parkinson came in there were bold statements that he didn't like 4-5-1 so it was going to be 4-4-2 all the way [To be fair I'm not sure these were direct quites from Parkinson himself]. Clearly there comes a point when nothing seems to work and the whole 'rule book' needs to be rewritten.

Tomorrow we will start with a goalkeeper and ten outfield players. That is all I can be sure of. I suspect that Murty will play and, assuming he can cope with it, so will Soares. There is little point in loaning players for a month and not playing them. That is what we did with Scott Sinclair last season, and what he achieved at Palace when he left us made us look stupid. I suspect that Parkinson will want to stick with Burton too, as he signed him, coupled with fact that however much you rate him (or not as the case may be), he is the best forward we have right now to play the loan striker.

Other than that we have entirely too many players that do not seem to deliver enough for the whole ninety minutes, so it's almost impossible to choose between them. Some of that is down to ability, some down to attitude and a whole lot of it down to confidence.

The form table suggests that we will lose, but then when you are clearly bottom of the table every team is above you and should, therefore, be able to beat you. Football is, however, "A funny ol' game, Saint".

I'm not going to make a prediction, and I have also steered away from discussing the consequences should we lose, but at the very least it will be a cracking atmosphere, an exciting game and probably have the smallest difference between attendance, and the actual number of fans in the ground, between now and the end of the season.

If we are ever going to win another league game, please let it be this one.

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Sheffield United 2 - 1 Charlton

Can't say I'm surprised.

Can't say I'm bothered.

I am a little disappointed that after going behind on 26 minutes we didn't make a change to the players or the formation until the 58th minute. Maybe there was a change in the style of play with the same players, but I wasn't there so I just don't know.

After such a terrible run the defeats don't even hurt anymore, and the FA Cup is even less important than the league.

If we assume we are going to be relegated this season, and it is difficult to imagine any other outcome now, Tuesday evening gives both Phil Parkinson and the board an opportunity to provide the fans with something to cheer about.

As important as the league is, there had better not be any statements released in the next few days about how it is just another three points. At this stage it is much more than that.

Let's hope Phil has something up his sleeve.

If not I think it could well be a very stressful week for all those involved with running the club.

Time will tell.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Next... Sheffield United away

If a week is a long time in politics, then we have to assume that there has been a substantial change in the atmosphere at Sparrows Lane, since Phil Parkinson gave the team a day off on Sunday as a punishment for being so poor at 'the office' on Saturday.

I remember as a child being told by my parents "Get out of my sight". I can't remember what I'd done now (although I'd hazard a guess that it wasn't actually my fault) but I do understand the need to distance yourself from something (or someone) you are truly angry with.

Sadly I would have thought that with so many new players in the squad the team need more time together, rather than more time apart, but hopefully the day's 'breather' will have helped a little.

The local Sheffield press are talking about United scoring their ninth and tenth goals against us for the season. I can't see any reason as to why they shouldn't score two goals, after all Norwich are the only side to have failed to score two goals against us in one game since November. In fact Norwich have played us three times during that period and have scored two goals in those three games.

I know it is obvious that when you are bottom of the league you must be letting in too many goals, and not scoring enough, but we really do have significant problems at both ends of the pitch. The tendency is to sort out the defence first, then when you can keep clean sheets you can worry about scoring a goal or two. However, with the transfer window being so short you need to have plans in place to sign both defenders and strikers. This is, of course, assuming that signing new players is your solution to the problem, and it looks like that is our plan.

We will, again, have to make changes due to the loan players being unavailable. I'm not sure what will happen to Waghorn. The second month of his loan has expired and we have to make a decision about the potential third month by tomorrow (Friday). I'm not sure he has offered enough to make it worth paying his wages for another month. I have no idea what the true financial situation of the club is right now, but it must be evident to everyone that the way forward now is to sign players that can be part of a promotion campaign next season.

I don't want to give up, but evidence shows that facing up to the inevitable can be a better way to prepare for it. We had the opportunity to start the building process for the Championship in January 2007, but decided to gamble on short term options to try to save our Premier League status. This was a gamble that was worth taking, all be it it didn't pay off. In January 2008, despite selling Andy Reid, we went on to sign loan players in an attempt to get promoted and then worry about the squad in the summer. That didn't work either.

This January we seem to be doing a bit of both. I cannot see Murty or Soares being involved in our squad next season irrespective as to the division we find ourselves in. Spring and Burton (sadly) look to have been signed for a more long term future. I mentioned Burton, but I haven't seen anywhere how long he is contracted to us for. It might only be to the end of the season, so he might not be here come August. I think Martyn Waghorn is another player that has come to Charlton to help his career (understandably and fair enough) that will not be here next season. For this reason alone I'd be tempted to let him go back and give Dickson or Fleetwood a run in the side, as they could well be here, and useful in the Third Division.

I see that McLeod has been loaned out to, of all sides, Millwall. I can only assume that this has been done to give him some exposure to the division we will be playing in next season. I do worry, however, if his current wages are affordable in the third division. I fear that all of Pardew's signings are only affordable with Premier League tv revenue (even if it only needs parachute payments).

Irrespective as to who our manager will be next season, we need to bring in some players that are both capable and affordable in the Third Division. The sooner we offload the players that we cannot afford the sooner we will start to make savings on their wages. I know this looks like I've given up, and I can assure you I haven't, but under the circumstances, the sooner we cut our cloth the better as far as I'm concerned.

As to Saturday, I would normally have been looking forward to an FA Cup 4th round tie. We haven't even been in the 4th round for three years, and it would seem unlikely that we will achieve it next season. However, I cannot get too excited. Sheffield United are not inspiring opposition, if for no other reason that we have already played them twice since 22nd November.

A win is always possible, but if we are realistic, even if United decide to rest most of their first team players, we are going to struggle to get anything out of this game. I would take a draw. Even though we don't really need the extra game, we could do with the extra revenue that a replay would provide. We might even get a bumper crowd if the draw in between the two ties provides an exciting fixture in the next round.

Of much more importance is the Palace game next week, and the further development of the squad that can only be done for another ten days.

I am not going to comment extensively on the rumours about us going into administration this week as I don't really believe they are true, and don't think they will materially affect our season, or our future, if they are. If we go into administration we will reduce our debts and suffer a penalty points deduction. Assuming that penalty is not applied next season (as was what happened to Leeds) it will only bring forward the inevitable this season and may enable us to start off on a stronger financial footing next season.

The other worthy piece of news this week was that Steve Waggott gave an interview where, when asked about our aspirations for this season, he suggested:

"I think we were expecting to finish at least 10th, if not higher".

Compare that to his comment last June when we were in the process of selling season tickets with the promise of a free season ticket in the event of promotion:

"But we have learned a lot from last year and, with the capture of Mark Hudson and the development of a crop of exciting young players, as well as more potential new signings over the next few weeks, we're determined to have a squad fit for promotion."

The fact that following this statement the club went on to sell in excess of £5m worth or players, something that Pardew confirmed would adversely effect our promotion chances, does question what the genuine aspirations for this season were.

At at time when many of those with season tickets are choosing not to attend, the side is on the worst run in it's 103 year history and the club is in the most dire financial situation since the 1980s you have to wonder if Steve Waggot should be allowed to talk to the press again.

I find his involvement with so many community projects, when the side is struggling, a little worrying, but it would be hard to argue that this is not the worst bit of PR the club has managed. This makes Peter Varney's assertion that Les Reed will not be sacked under any circumstances three days before he was sacked look positively intelligent.

Just for the record, I don't really have any problems with the club painting a positive outlook when they are selling tickets, even if they know the truth is something different. I would rather we sold 13,000 season tickets then sold £5m worth of players than sell 9,000 season tickets and be forced to sell £6m worth of players. What I don't really want is to hear a senior employee effectively admit that the club set out to mislead the fans. Even if this is only his own personal view, as the CEO, he shouldn't be saying it.

Before I get bombarded with comments suggesting that I am making assumptions about the club's motives I suggest you read the two quotes above. Thay can't both be true. Steve Waggott is too senior to be making such terrible mistakes. Following a lot of soul searching I have come to the conclusion that I may well renew my season ticket after all - subject to what I consider a realistic price for the division we will be in. I do believe, however, that many others will not do so as it will be so difficult for the less committed fan to trust anything the board says, when the prices for next season are announced.

"We are determined to build a squad that will get us back in the Championship at the first attempt" for example, will fall on deaf ears in May.

I know that you cannot trade football results, but I'm more than willing to lose on Saturday if we can win on Tuesday. I don't want to add too much pressure, but with the other sides around us starting to win games we need to get a league win soon or it will be too late. Anyway, I'm sure I'll have something to say about Palace another time.

Over the years the team has had a knack of winning when I least expect it, maybe a win at Bramall Lane is going to the one win that starts a run of five or six. Let's hope so.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Sheffield Wednesday 4 - 1 Charlton

I was a little quiet before the Wednesday game. I was not convinced that beating Norwich (one of the weakest teams in our division) was going to make much difference to our ability to beat a mid table side away. Wednesday have been transformed from the relegation threatened side of last season and currently sit just 7 points behind Cardiff who are 6th. It's no coincidence that they have off loaded one of their misfiring strikers at the end of that transformation. The fact that we have signed him and are bottom of the league hasn't been lost on me.

I have been criticised recently for a less than supportive approach to my posts. I fear that there are some major flaws with our current set up, and until they are changed the future looks bleak. Sadly, for the club (fans, staff, directors), the continued decline in our fortunes has now taken me through the anger and into a state of indifference. That's right, I'm getting to the point where I just don't care any more. This must be the worst thing that can happen to a football club.

Football clubs have the unique ability to treat customers badly while ensuring a loyalty that other businesses in other industries can only dream of. If I shop at Tesco and the prices go up and the quality of their produce falls I will just go and shop at Sainsbury's. I have no real loyalty to either of them. If I want to buy , say, a new TV I look at several websites before making a purchase, then I normally choose the cheapest. When it comes to football, it doesn't matter how high the price is, it doesn't matter how good the product is, I will always be a Charlton fan.

However, I can, if pushed enough, choose to stop being a fully committed supporter and become a Charlton fan that attends occasionally and watches on the tv. I am not about to become a fan of any other team. In that respect Charlton have me for life. I am, however, losing interest in attending live football matches. If I become a 'distance fan' that always looks out for the results, reads the blogs and watches the highlights program on a Sunday morning, I am of no financial value to the club. I'm assuming that I don't bother to buy the home and away shirts that I've done for the last 20 years or so - why would I if I'm not going to the games.

This would mean a reduction in income of say £650. I'm including team shirts, programs, burgers and chips, the odd pint and a couple of cup games. Not a lot bearing in mind we have players who will cost us £1.5m and never make a first team appearance. However, If I'm one of five thousand that make that choice (a real possibility) we are talking about £3.25m a year. If none of us come back for, on average, five seasons we are talking about £16.25m. This is more than the directors are currently owed buy the club.

There are a number of people on the email discussion list that feel the same way that I do. I should point out that there are more that intend to renew, but you have to consider what type of fan they are. We are trying, as a club, to attract many different types of fan to The Valley. Those that spend their weekends emailing on a discussion list are probably more committed, so when they are getting fed up we probably have thousands less committed that have done so already. The statistic that we have had crowds as low as 13,000 in an 'attendance' above 20,000 says it all I believe.

There is little point in me discussing the game as I'm sure I will receive more suggestions that I don't know what I'm talking about. However, having played all the dross that this division has to offer and drawn three out of nine, there is no reason to expect that we will start winning at Wednesday, Burnley or Bristol City. However, before we travel to the last two of those hotbeds of English Football we have the small matter of Palace at home.

At this point I fear for the directors if we lose that one - especially if they give us a good hiding, which we cannot dismiss. I will be attending the AGM the following day. Something tells me that could be a heated meeting.

In the meantime the pressure is off as all my friends are even more embarrassed to talk about our form than I am.

I'm not going to call for Parkinson's head today. Something tells me that there will be more than enough other fans doing so soon enough. A defeat at Sheffield United and a goal or two down at half time against Palace, and there will be no doubt how the fans feel about Phil Parkinson. Sadly the anger will probably also turn on the directors who, having given Parkinson the platform to destroy all the hard work of the last decade, will have no one else to blame.

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Norwich 0 - 1 Charlton

Well I didn't see that coming.

Having said that Norwich were very, very poor at The Valley in the first game, and I read today they have sacked Glen Roeder.

Still, a win is a win, and you can only beat what is in front of you.

I am not all that worried about the FA Cup this season, but it has provided two games already this season for us to experiment with players and line ups that may make a difference in the run in. I think I would be inclined to use the 4th round game at Sheff Utd on the same basis.

Which brings us to the team that started (and finished) at Norwich. There is no doubt that we have to be aware of the possibility of relegation this season, and what that will mean to the current squad. With that in mind it made sense to give some of the younger players a chance to experience first team action. The circumstances that we are in are so dire and the pressure from that provides something that cannot be tasted in the reserves.

The debate about loan players will probably go on for ever, but there is little doubt that despite the benefit of short term loans you cannot build a long term future with them. The balance between short term results and long term development is a tricky one to get right, and we don't want to be relegated while our youth team mature, yet we don't want to be relegated with the youth team in the reserves.

As I was not there I cannot comment on how well the various players did, but I'm sure that the confidence that will be generated by winning this game will improve all of the players performances, and for Scott Wagstaff, Josh Wright, Jonjo Shelvey and particularly Rashid Yussuff it will be an invaluable experience.

Clearly the league is the most important thing to focus on this season, but after so much doom and gloom, I think we are all entitled to enjoy this win. I am.

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Next... Norwich away

I've had a couple of days to unwind a bit following our defeat to Forest, and despite the fact that I am still not happy with the current state of affairs (unsurprisingly), I am a lot less angry than I was.

One thing that I forgot in all my excitement on Sunday was to mention the minutes applause. This is the second time we have done this, and despite the fact that I didn't know (personally) any of the names on the list on either occasion it still brought a lump to my throat. I don't quite know how the actual format of the process came about, but for the record it is, for me, the most... I can't find the right word. Let's just say that even though I don't actually look forward to it, I think it is probably the best idea (again not really the word I'm looking for) that the club has come up with in the 27 years I've been going.

In a strange way I find it reassuring that my name will appear on that screen (hopefully it's fifth or sixth replacement) one day. Hopefully with my son and his children clapping.

It is after a period of reflection that one analyses why one does things. At Charlton I enjoy many hours with my Dad. I also feel like I'm part of something. I know the people I sit with (although only from sitting with them for over ten years) and I am proud to be part of the football watching community, especially a Charlton supporter.

That doesn't mean that I am happy with the current state of affairs on the pitch, but I am proud to be a member of the Charlton Community. I mention this because I take little interest in much of the community work, but am aware of it. I believe that the one thing that joins us is our membership of our respective groups. I think that the minutes applause guarantees one last opportunity for all of us to celebrate the membership of people that clearly are no longer with us.

I think I have gone on about this enough now, but I guess you understand how I feel.

On a slightly separate note regarding the community activities, I see that Charlton Athletic Charitable Trust has made a joint application to Tonbridge and Malling council for planning permission to build some football pitches - and some other facilities on Kings Hill. This is great news for me as it reaffirms the club's intention to have a presence on the estate which will make it all the easier to incentivize my son to follow his Dad's footsteps. Let's face it, he is not going to be attracted by the football alone is he?

On the subject of sons and the Charlton community Welcome to New York Addick's new son Cameron. Something tells me I will never catch him running around Kings Hill in a Man Utd shirt.

So, on to tonight's game at Norwich. I have to confess that with the 4th round draw being likely to be one we can't win I have little interest in the result. Clearly I'd much prefer for us to win, but if we lose (on penalties even) I will be neither surprised nor disappointed.

With Semedo out injured for two months that inflicts a severe blow to our chances of staying up. I would even go as far as to say that we might have done better on Saturday had be lasted the 90 minutes.

McEverly going back is another blow. Not for tonight clearly, but for the run in.

I will, no doubt, become more interested in the game tonight as it draws nearer, and clearly a win would be a shot in the arm, but let's face it we are not going to win the FA Cup and I cannot see us winning at Sheff Utd, who I'm sure will beat Orient.

But you never know.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Charlton 0 - 2 Forest

I really thought we wouldn't lose this game. I thought a draw was the most likely outcome, but I never thought we would be made to look so inadequate.

Despite being the better side for the first half hour I don't think we ever actually looked like doing anything other than losing. I, sadly, also believe that we will not see a change in fortunes until there is a change of manager.

I understand the reasons for the sham that was Phil Parkinson's appointment, and I cannot make a good case for changing him now, but I think we have no chance at all of avoiding relegation without a manager that has a lot more 'ability'.

I was impressed with what I read about Spring, and Murty did every bit as well as I'd expected (and hoped), but that aside we signed Keith Gillespie who didn't want to stay, and Deon Burton. I find it worrying that after signing a striker to add to the £3m we have spent on strikers since relegation (I'm not counting Luke Varney's £2m) and having a total of five plus Waghorn Parkinson thinks we need a new striker. Andy Gray scored goals for Burnley last season and if he's not the answer then I think we need to be looking at other options than signing another one.

Burton has only just signed. If he'd not good enough then why did we sign him? He's not even a loan player any more. One of Pardew's worst failings was that when things didn't seem to work out he signed more players. It is beginning to look like that is Parkinson's only tactic too.

I'm also very concerned with the way the manager singles out players for public criticism. If he were my boss I would now be determined to do everything I can to see him fail. I have no problem with being hard on players (staff), but slagging them off to the press is just not going to work.

All the time we have such inadequate tactical and motivational skills controlling the playing staff we are going to need to have a much, much better team than the opposition to win games. It's a bit like the opposite to punching above your weight. Sadly there do not seem to be any teams poor enough in this division for us to win when without a better management setup.

I am determined to do everything I can to help us get out of this rut, but I can honestly say I have never been as inclined to stop going to watch Charlton as I feel right now. The whole match day experience has become the least enjoyable part of my week, and this is supposed to be something I look forward to. It's what I do in my 'leisure' time. If I didn't go with my Dad I wouldn't be going again this season, and if I didn't have a season ticket I would be missing half of those games left and suggesting that my Dad and I do something else together for a few months. I never, ever thought I'd be thinking like that.

I've decided that I will not be renewing my season ticket in the spring. I don't think the club will go bust, so I am not doing it to prevent having a worthless ticket, I just don't want to feel any obligation to go any more. I will still go to games, but even if we stay in the Championship I will be limiting my visits to The Valley next season, and if we play like we have this season I will probably hardly go at all.

I have little to add to the match reports that have already been written, and you could probably just cut and paste my reports from most of the last ten games anyway. We had everything except a result - the only thing that matters.

To cap it all Phil Parkinson says "The fans care but no-one cares more than me and the players;"

How dare he? I have been following this team's fortunes since I was ten. With the exception of family Charlton has been the most important thing in my life for twenty-seven years. He has been at the club for less than two. All he cares about is where he is going to be working when the board eventually sack him - which cannot come soon enough for me.

Sorry to be so negative, but it wasn't that long ago that we beat Liverpool, the then European Cup holders. Now we need at least three games to get out of the relegation zone, and we have only won four all season.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Next... Forrest at home

...or not as the case may be.

The top news of this week is the releasing of the accounts for the twelve month period up to June 2008. I have some limited understanding of company accounts, but I seriously doubt that I could have produced as good an analysis as New York Addick even if I wanted to, and I don't anyway.

I have to confess, however, that I am not all that surprised by the details. It was widely known that if you do not secure promotion in your first season after an extensive stay in the Premier League you are in serious trouble. This probably led to the gambles that the club made on players - £12m spent by Pardew during the period. The fact that the money was wasted, rather like the summer spending the season before by Iain Dowie is irrelevant.

I am also somewhat impressed that turnover only fell by 25% from our last Premier League season and our first Championship season. I am aware that 25% is a quarter and normally would be a drastic development, but as the Premier League is so, so lucrative it is, in my view, acceptable that our turnover managed to keep at 75% of that of the 'Gravy Train'.

Anyway it is all in the past now, and I would hazard a guess that the accounts to June 2009 will be much worse, and those to June 2010 will be truly frightening, but that is for another day (or year as the case may be).

Tomorrow sees the visit of Nottingham Forrest (weather permitting) and if there was ever a six-pointer, this is it. We have plenty of games left to lose tomorrow and still finish above Forrest. We also have enough other teams to chase for this to be a game we can lose and still avoid relegation, but on the basis that they are 4th from bottom and five points above us I think we can call it a six-pointer.

Our form is not something to boast about, but then Forrest have been really poor at times this season, and football is a 'funny old game'.

The signing of Graeme Murty is a bit of a boost. I have been disappointed with the treatment Moutaouakil has received this season (and last), but on the basis that we need at least two right backs we might as well sign one that has been successful in this division (unlike most of Pardew's signings) and the experience to help. The fact that he is only here on loan makes a thirty something preferable to a teenager in my view. I also think the maturity that comes with age is likely to make him more committed. The same could well be said of Wayne Brown, who also looks like joining us on loan. I would welcome them both, and hope that their experience will have a positive effect.

On the negative side we say goodbye to Hameur Bouazza. He was signed in a last minute rush and from Pardew's comments at the time Fulham were paying a large chunk of his wages. I have no sympathy for Fulham as they offered him the contract, and he is clearly no where near Premier League standard. I would argue that we have not seen enough to confidently predict that he is top half of the Championship standard either.

Bouazza has some class, undoubtedly, but his flashes of brilliance are so few and far between. You could probably make two videos from his time at Charlton; one that suggests that he is a Premier League player, and one suggesting that he is a League One player. He has scored some special goals, but not unlike Neil Redfearn, he shoots just about every time he gets to within 20 yards of the goal. I remember both players being berated by their team mates for shooting when there was a much better option. It could be selfishness, or it could just be that he (and Redfearn) have such limited awareness on the pitch that shooting is the only thing they can do, and woefully inadequate most of the time. Football is a team game and if you cannot do the best for the team then there is a question mark over your contribution.

Having said that it did Neil Redfearn no harm. He scored 14 goals for Barnsley in the season they went down and was rewarded with a very lucrative contract with us that he failed to honour as, from memory, "His wife failed to settle". It would seem that Bouazza has also secured a move to a better side (one higher up the league). I don't know who made the decision for him to move, but I have little inclination to wish him well as it looks like he turned up, performed in some, but not all, of his games for us then left us when we most needed him.

I would expect us to line up with a 4-4-2 formation with Semedo and Holland in the middle. I would like to see Shelvey play, but I just have this feeling that he will not. Murty is likely to play, particularly as he only has a month loan at this stage.

Up front I imagine we will see Waghorn and either Gray or Burton. As for the space vacated by Bouazza, I guess we might see Ambrose back on the left. Maybe we'll even see Holland there with Shelvey in the middle. However, I think he'll plump for Grant Basey.

As for the score? Well it's anyone's guess, the general feeling is that we will lose, but if we assume that the world isn't going to end any time soon we must won a game eventually, why not this one?

As for the importance of the result, I think I can say that this is the most important fixture of Phil Parkinson's Charlton career to date. On the basis that we could find ourselves two points from safety, or eight points from safety, a defeat is unthinkable. In fact, a defeat could well make this the most important fixture of Phil Parkinson's Charlton career, as by the time we play Doncaster on 3rd March it could well be all over.

Up the Addicks!

Happy Birthday to me!

It was 8th January last year when I started this little blog. It is, I'm sure, merely a coincidence that the clubs fortunes have taken a drastic nose dive during the time I have been writing about them.

I would like to think that I have made a worthwhile contribution to the Charlton Athletic blog sphere during 2008, irrespective as to whether my view has been agreed with.

Despite the fact that I am a mere infant compared to the many other bloggers that represent our special club, I'd like to thank everyone that has bothered to read my drivel, and especially those that have taken the time to add comments.

Thank You.

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Charlton 1 - 1 Norwich

Well at least we didn't lose!

So that's 17 games without a win. Not that I'm counting, you understand.

That aside, and I am determined not to keep bringing it up, we played as well as I remember since Pardew left - for the first hour at least.

Jonjo Shelvey became the youngest goal scorer for Charlton, and he scored a great goal from a very impressive move. It is difficult to believe that this lad is only sixteen. His enthusiasm looks like a teenager, but his ability is unquestionable, and the maturity he shows when making passes and runs is unbelievable. I cannot express just how good I think this young man is going to become. I cannot wait for the news that he has reached an old enough age and signed a permanent contract.

We controlled the game, and we never looked like being any real trouble, then after about 70 minutes I remarked to my Dad that we'd looked really tired for about ten minutes. We still hadn't looked like we were going to let a goal in, but we looked like we'd lost half a yard, and Norwich had been encouraged by it.

Then they scored. It didn't look like it had been coming for ages - in fact it didn't look like they were going to score if we'd played all day, but the hard earned lead was gone.

There was a five minute spell after their goal where Norwich looked like they had the bit between their teeth, but they failed to go near then we re-took control again. With fifteen minutes to go Burton was taken off for Youga and Bouazza went upfront. Five minutes later Dickson came on for possibly his last appearance for Charlton in place of the impressive Shelvey. Both Burton and Shelvey had slowed down, and that may have been a contributing factor to us looking tired.

On the whole I think we gave a very good account of ourselves. I know Norwich are not the best side in this division, and neither side are anywhere near as bothered about the FA Cup as they are about avoiding relegation. Despite this I think there were many positives to take away from the game.

The truth, however, is that we have played another of the dross teams in this division and failed to win. This all becomes water under the bridge now, and the big test is next Saturday against Forrest who have a new manager and literally wiped the backside of the richest team in the world this afternoon. Robhino didn't play, and I'm not well enough informed to comment if City are taking the FA Cup seriously this season, but either way the omens don't look good.

Anyway at least we are in the forth round draw.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Next... Norwich at home

I was tempted to 'advertise' this game as 'The FA Cup' as I still have a passion for the competition. It was a little dulled during our Premier League seasons as we played exciting games every week (baring a few) but now it has become what it used to be for me.

Clearly our relegation battle is exciting, and our new managerial situation is interesting (more to follow) but the FA Cup is still the most famous football competition in the world. The beauty of the opposition is that this is a winnable game. I am ignoring our recent form for obvious reasons, but despite the fact that the bookies will have a favourite, this is a game that either side could win without it being a major news headline. I am going, as I think I have already mentioned, and I am really look forward to it. It is a winner take all (unless it's a draw, or course) and despite not knowing what the next round will bring, it is a possibility that we could end up at Man Utd or Arsenal, which would be nice.

We have to make a few changes bearing in mind the loan players that have gone back or have been refused permission to play, but I think this should be treated as an opportunity to win a passage into the next round, rather than to give a few fringe players a run in the side. Having said that I would not be disappointed if Hudson was given a rest as a booking could rule him out of the Forrest game next week, one that I would rather win than this one, even if the 4th round is away at Old Trafford.

I think I would be inclined to stick to Rob Elliot in goal. I have been impressed with him, and I just love his long kicks. I can see them being a real threat moving forward, especially when the forwards become used to where the ball is going to land.

At the back I would have thought that (possible yellow card withstanding) we would play Hudson and Fortune. The full backs are more interesting. I like Mou2, but it does look like Parkinson doesn't, so I suspect we will see Semedo at right back with Basey as left back - Parkinson also seems less than convinced with Youga.

Across the middle I cannot see any alternative to Sam and Bouazza playing, with two from Holland, Bailey, Semedo (if not at right back) and Ambrose. I doubt we will see Wright or Shelvey involved. Under different circumstances I would have thought this a great time to give them a run, but due to my lack of confidence that we will be challenging the top of this division anytime soon, they will soon enough be good enough to play in our league games, never mind a cameo in the FA Cup.

Up front is more of an issue for me. I would think that Burton would get a run out. As we have just signed him and he is, at 32, not one for the future, he should be expected to play on days like this when Waghorn is not available. Todorov, has for me, been overlooked so much that I think we need to accept that he is not going to be involved in any major way for us. McLeod has been given very few chances, but when he has played he has looked so much out of his depth that I can understand why his chances are so few and far between. Andy Gray has had a lot of criticism, some of which is difficult to argue against. From the limited information I have picked up it would seem that since we signed him he has had personal problems. Thus I think the issue with Andy Gray is should we have signed him in the first place. If we had left him at Burnley (on a quarter of the wages, from reports) his personal problems would be someone else's, and we would have had the budget (transfer and wages) to sign someone else. Either way he might start with Burton. I have always preferred a target man and a fast striker for my front two. If you can get a fast target man all the better, so I would prefer not to play these two together.

That only leaves us Chris Dickson, who wants to go, and who can blame him (another rather untried striker) or Ambrose (or Bouazza) in a more forward role.

Thankfully it is not my call, but I think moving forward - starting tomorrow - we need to concede fewer goals. If we can keep a clean sheet then we (obviously) only need to score one to win. This would be a good place to start as one is about as much as we can realistically expect to score based on recent evidence.

I am optimistic of a win tomorrow. I know this defies logic, but I am putting it down to 'The Magic of the Cup'

It would be remiss of me not to add a comment to the latest managerial 'change'. I have made my position on Parkinson clear. I do not believe that he is capable of achieving the minimum that I would consider acceptable. The minimum is to avoid relegation. Anything less than that is, in my view, unacceptable.

The appointment of Parkinson was announced in such a way that it leaves me wondering if they did approach other alternatives and discovered that the 40 or so applications were from people that thought we would pay them c. £1m a year for a guaranteed three years? When these applicants discovered that they would earn a lot less, have no money to spend, and have to keep our current back room staff they perhaps lost interest. This is also before you factor in that when they applied we were probably forth from bottom with all the rubbish (excluding ourselves) in this division to play in the upcoming six games.

Anyway we are where we are. The board, who I have defended time and again have made themselves look incompetent. They could have given Parkinson the job permanently when Pardew left, or on 12th December (when they gave him until the end of the year) or they could, of course, have relieved him at any of those points or this week. I hope I'm proved to be wrong, but I think it is going to be a massive struggle to the end of the season, and failing a fantastic run in we face relegation and/or a massive reduction in season ticket sales.

I genuinely worry for the future of the club beyond this summer.

As the directors have converted their loans into stock it is likely that they will not be able to go into administration without it costing them a lot of money. however, if things turn as bad as I fear, it might just make sense for them to sell all our players, the training ground, possibly The Valley and let the club go bust. I know the directors love the club, but they have a lot of their personal fortunes invested in a failing business that may well have running costs significantly higher than income from June.

If the only alternative to stripping out the assets and waling away is to pump more money into a bottomless pit we, as fans, cannot complain - particularly as the fans are likely to become more and more critical as the weeks go by. If Parkinson fails to win another six games (a possibility, sadly) the fans will be calling for the board to resign. I suspect the chants will get more personal and more spiteful too. One does not invest millions of pounds of their own money to he called names in public by hundreds of their most loyal customers, but, sadly, I can see it happening.

From that pessimistic outlook I would like to join those that have put out a call to arms. The club needs us more than ever. It is our club. The board might own the shares, but it is not their club, it is ours. Love them or hate them, the directors have made their decision. For the sake of our club let's put our displeasure on the record and then get behind the team.

Oh, and Happy New Year.

Up the Addicks!