Monday, 23 August 2010

Baton (2010) Ltd

I didn't receive the letter that was sent out about this morning's meeting, despite being a shareholder. I think the main reason for this is that I have never changed my address from my Mum's house as my wife makes me move so often it hardly seemed worth it.

I had, however, scanned my Dad's copy, and was not completely sure exactly what it meant, but as I intended to go today I was sure I'd find out in due course.

In terms that I would have understood this is basically what has happened:

Charlton Athletic Plc - which is the company that we fans own shares in, has sold Charlton Athletic Football Company (which owns the players) and Charlton Athletic Holdings (which owns The Valley and the training ground) to Richard Murray's new company Baton 2010 Ltd for £1 each.

Thus if you bought shares in Charlton at any time in the past you now own a share of a company that has no assets and no income. This is actually irrelevant now as the company will be dissolved. Thus you will no longer have any shares as there is no longer any company.

For those of you, like me, that bought £100 worth of shares that means that you will never see that £100 again, and you no longer have any tangible asset (valid share certificate and/or a part ownership of the club). In actual fact the £100 was gone a long time ago. The club is no longer trading on the AIM (Alternative Investment Market) but you wouldn't have been able to sell those 200 shares as no one would buy them, so they were worthless anyway. There were 200 shares for £100 as the club did a right issue a few years back and the shareholding changed from 100 shares with a nominal value of £1 each to 200 with a nominal value of 50p each.

So, in essence, I paid £100 to be able to call myself a shareholder of the club for a few years (I can't remember when I bought them, sorry). The other benefit, of course, was that I was giving the club some money to spend and as all they do with the money is invest it the club (and team) that I love that is ok too.

There would be a different view if I had invested £10,000, but I honestly believe that anyone who invests money in a football club has to be willing to lose it all. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is true.

So, ultimately, both the companies, one that is the real club and the one that owns The Valley and the training ground, are owned by Baton 2010 Ltd, which is owned by Richard Murray.

There were a few heated questions about the removal of the fans shareholders, and they were answered with the following - I'm paraphrasing:

The Valley is worth £4m (this is the land value with no planning permission and with a ban on residential development by the Council) the training ground's value (not mentioned today) was estimated to be, from memory, at £2m. Thus with total assets of £6m and with loans of £7m to Lombard Finance, £1m to HSBC and £22m to the directors (all of these loans had preference to the assets before the ordinary shareholders) there was a total negative value of the club of £24m. Thus, and this was stated by Richard Murray, the club was owned by the banks and he and the board just ran it for them.

So basically the shares were worthless in any case, and there was no way the club could continue as it was otherwise we would have ended up in Administration, with the ten point penalty as a reward.

When the fan/shareholder questioned this Richard stood up (the meeting was not being chaired by him as he was the purchasing party) and explained in no uncertain terms that the club needed £5m to avoid administration this season and he was willing to put that in out of his own pocket, and if anyone else in the room would rather do so they were more than welcome, but if we were to keep our shares now then we would lose them in Administration. Again I'm paraphrasing.

Other points to note are that the £15m of bonds (loans with an option to be converted into shares) were effectively being wiped out. There is a legal procedure that they went through, but in essence these debts are now gone, and they have not cost the club a penny. Thus I think a big thank you is owed to those that 'invested' £15m and have now waived any right to ever seeing that money again.

The £7m that was invested last year to see us through last season will still be a debt, but no interest will be payable until we reach the Championship, and none of the debt will be repaid until/unless we reach the Premier League, and then it will be repaid over three years.

Thus the club now has total debts of £15m, half of which do not need to be repaid unless we make it the the Premier League. In essence this means that the Premier League and the Directors have funded £29m of the total development costs of The Valley. Bearing in mind just how much money we lost on players that Pardew brought to the club that have now gone this is an impressive achievement.

The biggest disappointment of the day for me was the realisation that this change is not going to give us long term security in this division. We need, and I mean need, to win promotion this season. The current set up has trading losses of c. £4m this year (the other c. £1m is for working capital and one off payments).

In real terms the TV money and the ticket income cover the admin and the running of the stadium. The shortfall is almost exactly the costs of the playing staff. Richard was confident that in the event of failure to be promoted there would be alternative investment to keep the club going. In the event of promotion we would benefit from c. £6m more in TV money. That fact makes Charlton a viable business in the Championship, but not in League One.

There were a number of other subjects covered, but I cannot be bothered to discuss all of these at length, so I'll just use bullet points for some of them. Some of what I'm going to say is my interpretation of what Richard was saying, so if I'm wrong then I'm sorry.

There was mention of us securing permission from the Football League for the transfer of ownership. This was as Southampton were docked 10 points when their holding company went into Administration - we are about to dissolve our holding company. We are ok in the eyes of the FL.

Last summer's takeover was eventually cancelled as the buyers were unable to prove they had the funds to take the club forward -this, I believe, included being able to bankroll the club.

There were some details of the Shelvey deal. £1.7m up front (reduced to £1.5m with factoring) with a further £250k after each ten starts (an appearance from the bench is equal to half a start), up to 40 starts (£1m) and a further £250k if Shelvey plays for England. We also get 20% of anything he is sold for above what we have already been paid.

Richard was asked about any further signings, and he said that we are hoping to sign a defender, a striker and a player that can play upfront or on the wing (a player than can do both rather than one or the other). He said that he is hopeful that we will have these three signed up by the end of the week.

The Academy was brought up, and Richard said that we intend to keep it, but without boring you too much, the top Premier League clubs want to have different gradings for Academies, which would probably mean that they would have a perceived better set up than us. Time will tell. Sir Maurice Hatter, on the subject of the Academy, offered to stump up £100k if it could be matched by the others in the room. I think his money is safe for now, but I believe that this was a genuine offer.

There was a question about what the club can do to remove the 'Incest' (Adams Family) song at The Valley. it would seem that the club feel they can't do any more than they are currently doing, which is asking nicely for the fans to not sing it. I don't like it. I don't think it is what Charlton are about. I have to confess to swearing at games and half a dozen times a season I call a player (never one of ours) or the referee a word that begins with 'C' and finishes with 'unt'. I always feel embarrassed after doing so as I know it's not nice for women and children (and there is one of the former and a few of the latter in ear shot of me). However I think unpleasant songs are premeditated and there is no need or place for them. I would guess they won't be stamped out, but the club are trying.

There was mention of Parkinson, and Richard Murray said that he couldn't have more respect for him.

Last thing, Richard agreed to hold a meeting like this one for former shareholders every year. This was a nice touch, just the sort of thing I have come to expect from him. One other thing, he made the point that as a Plc he was restricted as to what he was allowed to say (even though you'd have struggled to believe it) but he said that once the new company is set up he has to answer to no one and he will be much more open. I'd get along to the next meeting he is at if I were you, as I'm sure it will be fantastic value for money!

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Next... Oldham at home

The season has started well, and tomorrow we have a home game with the only other side in the division that has six points. Thus a win and we are guaranteed to be at least two points clear at the top. MK Dons being the only other side with a 100% record, and they have only played one game.

Southampton, having postponed the game with MK Dons last weekend as the owner of their club died, are now six points behind us. I will watch, with interest, how their season progresses. I have believed that Pardew's ability to tinker with his side, and especially his squad, would be their downfall this season. It is likely that he will not be able to bring in any more players from now on, and as I believe that his only solution to a struggling team is to sign more players that could be the end of him, and them.

For the same reason, although with much smaller numbers, as Portsmouth, I hate to see sides have success by defaulting on their commitments only to then go on a spending spree. I hope Southampton fail to be promoted this season, the owners lose interest, and they struggle with a wage bill that is not sustainable in this division. Frankly I'd be more than happy for them to be relegated and go into liquidation, but that's a story for another day.

Back on to our fortunes. I have a feeling of confidence this season that I just cannot shake. I believe that we are significantly stronger this sea on that last. Sure we have lost some talented players, but we have replaced them with adequate replacements, and we have filled the obvious holes that we had in the first eleven cast season. Like for like Kyle Reid is, in my view, a better option on the left than Bailey was, and I'd already come to the conclusion that Bailey wasn't suited to play in the middle in anything other an a 4-5-1 formation.

Clearly we have insufficient players to expect to go through the whole season as injuries and suspensions will force us to call on squad players, but Parkinson is targeting two more players, and with some of those we already have being used on a variety of positions I'm confident that we have enough to get us close enough, and there is always the emergency loan system, should we have any major problems.

Oldham's highest scorer last season lines up against them tomorrow and, as I've already said, I suspect that he is going to score fifteen goals plus for us this season. I am one of those people that don't believe in suspicions, but for no other reason than I think he's a good striker I think he'll score tomorrow. He has already got two this season, and none in the league. I think he is due a Valley goal, and if we can keep ten players on e pitch for the full 90 minutes I think he'll have plenty of chains to get one.

I am confident that we will score a fair number of goals this season, but as we are still gelling in a lot of new players I will be mopper than happy with a 1-0 win. Having said that I expect us to win by two, maybe a 3-1.

As we haven't signed any new players, up to 4:30 on Friday, I'm guessing we will not have anyone new for tomorrow, but with Semedo and Dailly suspended it already forces two changes from what most would call our first eleven. I would be surprised if we don't start with ten of the eleven that started last Friday, and it is a toss up between Llera and Fry. The revelation that we had to pay West Ham more if Fry played for us last season casts doubt on his relative position in the pecking order, but I think Spaniard will get the call.

I'm really looking forward to it.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Orient 1 - 3 Charlton

As this game was on Friday night, it was on live television and it is now Monday afternoon I think we can assume that if you are reading this you have already had your fill of the game - but as you are here I might has well say a few words.

It's strange how as a race we are all much better at complaining than we are at praising. I have read (don't ask me why) a few books on being a good communicator, business associate, and friend and they all go to great length to tell you to look for positives when interacting with fellow members of the human race.

The reason that the authors tell you this is that you will always be remembered as a 'nice', 'polite', 'friendly' chap if you take the time to say something complementary. By making one feel comfortable (being nice to them) you single yourself out as being unusual, as most people like to bitch and whinge about everything.

The really strange thing about this approach (being nice and positive to people) is that their judgement goes out of the window. This is how blokes that you wouldn't believe any girl would sleep with often end up shagging for England. I'm not talking about being witty and 'smooth' in a pub or night club, I'm talking about being, what many would call excessively, nice and polite.

Anyway, as my income is based on how I relate to my clients and other business associates I have learned to make that special effort. To be honest I don't find it all that hard. I have a great life, I have a nice house, a wonderful family, and I do a job that I both enjoy and leaves me enough time to share my Son's childhood with him.

However, I am as good as the next man (if not significantly better) at bitching, whining and complaining. As already mentioned I tend to avoid that tendency when it comes to business, and as Mrs Kings Hill will not take any shit from me, ever, that only leaves me two outlets. Former colleagues are always happy to join me in a bitching session about our industry. I work in Financial Services, and it has not exactly been the best place in the world to be the last couple of years. The other outlet I have is this blog. I know this blog is relatively new, but it has given me a forum to vent my anger and disappointment since I started in January 2008.

I have joined in on Charlton Life in recent weeks as it is a very informative place to seek (often without asking) the opinions on subjects that I am interested - clearly football and Charlton specifically. However, I fear that my sharp tongue has already started to alienate people, and most of the members are currently finding inspiration (in my view) difficult as things are going rather well in the Charlton Athletic world right now.

So back to Orient away. Well I thought that the first yellow card was probably warranted, all be it not strictly necessary. I'm not sure I would have called for a card had it been the other way around, but on the replay it was clearly a sneaky attempt to control the ball in the hope that it wouldn't be seen. The second yellow was, in my view, very harsh. I watched the game at my Dad's house, so as I was driving home I was not drinking, and despite the remarks from the commentators, I was sure that it was a stretch too far and not worthy of a second yellow.

For the record I do not believe that any referring decision should be made taking into account other factors. If you deserve a red card in the first minute, then you should get one. All this rubbish about not wanting to spoil a game, and it was only one minute in, is bullshit. If the referee is not going to send anyone off for the first ten minutes then let's make a that a rule and the players can go out there and deliberately try to put their opponent out of the game, then when the eleventh minute starts they can all play nicely. Yeah, right!

So the fact that Dailly had been given a yellow card already (one that I can't really disagree with, despite the fact that I do) shouldn't have any bearing on the decision for the second. I mention this as I am not saying it didn't deserve to cause the player to be sent off (although in isolation clearly it didn't) but I believe the second yellow was wrong. I'm guessing the decision was made easier by the fact that the Orient player did a 'Bailey' and looked like he was inches from death.

On the Commentators, I now have a new reason to hate being in the third division. you get third division commentators. They got comments wrong, and they babbled like idiots. I would go as far as to say that it would have been better if they'd just showed the game with the crowd noise and sent the fools home.

Anyway, even after the red card I was confident that we'd give a good account of ourselves. I was gearing up to produce all the usual excuses and positive comments about what we "Could take from the game".

The truth is that with Doherty and Llera at the back they were never going to be able to break us down with high balls into the box. Clearly they didn't know that, and they continued to make it easy for us. On Doherty, it looked like he missed the ball for their goal. My only conclusion was that he must have taken his eye off the ball for a moment and misjudged the lunge. Other than that I have been very impressed with him, and his partnership with our player of the year for last season.

The second goal was a great finish by Wagstaff followed by a couple of wonderful touches by Martin and the goal scorer himself. The third goal was late and on the break but something amazing happened.

For nearly thirty years I have watched successive Charlton players (mostly strikers to be honest) miss chances and fail to be exceptionally predator-like in front of goal, but when Wagstaff lost the defender and the camera zoomed out and I saw Solly running down the middle I knew it was going to be a goal. I didn't wonder if the cross would be too heavy (or too short for that matter), and I just knew that this young right back (who has played as many games at left back) was going to put it away.

In fact, so sure was I that I announced "This is going in" long before Wagstaff crossed. I wouldn't have been more sure had it been Ronaldo crossing for Rooney. I have no idea where that confidence came from, but I have this feeling that we are in for a really, really good season. I just can't wait for the next game. Top vs Second is exciting, but I am just brimming with excitement at the thought of watching us again, against anyone.

One last comment, I was intrigued by the look on Christian Dailly's face as he watched the game from the sidelines. There was what I thought was a mixture of intrigue (in the result I would imagine) and a fatherly concern for the players/team. The more of this man I see the more like him. Also he is the same age as McLeish who did that stupid dance when they scored. I can't for the life of me imagine from their demonstration of professionalism which one of these 36 year old players has racked up in excess of 200 Premier League appearances, 67 full international caps, a Scottish League and Cup Double, another two Scottish Cup winners medals, a Scottish League Cup winners medal, runners up medals in the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup and a Charlton Supporters players of the year award.

I want curly hair too. For those of you that know my appearance you'll be thinking that I'd take any hear going, but this week I'm insisting on curly.

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Shrewsbury 4 - 3 Charlton

I didn't bother to post a preview or a match report of the Bournemouth game as I had a hectic end to last week, and after the game I found that there were already half a dozen reports by the time I came to write one, and I had little to say that wasn't already said.

The only thing to comment on was the sending off, and more importantly the failure in the appeal to have the red card over turned. Due to a failure on my part to set the recorder properly I have not seen the challenge on tv. I thought the red card looked harsh at the time, but I was not surprised at the result. The Bournemouth player (who has subsequently admitted that it was not a bad challenge) acted like he literally had both his feet cut off, so the referee was probably always going to give a red card. Missing Semedo will be a real loss, and the fact that he already has this red card against him will no doubt have a knock on effect later in the season, but it has happened now so we will have to get on with it.

So, on to tonight's game. I have been rather quick to criticise the club, manager and players in the past, and I have to admit that losing to lower league opposition, and losing after being 3-0 in front is hardly great PR, but I honestly couldn't be happier.

I know you are probably just assuming that I have been drinking, and/or am a little mad, but the days of believing that we could go a long way in any proper cup competition (i.e. not the JPT) are long gone. I was devastated when we lost at Middlesbrough when we ran Operation Riverside, The flight home (a first for me - flying to a Charlton game) was truly depressing, but every other cup defeat has been predictable and hardly very costly in our pursuit of silver wear or a Wembley appearance. I know that the FA Cup Final was in Cardiff the year we lost to Middlesbrough, but you get the sentiment.

Tonight we were as good as forced to play a reserve side. It is early in the season, Semedo was suspended (see above) and we have to play Orient on Friday night. We have a very shallow squad this season, and this is both practical (based on our financial situation) and sensible based on allocating budget on the first sixteen and then the rest.

I am disappointed that we will have weaker reserves this season, but on the basis that some of our first team will play close to 40 league games this season we just can't justify having expensive players in the squad if they are going to make less than ten starts.

So we've justified having weaker (and in many cases youth players) outside of the first eleven, and we've justified having many of that first eleven rested tonight due to the fact that the season is in it's infancy and we have another game in a few days.

The side, tonight, included a new 'Keeper, an unfit right back, a youth centre half, a youth right back playing at left back, last seasons reserve right winger (still young and inexperienced), a youth central midfielder and two strikers that were making only their second appearances for the club - neither had completed 90 minutes of competitive football for us.

That last paragraph explains why we were likely to be out of the draw for the next round on it's own. Towards the end Reid, Doherty and Sodje were given a run out, which will help with fitness, but was too late to have any meaningful impact on the game, particularly in the case of the latter two.

So overall no surprise that we played reserves, no surprise that our reserves are going to be much weaker than the first team this season and, therefore, no surprise that we lost the game.

The manner of the defeat is a little worrying. Sure, defenders that are a little inexperienced, probably nervous and unfamiliar with their team mates are going to make mistakes, and from what I've read that's why we conceded four goals, but to concede a three goal lead to a lower league side is never good news. However, what I would say is that to have lost that three goal lead we needed to score three goals, which we did. Abbott got his first two goals for us, and Martin chipped in with a goal and an assist. This is very encouraging as far as I'm concerned.

I know it's only two games in and one was against a lower division side, but we now have three strikers that have as many goals as they have starts this season. It's got to be a long time since we've been able to say that. I actually doubt that we have ever had that statistic - and we were worried about strikers just a week or two ago.

As for the League Cup (what ever they are calling it this season) I just hate it. It has been a long time since any clubs have taken this competition seriously in every round they have competed in. Frankly it is unnecessary, and until the latter stages costs money to stage the games, fans don't want to watch it and the players don't want to play in it. In fact, the sooner we can get out of the competition the better as far as I'm concerned.

So would I have preferred us to have lost 1-0 on the night? Well I have to confess that was my first choice before kick off. Don't get me wrong, I'm not in the business of wanting other teams to beat us, but if you want out of the competition there is no other way than to lose. Frankly I would favour the clubs having the option of entering or not. I would vote for us not to bother. I suspect the League know this which is why we don't have the option. They must make a little money from Sky as the bigger teams tend to play a few of their first choice players in the Semi' and the Final, but for teams like Charlton it is a total waste of time and money. I doubt our share of the gate receipts tonight would have covered taking the team all that way and back.

So, normally I would have been happy with a 1-0 defeat, but we managed to score three goals, which is great for the players confidence, and actually it made me feel good too. In fact at 3-0 up the best result (assuming we didn't score more goals) was for us to let in 4 goals and exit the competition, and that's exactly what we did. Thankfully we avoided extra time and the extra fatigue that would have caused.

So, over all a good night. Now we can concentrate on Friday, and the League in general.

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


(Not Charlton Related)

One of the worst things about getting old is that your body fails to be able to do what it once would. At 39 I suspect I am a long way from a nursing home, but the 'Good Life' of labour saving gadgets, good food and alcohol has probably not helped. Thus I made a decision to sort it all out.

In fairness it has to be said that becoming self employed and working from home has escalated the decline. I last had a 'proper' job in 2005, and since them I have worked from home and rarely need to leave the house. Don't get me wrong I'm hardly a hermit, but you'd be amazed just how much regular exercise you get traveling to and from work.

Since January 2009 I have been in charge of the school run. It only consists of a 13.5 mile journey (by car, obviously), but there and back, twice, takes a chunk out of my day, and there is a bit of walking as parking right outside the school is very difficult. This has helped, but I've still been 'growing' around the waist, and feeling increasingly older as the months go by.

Way back in February Mrs KHA started running. She joined in with an instructor who was organising a club on Kings Hill, where we both live (obviously) and work - there is a big commercial presence here. We tend to do few things together, mainly because she doesn't like me, but also as we have a six year old who, despite being happy on his own, is way to young to be left home alone.

Anyway as the weeks went by she started to lose weight. She claimed that the running reduced her desires for those bad things that we had both become accustomed to. She now drinks a lot less, and has started eating more healthy - apart from the chocolate mountain she consumes each week she doesn't actually have any other consumption vices.

As she lost weight I started to feel bigger than ever. Due to the Mii characters on the Wii console (you'll either know what that is or you won't) I have been "Fat Daddy" for a couple of years already. I have been ok with this, I'm hardly massive, and at six (he was four when we started) there is no shame in my son's eyes. As time passes he will, no doubt be ashamed of a fat Dad, but I think I'm a way off that yet.

Anyway, I decided I needed to do something. I spent much of my late 20s and early 30s doing Martial Arts. This is a good way to keep fit, and it's good fun too. It was interesting enough to keep me motivated while also being a good source of exercise. However, my body has informed me (with a shoulder problem that has now required two operations, amongst other ailments) that I am too old to be kicked, punched and thrown around every week, so I've been exercise free for over two years.

As it was clearly working for Mrs KHA I decided to try running. By coincidence my wife's running instructor was starting a new beginners class. I know you are all thinking that you can't need an instructor to run, but there is a lot more to consider than just running like when we were children.

Thankfully, there was little demand for this particular time slot, I was the only one to join, so I have my own personal trainer for £8 a session.

I've been going now for about six weeks. June 22nd was my first session. I'd be lying if I said I've loved it, but with an audio book on my iPhone and a bit of discipline (not getting carried away and going too fast - don't tell the wife) I'm now doing 5k runs (with the odd minute it two, walking, thrown in) in just under forty minutes. I suspect this is not at all impressive in the grand scheme of things, but I feel as though I am improving, I've lost a little bit of the fat around my waist and I feel fitter and younger.

Clearly this has allowed me license to go out and but a load of cool running clothes (despite they don't look quite as great on a fatty), some new trainers, socks and one of these Nike+ running watches and the thing that goes in your shoes.

I know that both New York Addick and Dave (Drinking During the Game) go running, the latter suggested once that should join him on a run, but I think he was politely agreeing that I needed to lose some weight. I doubt that I am anywhere near their achievements yet, nor will I be able to hold my own to any other readers that take running seriously, but I do intend to expand my blog ever so slightly, so I will post updates periodically just to keep me motivated.

For the record I was 14st 7lb when I started six weeks ago (I'm 5ft 11.5") and I have only lost a few pounds, but apparently muscle weighs more than fat - so Mrs KHA keeps telling. I have, however, reduced my beer and Coke (that's the drink) intake. Strangely I've found it harder to cut back on the soft drink than the Budweiser, but I keep telling myself "Small steps". I've managed to record over 50k on my Nike+ account - and for those that will understand this I've, therefore, just moved from yellow to orange. Hurrah!

Onwards and Upwards.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Watford 1-0 Charlton

Having only seen us play at Welling this pre-season before Saturday I didn't have much to go on, except that the result at Barnet was not very impressive.

Despite Watford being one of the weakest teams in the Championship right now I still thought that the difference between the two divisions should make them favourites to win the game. From that perspective I was correct. The difference between the two sides was, however nothing like I thought it might have been.

I have to confess to having little knowledge of Watford, and for all I know they might make three of four significant signings in the next week and make themselves much better than the showing on Saturday. However, there was little on show that impressed me from them as they stand.

The game seemed to be played with hints of an atmosphere of a friendly, but on the whole it looked like both sides were out to give a good account of themselves. This is, of course, not surprising as this was the last chance the players had to earn a place in the starting lineup for the first game of the season.

The game started slowly, but we seemed to be as good as them across the park, but were not looking very threatening in front of goal. As has been said elsewhere by New York Addick, Akpo Sodje is not going to be the answer playing up front on his own. Not unless the midfield can score goals. This potentially opens up the debate about 4-5-1 switching to 4-3-3, something that we didn't seem to be doing in the early part of the game.

However, eight minutes in and Doherty managed a shocking clearance in the box and despite a good save by Elliot, Danny Graham was on hand to score the only goal of the afternoon. This changed the whole game. Watford suddenly looked like the side that had struggled all last season and seemed to have no confidence. One of their last home games of the season was a defeat to Palace, and they looked like they were expecting no better a season this time around.

Maybe I'm being a little unfair, but they seemed to sit back and protect their one goal lead. This actually gave us the kind of workout that I believe we need to be up to the challenge of. William Hill have us installed as third favourites to win the division, and we are only at 3/1 for promotion. Thus I expect, certainly for the first half-dozen games, we will be facing opposition that will come out and sit back and soak up pressure while being happy to take a 0-0.

This is something we had to contend with last season, but with so many new faces it is likely to be a bit of a learning curve. Francis (who didn't play on Saturday), Abbott and McCormack all played in sides that were sent out not to lose most weeks last season, this will be a different scenario completely.

Following the goal we dominated most of the possession, and had most of the chances. I felt in the first half that despite his performance Wagstaff was being tempted inside as there was not enough up front with just Sodje. This comes back to the 4-5-1, 4-3-3 discussion. Kyel Reid, who was fantastic - especially in the second half, does not have the same tendency to cut inside, and I believe is at his best making a run down the touchline. Thus the side seemed unbalanced, despite us controlling the game as half time approached.

The second half was very different. Llera came on the Doherty, who I have to say failed to impress me at all based on that showing, and nine minutes in Abbott came on and we were a different proposition all together. There was probably not enough of Abbott and Sodje together to make any kind of judgement on them as a partnership, but I saw enough of Abbott to be impressed. He does look like Todorov, except that he can (and did) run. I suspect that he is not the master plan, and it is hoped that we will sign a real poacher, but I think Abbott will score goals for us. He is likely to be given more chances than he got for Oldham where he scored 13 goals last term, and I will be very surprised if he chips in with less than 15, assuming he stays fit for most of the season.

The game eventually petered out without us getting the goal that I thought we deserved, but at least we were creating chances, and as long as we can put a few of those away next Saturday I am confident that we will have a winning start to the season.

I see that the squad numbers have been released today, noticeable that we have not given the number 10 shirt to Sodje. I can only assume that is because we are going to sign another striker (which is no surprise) that will be expecting the number 10 shirt. Quite what the result of this will be is unknown at this time, but from what I've seen so far I'm confident that Parkinson will pull something else out of the bag.

Also of interest is that Youga is still number 3. I was a little worried that we would never see him in a Charlton shirt again, but this, despite potentially meaning nothing, suggests that he will eventually get fit again. Fingers crossed.

One last note, which I have no pleasure in, is that Solly looked very much out of his depth on Saturday. Quite what effect the late signing of Francis had on him I do not know, but the difference in his performance from Welling was massive. Maybe he is not yet ready for a prolonged run in the side at League One level? Maybe Welling are just not a real test (when compared with Watford) but I suspect that Francis (who wears the number 2 shirt next season) is going to keep Chris on the fringes for another year. Sadly, as much as it is satisfying having former youth players in the first team, they really do need to be good enough, and based on this one game, Solly doesn't look like he is yet. Mambo, however, looked very comfortable there. He is big and strong, but also looks comfortable on the ball. His allocation of the number 15 shirt suggests that he will be involved this season.

So, just one week to go. I have a funny feeling that this might not be the worst season ever. With Richard Murry at the helm and having made the financial changes that were necessary I don't feel worried for the future of the club if we don't win promotion like I did this time last year. Maybe that will release some of the pressure, it has certainly made me feel less anxious about this season and I'm really looking forward to it.

Up the Addicks!