Monday, 28 November 2011

Next... Huddersfield at home

Every so often something comes along that is a little out of the ordinary, a bit special.

There are lots of examples of this, and I've been mulling over in my head as to whether I was going to list some to make the point, but I think you get it. Football is a repetitive business. By definition a league season is 46 games, many of which are not significant at all, and many that are significant for something that happens during the game that couldn't have been forecast in advance. An obvious example of that, for me anyway, was the Boxing Day fixture against Swindon where we came back from 2-1 down to snatch a late draw with nine men. The game was on Boxing Day, which is a tradition that I love, but that aside I would never have considered it a 'big' or significant game before hand, but it turned out to be.

The Swindon play-off semi-final second leg was a big game, but it failed to please me after the final whistle. It was still a big game though, and that is what all us football fans look forward to.

The Millwall derbies that season were important, and the game at Oldham was exciting, but they, and the semi-final first leg, were the only games of any real significance prior to kick off since we were relegated from the Championship. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that they were the only games that were this exciting since we were relegated from the Premier League.

We have fallen from such a high position, relative to where we were ten years ago, that it is difficult to get excited about much these days, but tonight is a little different.

Sure I'd like to be the team to take their unbeaten record, I'd like to be the team that pushes them into third place with their first defeat in eleven months, but the truth is that I just want to win this high profile game. I've literally just been listening to The Football Ramble podcast and they discussed the recent breaking of the 42 game record held by Nottingham Forest and they made the point that we much be doing well to be five points above them. They also poked fun at the play-off final defeat.

In all honesty I do respect their achievement, and think that they have been relentless in their performances since the turn of the year, and under normal circumstances I would not want to spoil their attempt to beat Arsenal's record, but this game takes on such significance in our season that we must win.

It's too early in the season for it to be defining, and we could well beat Huddersfield then still finish below them at the end of the season, but it wouldn't half be nice to beat them in our back yard!

With Jackson injured we are going to miss a major presence both in terms of his talent and his captaincy. I think it is not a coincidence that we fell apart last season when he was missing. To be fair we have better players in the squad this season, but it will be a set back for sure, and not only tonight. However, I think that Ephraim is a real player, and the adrenalin tonight will probably make up for his absence to some degree.

I am tempted to say that I would take a draw tonight as it keeps us five points above the team in third (our real goal) but for tonight I just want to win the game. Sure there's three points at stake, but it's a chance for us to beat the team that everyone is talking about and send out a message about our intentions. It'll also be a cracking night out for the Charlton fans.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Next... Hartlepool away

What a week we've had?

I thought we'd stumble over the line with a 1-0 win at home to Carlisle last Saturday, and despite the fact they they made some defence howlers we still ran out 4-0 winners, and were 3-0 in front when they went down to ten men at the end of the first half. The icing on the cake was the saved penalty. In fact just about everything went our way.

The 2-1 win at Wycombe, which was fully to be expected is still a win, and still three points that we can put in the bag for the final tally up come May. Sheffield united, for example lost there, and I don't think they will be the only top six team to do so over the course of the season.

It's easy to be confident of a win against the struggling teams, but it's not always that easy, and you do have to go out there and win the game, and despite a nervy ending to the game we won, and that's all that mattered. With the bonus of no injuries or suspensions, and with Andy Hughes getting another start, and demonstrating that we need not be too fearful of the odd injury or suspension in the middle it was a good weeks work.

This was important, of course, as we had failed to win any of the three previous matches, and even lost to the team on a run of four straight defeats the week before. I accept that there will be blips, and as I said above just because we would expect to beat Stevenage, doesn't automatically mean we will do so. However, the real test is what happens after a defeat, and I think we have answered all the questions that were surfacing, including some of my own.

Powell's start at Charlton was followed by such a fall that it was easy to worry about his ability to lift a demoralised squad, but I am not too worried about that now.

So on the Hartlepool? Well they started the league campaign with four straight draws (MK Dons, Walsall, Huddersfield and Stevenage), before going on a run of five wins all be it against the less glamorous sides (Rochdale, Exeter, Carlisle, Bury and Bournemouth) then followed that up with three defeats (Sheff Wed, Notts County and Wycombe) they then beat Chesterfield, away, last Saturday before losing at home to Tranmere in the week. So they face us with one win in five (with four defeats), having lost their last three home games.

If you analyse their results with respect to the teams they do look like a solid mid table side that will not pull up too many trees against the top six but should be able to keep above the relegation zone. They finished 16th last season after having finished 20th and 19th in the two seasons before.

So, their side shouldn't be good enough to pose too many questions of a top side on a good run, they have struggled a bit with recent form so this will be a good test for us. This is the sort of game we have struggled in in the past, and Stevenage might not look like a one off by 5pm on Saturday.

However, I believe that we are no longer that sort of side. I think the players that we have wearing the shirt this season are better than that. I was never sure if it was complacency or the inability to break down teams that defended in numbers, but I do believe that Stevenage was a blip and I think we will collect three points tomorrow.

I'm going for a 1-0 win tomorrow. I still think there will be games when we need to grind out a win by breaking down a tough side and keeping a clean sheet. I think tomorrow will be one of those.

Elsewhere I was buoyed this week, despite the unpopularity of my pleasure, by Sky TVs decision to move our game with Huddersfield from Saturday 26th November to Monday 28th November. I have always been committed to attend every game, and I have missed all sorts of family occasions in the process. I have sent my wife to weddings on her own, and have passed on all sorts of social occasions in order to keep my 100% attendance on a season by season basis. However on the 26th of November I am, for the first time and I hope the last, attending a posthumous graduation ceremony for my late brother-in-law. Some of you will remember that he died in a car accident in 2008. It would seem that all universities have a scheme to extrapolate results up to date (there was a small celebration in the summer of 2008 when his first year results were released) but we were unaware of this tradition until until a few months ago when Nottingham University contacted my in-laws to invite them (and my wife and I) to attend the ceremony.

Having only attended two graduation ceremony in my life - both of them my own, I would not normally recommend them as a fun day out, and they would always be a second choice to a football game, never mind a top of the table clash (I know it might not be by then), but I felt that it was where I should be. The fixtures weren't out when we committed to go (not that my decision would have been any different), but I feel vindicated in going as circumstances have conspired to ensure that I won't miss a game after all.

To all those that are now going to miss the game as it has been moved from the Saturday, and to those that will have increased travel costs due to early booking of train tickets (something that I was not aware of until this week) I do sympathise, but I have to confess that I couldn't be happier about it.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Next... Carlisle at home

Following on from our win at Sheffield United we had 27 points from eleven games. We were five points in front of MK Dons who we'd drawn away to and eight points ahead of Hartlepool who were in seventh. With eleven and a half games a quarter of the season this was looking good.

Interestingly, after eleven games in 2009 we has 24 points and Leeds who were top had 27. After 13 games in 2009 we had 28 points, exactly what we have now with the same number of games played. Last season we had 16 points after eleven games and 19 after thirteen games.

So, on the whole it was a good start to the season. It was significantly better than I had dared hope for back in June. The board have given Powell plenty of resources and on the whole the team have repaid him with good results. We haven't always been totally convincing, Huddersfield are the only team that seem to have done that, but I'd take second place right now, and would have done at any point if it'd been offered to me.

However, after the Sheff Utd win, and the celebrations on the pitch and the pats on the back all round that Powell gave out we seem to have lost our way a little. The odd result going against you is perfectly understandable, and to some degree acceptable. The defeat in the JPT was ok. I would have liked to have gone to Wembley, but in the grand scheme of things it didn't really mater that much. Losing 3-0 at home to a team from the same division was a little bit harder to swallow, but again, it was only the JPT, and despite Brentford doing the same we did only play half of our first team.

Tranmere at home was a little less impressive. Tranmere came to us with three defeats, one win and a draw in five, so we should really have been able to pick up a win at home. There were changes, bringing in Green and Kermorgant which seemed like a reasonable move based on their contributions from the bench at both MK Dons and Sheff Utd, but it just didn't work. Tranmere defended to highly and we failed to get a passing game going and immediately seemed to lump it up the park to the tall Frenchman. This failed miserably. Sure, we managed to steal a draw, and could have even snatched it at the end, but to be truthful, without the Penalty we could well have lost that game.

Then we went to Stevenage, who were on a run of four defeats. What we needed was to to keep it tight and score first and then they would have been forced to come out and attack, leaving us chances to increase our lead. We managed to concede an early goal and then they did exactly what you'd expect from a team playing in a game they expected to lose. No disrespect to them, but I'd be amazed if we finish less than ten points above them, and they would probably have been happy with a draw.

So one draw and two defeats in three. having said that we are still forth in the form tables (last six games) and we are still top of the form table for the last six away games. Six games that include trips to the teams that are 4th and 8th. I'm still happy with our current progress, and the initial bedding in period for the team to 'gel' doesn't seem to have cost us many points.

I think it might be time to reinstate Wagstaff and Hayes. I think it was a little unfair on them to be dropped, despite the replacements having great impacts from the bench. Maybe that is where they need to utilised. Green has demonstrated great crossing ability, and I have been willing him to succeed as I do love a 'proper' winger that gets to the line and crosses the ball, but he has, frankly, failed to deliver. I'm not saying that he won't have a big part to play this season, but for now I think Wagstaff should be given the nod. I also think BWP looks a better player with Hayes, and we seem to play a more passing game with him in the side.

Of course, it could just be that other teams have worked out how to play us now. I always find it worrying when we can't seem to break down the rough, tough huff and puff sides. If you fail to beat them then it encourages more sided to employ those tactics, and they spoil the game in my opinion.

Tomorrow we entertain Carlisle who inflicted our forth straight defeat back in March that was, for me, the signal that we were playing for the playoffs not automatic promotion. In the end the seven games that followed with just two points took that away too.

This is a real test of Powell and his new side. We need to send out a message tomorrow both to our fans and to the rest of the teams in this division. We need to demonstrate that when we are knocked down we get straight back up. Basically we need win and never look like doing anything else. We need to pass the ball around the pitch. We need to be first to the loose balls and we need to be firm in the tackle. We need to make it clear that we cannot and we will not be bullied into submission.

The fans need to play their part too. We need to make The Valley less of a fun day out for the opposition. our away form has been fantastic this season, but we have only won half of the games we've played at home. We need to make The Valley a fortress, starting tomorrow.

I am confident of a win. I don't, actually, think I'll see all those things I listed above, and at the end of the day I'll take a win - any win. I'm going for a 1-0 win. Keep it tight at the back and nick a goal. IT won't exactly send out the shock waves I'd like but it will confirm that we have got back up again. And it will, of course, keep us at the top of the table.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Football for a Fiver

There is part of me that feels the need to complain about the cheap tickets when I have paid for a season ticket, and there is part of me that finds it aggravating when I end up sitting next to someone that annoys me in some way when I know they are only there as it's cheap.

However, there is, absolutely nothing like a full house (or close to it) at The Valley and it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up with the sound and the colour of a full stadium.

I also like the idea that many children are there for a rare treat or their first ever visit - to the Valley or a football ground. A full Valley is, in my opinion, as good an atmosphere as almost any other ground in the country and if children can't get excited about what they'll witness on Saturday then maybe football is not for them - at least not yet, anyway.

Since I last got off my backside and wrote something on here there has been a lot to talk about. We have settled (I think and hope) into am established level of performance and results. Two years ago we were a little unknown in this division and, to most of us, the division was a little unknown too. Now I am much more confident of what the division has to offer and, indeed, how able we are to cope with it.

Parkinson's first season for us in the third division it took a few months for the other sides to know how to cope/deal with us. Shelvey was outstanding, yet underrated. his form dipped a little and the results dried up. There were a few outstanding players (at this level) in our squad that season, but our midfield was our real (and probably only) strength. Certainly once Youga disappeared with injury, and Richardson started falling in and out of the side (also due to injury) we were never the same. We managed some notable performances and results against the top sides, but the autumn start was never recaptured and proved to be a false dawn.

Last season Parkinson has much, much fewer resources at his disposal, and he managed to keep us in the hunt for a few months, but I suspect that the fall down the table was always coming irrespective as to who was managing the side. After the initial run under Powell we looked more and more like a poor side that had benefited from a purple patch at just the right time in the run up to Christmas.

This season we look like a side, with a little cover in key areas, that is winning the games that it deserves to. This is always a good sign. It's ok, and sometimes more enjoyable, to win games against the run of play, but results without performances, like luck, run out in the end. I've always said that I'd rather have a lucky manager (and goalkeeper, for that manager) but if you have the choice it is better to have a good one.

Form is temporary but class is permanent is a nice way of saying that a rubbish team can only get away with it for a while.

So I am quietly confident that we have what it takes to win a significant proportion of our games this season and with a bit of luck (some of the other sides close to us have to have a bad run at some point) that should be enough to take us up - hopefully without the need for the playoffs.

All this leads me on nicely to our recent results and, more importantly this Saturday's clash. I don't want to take anything away from the squad, but the results haven't impressed me massively so far. Don't get me wrong I am more than happy with where we are, and the performances have been great - especially coming from behind at Bury and losing a two goal lead but still winning at Rochdale, but I believe that the squad is good enough to expect these results.

I'm not raising expectations for the sake of it, I just believe that we are good enough to expect these results, and we are getting them. There will, no doubt, be a period when our form tales a dip, and I was by no means certain we would be where we are at the start of the season, but I've seen enough to be convinced.

With this in mind I fully expect (and I mean predict not demand) a comfortable win on Saturday. Sure Chesterfield have had a few decent results in the last couple of weeks, but I fully expect us to be too good for them. I also think that the new squad will be lifted by the atmosphere at The Valley on Saturday, rather than be in fear of it, which is what seemed to happen last time.

Assuming we get an early goal it could well be a party atmosphere for two hours. Last year my Dad was away for the Exeter game so this will be his first big crowd since we lost to Swindon in the playoffs semi-final in May 2009, and the atmosphere that night was filled with the kind of tension that I don't expect to feel on Saturday.

I have been looking forward to games much more this season that I was last season, especially towards the end, but I'm really quite excited about this one.

I predict a 3-0 win.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Charlton 2 - 2 Scunthorpe

So, after my bragging that we had won two games convincingly, we went on to draw a game that we probably deserved to lose.

I know that conceding a late goal (injury time) to lose a lead gives the impression that a draw has been snatched from the jaws of victory, but in truth we didn't dominate this game and at 2-0 we effectively sat back waiting for the game to finish for us to pack up and go home with the three points we had already won.

It's interesting that Powell seems to be happy to defend the approach of sitting back and allowing the team to attack us for great periods of the game when we are in front. In his defence we had only conceded one league goal in three games, so he could be forgiven for thinking that we could close the game out for the last twenty minutes with a 2-0 lead.

Changing Hayes for Euell was not, necessarily, a mistake, but taking off BWP for a centre half late on in the game is the sort of thing you do against Man Utd, not Scunthorpe. I know we need to be realistic, and accept that we are not going to win the division at a canter and, indeed, may well be chasing 6th place by May, but I would have thought that we could have pushed on for a third goal to kill the game off.

Anyway, it is what it is. We were not the best side by far on the day, and had we been two goals down with twenty minutes to go I wouldn't have thought it at all possible for us to get back into the game.

I will just add my backing to the general displeasure with the short corner with three minutes to go. Bearing in mind how long it took us to lose the ball it would probably have been back in our half just as quickly if we'd crossed for a shot and lost the ball immediately.

Other thoughts on the game, Danny Green is fantastic at crossing the ball - I've not seen anything like it since we last entertained Beckham at The Valley. I'm not saying Green in the next Beckham, but his crossing is the best since we last saw the format England Captain.

Paul Hayes had a bit of a stinker. To be fair to him he has admitted as much on his Twitter. In the first couple of games he has looked a real asset. His running and his ball hold up play have been impressive. He can also pick out a pass and will, no doubt, prove to be worth his place in the side, but he missed a chance on Saturday, despite keeping the ball down and hitting the target, he should really have done better. His biggest fumble, however, was when he was clear away and dribbled the ball rather than kicking it and chasing it and the defender took the ball off his toes before he could get a shot off. He is clearly not an out and out striker, but to be fair we knew that when we signed him.

I also felt the midfield looked tired on Saturday. It's ok keeping a winning side, but when the games come a bit thick and fast it might be better to rest the odd players rather than have them tire out. Towards the end on Saturday we seemed to have conceded the midfield completely.

On the whole ten points from the first four games is a fantastic return, but we are, clearly, not going to dominate this division at a canter which was what we being suggested before Saturday.

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Next... Scunthorpe at home

Following on from a terrific display at Colchester (my Dad and I were there) we entertain one of last season's relegated teams that have made a stuttering start to the season. I have no idea how they will fare as the season unfolds, but I think we are meeting them at a good time - for us.

There are some similarities between us and Scunthorpe in that Atkins achieved so much with them and since he's left they seem to have been in free fall. Maybe they will be strong contenders this season, but 29-1 to win the division, the bookies clearly don't fancy them all that much.

Anyway, as it's already Saturday morning I'm not going to write a full match preview just add some observations following last Tuesday's win in Essex.

I was not terribly keen for Parkinson to be given the job when we were in the Championship; I was not all that sure that he was the man to get us out of this division in the summer of 2009, however I think he managed to get a lot out of a limited squad in 2009/10 and last season he kept us in the playoff places with a side that was put together on a shoestring budget (I'm refusing to include the wages that someone else agreed to pay his players before he took over).

Despite my lack of enthusiasm in giving Parkinson the job he did manage to secure wins and pick up points by grinding out results. This was unattractive and never seemed convincing, but it did seem to work. This season it is different. To be fair Powell has been given the chance to build the squad he wanted, something that Parkinson never had.

The change is staggering. We were well worth our win on Tuesday, and we were well worth our win against Bournemouth. I can't remember the last time I saw us win two games back to back and deserve to win them both. Seriously, I really can't remember!

Two seasons ago we won six straight at the start of the season, but that included four that I went to (the home games and Orient away) and of those four we were only convincing in the first half agaist Wycombe and we managed to concede two goals after being three in front to make for a tense ending to the game. Thus we are looking better, relative to the opposition, than we did two years ago. That is the most pleasing aspect of the start we are watching - we actually look like we are better than the opposition.

Clearly it's early days, but you can only beat what's in front of you, and at the moment I'm feeling very optimistic about the season.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Next... Notts County away

When we were first relegated to this god forsaken league (no disrespect intended to any clubs that are happy to be in it) I really thought we wouldn't be here long enough to bother reading up on the players we would be facing each week. Having said that I didn't bother going to too much trouble when we returned to the second division in 2007 either.

Anyway, last season I, again, thought I would wing it with my previews and not bother going to all that much trouble to familiarise myself with the teams we would be meeting each week. This year, however, I intend to make more of an effort. I've decided to take a leaf out of Chicago Addick's book and look into the opposition a little more. Clearly this is going to much easier once the table takes shape and the teams new squads settle in and the stars of the season become more identifiable. Anyway Notts County?

Their forum thread for tomorrow's game is rather short, but the feeling is that they should keep the same eleven, with maybe Hughes being given a rest if he is tired following their 3-3 draw AET at Forest on Tuesday. Hughes, who is 35, scored his 51st goal for County on Tuesday before missing a penalty that would have sent them through - they lost the shootout 4-3.

With six goals in their first two games (all be it one of those came in extra time) it is clear that they have some firepower this season. The three they conceded to Forest are hardly cause for concern for them, Forest made the playoffs last season, and with Andy Reid looking slim (no, really he does) they are probably going to be in the mix this season.

Thankfully teams normally struggle four days after extra time and penalties, and with Lee Hughes having scored two of their goals this season they might need to play a slightly different game if he is not going to play. At 35 it would be a lot to ask for him to play three games in eight days, and after his performance against us last season at The Valley I'm more than happy for them to rest him. Strangely the BBC season preview (which is admittedly short) suggests that County have a shortage of goals, hence their interest in Paul Benson. They have now had three bids turned down for Showunmi by Tranmere. Even the player is suggesting that he is happy to stay now. This does suggest that Allen thinks/knows his squad needs more fire power.

With that in mind, I'm tempted to suggest that a Hughes free line up should be there for the taking. We have shown that we can score goals with a three goal margin for the first time since Powell took charge. In fact a 4-0 win at Tranmere (August 2009) a 5-1 win against MK Dons (14/11/09) and the 5-1 win at Peterborough (13/11/10) we haven't managed a three goal margin since Chris Powell scored himself in a 4-1 win over Coventry in May 2008.

Clearly we will not win every game by three goals, nor will we score three goals most weeks, but we do seem to have much more fire power this season. I would like to think that Wright-Phillips, Hayes, Benson, Jackson, Stephens, Green and Wagstaff are all in with a shout of getting ten goals this season. That does mean that marking our threats out of the game is going to be a little more difficult this season. Lloyd Sam and Kyle Reid both suffered with double marking at times, but who would you double mark with Green on one flank, Jackson on the other and Stephens in the middle? I also think we will increase those options with a loan player or two in due course.

Interestingly, Norwich managed nine wins by three goals or more during 2009-10. I'd take that right now!

So even though under different circumstances I'd be inclined to take a draw away to a team that have won their last league game 3-0 away and matched a second division team in midweek, I'm confident enough of our abilities to suggest that we will win this game. If there is anywhere near as much fatigue in the County players as I think there might be I would look to push on in the latter stages of the game to see if we can get another goal or two.

As for the team I, personally, would prefer to see Green get a game. I know Wagstaff has done nothing wrong, but it is a long season, the games are coming think and fast right now and it makes sense to play your best side when ever you can. I expect both Wagstaff and Green to be playing 30 games plus this season (particularly if you include substitutions) and for that reason I'd like to blood him this weekend and bring Wagstaff on for the last twenty minutes or so when their legs are tiring and when his pace can really punish them.

Having said that I expect Powell will stick to the winning side, something he did last season with McCormack and Francis - if you can justify keeping them in the side on the back of a win Wagstaff should be a shoe in.

Other than that I'd not change anything else. Maybe we will see Alonso on the bench, as I'm not sure he is not going to be a star for us this season. Danny Hollands looked the real deal on Saturday, but on the basis that we are going to need cover, one of them will be first choice, and for me the jury is still out on that. It's no secret that we, at Charlton, love a crunching tackler, maybe even more than a flair winger.

So, I'm going to go for a 4-0 win. I know that sounds silly, but I had a feeling we would win 3-0 last Saturday but went for a 2-1 to be a little less arrogant, and to save me having egg on my face. To be fair even at 4-1 we will have the second of our nine three goal margin wins.

Clearly I'd take a 1-0 win all day long.

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Holiday's over

It has been almost a month since I last added anything to this blog, and I have only written three blogs since March.

The end of last season was very demoralising in terms of Charlton, and I had always intended to have the summer off to recuperate. However, on Sunday 22 June one of my best friends was killed in a road traffic accident. That in itself put things into perspective - it was a week over two years after my wife's brother was killed in a car accident, and this does make one see things differently.

Following the death of my friend I spent a lot of time helping his wife with his business. I should explain. We were both in the same industry, and were each other's locum - an agreement that we made never expecting to have to call upon it. This has taken a lot of my time, and combined with my son being home from school since the start of July I have had my hands full, and blogging hasn't been much of a priority.

I have watched us sign players, and have read other blogger's thoughts and really wanted to add something of my own, but really couldn't justify the time it takes me to write something. I don't seem to be able to just pen a few lines, it always ends up with what I expect is more than many read to the end.

I was determined to write a season preview, or at least a Bournemouth preview, but having pretty much sorted most of the outstanding business for my late friend I have, effectively, inherited his clients and I am much busier with work as a result. I have to say that this development is great news for me, financially, but I can honestly say I wish he was still here and had kept his business.

Anyway, today I thought I should make a decision about the blog, and either get my back side into gear and write something - maybe less than I normally end up writing - so that I can justify calling myself a blogger, or officially give up. The latter was never a realistic option. I love being able to describe myself as the writer of a blog. Even if the blog is rubbish, and most people that I tell about it never bother to read it, it doesn't matter. It has also helped me to make new friends, and enables me to believe that I am part of a small community of bloggers, and I really like that.

For years I have gone to football with my Dad, and I wouldn't want it any other way, but when he is away I can now 'invite myself' to join my new friends in the pub for a pint before the game. This has opened a whole new world to me, and one that I would have never had if I'd not started writing my silly thoughts on the internet.

Anyway, enough about me, I should really write something about Charlton, after all that's why you're here isn't it?

The squad that Powell has assembled is so, so exciting. I have often played football manager games and I have always looked to sign young players that will develop. Clearly computer (and latterly PS3) games are a little predictable. All young players will develop and have their skill level and 'score' go up each season. Clearly in the real world this is not guaranteed, and there is a massive gulf between how a computer program assess a player's abilities and what happens in real life. With this in mind I used my normal logic and went and got excited because we are signing players that are young with massive potential.

I have no idea if the players we are signing now are ever going to be good enough for the Premier League, but I'm damn sure I can convince myself they are if we win a few games.

I went to Woking to see our second team play in July, and I went to the home friendly where we won the 'People's Cup'. I was very impressed with what I saw. There are few in the reserves that are going to make a significant impact on the first team in my view, but I am bursting with excitement at Dale Stephens (who did play at Woking) Danny Green, Paul Hayes, Michael Morrison, Matthew Taylor and Danny Hollands. I am excited, even though I've not seen them play, with Mikel Alonso, Ruben Bover, Cedric Evina and Andy Hughes. This on the basis that I was already excited about getting to see Johnnie Jackson and Bradley Wright-Phillips next season. I am impressed with the signings of Sullivan and Hamer, even though I know little about the latter. I should also point out that I am more than happy with Paul Benson (assuming he can manage less red cards this season), Chris Solly and Scott Wagstaff.

I am disappointed that we have been unable to secure a long term contract with Rob Elliot as it is a rare thing for a real fan to play for your club, and not only do I think he is a good 'Keeper, but I like having him in the side. My only worry with Rob is that he seems to miss more games with injury than would be ideal, but it would still have been my preference to keep him. Having said that if he can secure himself a better future elsewhere then good luck to him, and I really mean that.

I was pleased that Scott Wagstaff signed a contract extension, he is not finished developing yet, but I would much rather have him stay at Charlton while he achieves his potential than have him do so elsewhere. Johnnie Jackson, however, was a real worry to me. We looked like a different side last season when he moved forward from left back to play on the left of the midfield, and we clearly missed him in the run in. With just a year left on his contract I feared he would move on, but his contract extension (especially as it was a further two years) was, for me, the best signing of the summer (well, maybe level with Dale Stephens). I am more than happy for him to be named Captain, and his extravagant celebration with the People's Cup was exactly what I would have liked to have seen.

So, on the whole I am very happy with the changes. Without going into any details, I'm also not disappointed about any of the departures. Last summer it was clear that losing Lloyd Sam, Dion Burton, Jonjo Shelvey, Sam Sodje and Nicky Bailey was going to make us much weaker. This summer I think only Semedo would have been a close call for me. With his wages he was probably going to be difficult to keep, and I understand those that think he and Racon were more the problem than the solution, but I think we need to wait to see how we perform against those teams that are chasing promotion this season before we can say, categorically, that we don't need a midfield enforcer in the side. Either way, he is the only one that I would have kept, and it doesn't matter now anyway.

With Racon going to Millwall I now feel obliged to hate him. It is so easy, now, to think of him as a player that cost us £440k (although that might have been Euros) to sign and £1.248m in wages during four years when we finished 11th in the second division (when he was out on loan a lot), bottom of the second division, 4th in the third division and 13th in the third division. If this wasn't enough, He gave more effort in the last ten games than he gave in the other three and three quarter seasons when his contract was coming to an end.

In truth he is probably being harshly treated with those stats, but I seriously doubt that we have managed anything like value for money for the near £1.7m that Racon has cost us (ignoring the employers NI, and other expenses).

Anyway at this stage it looks like Dale Stephens is going to ensure that we don't miss Racon at all, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Millwall swap places with us at the end of the season.

I should briefly discuss the Bournemouth result. I predicted a 2-1 win, but I did have a feeling that it could be 3-0. We need to secure some decent results in the first ten games or so, and then we can really judge the squad, and it should be in it's stride. With the signings coming so early in the summer we are likely to be in front of where we were last season when we were still waiting for the team to gel after a dozen games.

The win was, for this reason, more important than the performance. However, we played well, played the type of football that we all want to see, and the new boys looked good. Not to mention Scott Wagstaff scoring a cracking goal. Something tells me that we will not have three midfielders having scored more goals than Wright-Phillips for too much longer, but right now I'm more than happy with the situation. I know that Bournemouth have had their squad raided, and I expect they will probably end up struggling this season, so a win was really necessary bearing in mind our aspirations, but a 3-0 home win is a great way to start the season.

I'm not going to discuss the riots in London, as this is not the place, and I suspect that my Dad is the only one still reading now, but it was a real disappointment to have our game with Reading cancelled last night. It would have given us a chance to test ourselves against a team that would, despite the changes to both sides, have given us a better indication as to how good the squad looks. As a consequence, however, we are now planning to travel to Colchester next week, the venue of a terrible defeat two years ago. I am confident that we will do better this time, all be it that we would struggle to fare worse.

My last note concerns the signing of Jason Euell today. I'm more than happy with this. He came on at Woking and looked like he had something to offer. I think it is easy to forget just how much better than us the Premier League teams are these days, and Jason played in that division last season, and he also had some games in the Championship. Many players play at the top level at 34, and bearing in mind we don't expect him to play 40 games this season I think his addition will be a real positive, and I can't wait to see him play for us at The Valley again.

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Viva Espania

In July 2006 Mrs KHA and I took a long weekend trip to Valencia. I told her that there was a lovely beach right on the doorstop of a reasonably priced 5 star hotel that had excellent reviews on expedia and I promised lots of wine and Paella. I had only had my business up and running for six months and I thought I could spare a Friday and a Monday away.

Imagine my surprise and excitement when we arrived there only to discover that Charlton were playing a friendly at the Estadio Mestalla against the Mighty Valencia! Well I was, I thought, looking genuinely delighted. "Imagine the odds of that happening without us knowing?" She didn't even say anything, I just got that look. Those of you that are married will know the look, and those of you that aren't are better off for not knowing it.

Anyway with my punishment negotiated (in Euros to be spent on presents for Mrs KHA at the earliest opportunity) we made our way to the game. It was a night to remember. It was the first time I'd seem Charlton play abroad; it was the first time I'd been to a game that finished the day after it started (they kicked off at about eleven o'clock in the evening); and they made a huge fuss over their players as they were introduced to the fans - not something we do at Charlton.

I thought about having a little trip to Spain for these recent friendlies, but just couldn't bring myself to spend all the money required to watch Bristol City or Cardiff. I do think it's a great idea for the club though, and a good way to 'reward' the players for all the hard work that they will have to put in over the next ten months.

The results were more than acceptable. Beating Bristol City was impressive, and a narrow defeat from a team that went close to promotion for the last two seasons was hardly embarrassing either. It sounds, from the match reports, that we are look to have made some very good acquisitions this summer. It all bodes well for the coming season. I'm conscious that we shouldn't get carried away, but if you can't be excited at the start of a season, when can you?

As for players I think we still need another centre half or two, and might need another right back, even if Francis stays, which I hope he doesn't. I was very excited to read that neither Simon Francis nor Alan McCormack travelled to Spain because they were agreeing personal terms to leave. I have nothing against the two players personally, all be it I think McCormack was a little irresponsible with his tweets when we lost to Swindon, but I just don't think either of them are good enough for where we want to be.

In all honesty, both players are unlikely to ever be signed by a club as big as Charlton again and even though we are where we deserve to be, there are very few clubs in our position that have Premier League facilities. It must be really tough for either of these players to come to terms with the fact that at such a young age they have reached a point in their life that they will never see again once it's gone - which looks likely to happen soon.

I expect, also, that with the current economic climate in football they are going to have to take pay cuts, and will quite possibly never reach this level of wages again. I could be wrong, but as McCormack was signed on a free and Francis was signed for a 'nominal' fee they will both have signed good contracts. With this in mind I can't, really, be angry with them for not going. Disappointed? Yes, but not angry.

Hopefully they will find clubs to move to. McCormack is being reported as being unwilling to drop a division, and that might make it more difficult, but sooner or later they will probably be shipped off on loan to get them out of the building and reduce the total we have to pay them. In Francis' case I think a fee is a realistic aspiration for the club, but I guess he must know that if he waits long enough he will be able to leave for free (even if he has to wait 12 months) and that might just appeal to him, as he is likely to get more choice of destination and, presumably, more money.

On the whole things are looking good for us right now. There were a few more trialists in the squad in Spain, and at Welling, so there may well be more 'new' faces in the squad by the time we line up against Bournemouth in just three weeks.

I'm unlikely to make any of the friendlies this season so that will probably be my first look at the new team. I can't wait.

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Signings, signings, signings

I don't know what the figures are but the club (well those running it) have proved to be true to their word and they have made what I would happily call 'Significant Investment' in the playing squad.

Not that I'm saying it's ok for them to stop now, not while they are on such a roll, but I have (obviously) made the decision to renew my season ticket. This was the closest I've come to not doing so, but in all honesty I could get a lot closer and still end up committing again.

I would suggest that we can probably turn our attentions to central defenders now. Tomorrow, or maybe Friday, we are going to see confirmation of those that are not being kept from this season. We know that Racon will not be here next season, but even if we'd not already signed Hollands, Alonso and Stephens I would have been happy to have him leave. I think he has looked the real deal on occasion, but it is entirely too infrequent and the number of times he has gone missing have made me lose confidence in him. I would be neither surprised, not disappointed if he suffers another relegation next season with Millwall.

Semedo is probably the only other player from last season (who is out of contract) that I would be all that bothered about keeping. I liked Llera, but I think he is a little limited for the aspirations we have. Dailly has looked a little too old to go again, which to be fair is no insult as he is 37. I liked Kelly Youga, and even though I don't really have a problem with him signing a good contract when he was offered it, or being injured, I just don't think he can be trusted to play enough games to be offered anything like he was on and I suspect he will move on.

Of the others the only one that really creates much debate is Kyle Reid and I think he has had plenty of opportunity to demonstrate that he has then complete package to be a success at Charlton, and I am really talking about attitude there I think. I know it's unfair as I don't really know him, but I can't quite get the feeling out of my head that he thinks he is too good for us, and we have never had success with players that believed that. If Paulo Di Canio can fight for a place at Charlton I can't see why Kyle Reid shouldn't. I know we are in a lower division, but our success has always come from hard work and determination.

So, apart from Semedo, and that is not settled yet, I am happy with the departures that were out of contract. There are a couple under contract that I would like to see the back of, but that's another story.

On the whole things are looking up. Of course if we don't sign any centre halves we are going to need to score four games a game, but I, suddenly, have more confidence in those running our magnificent club.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 3 June 2011

What Next?

The cynic in me always assumes that there is bad news around the corner and that we are being fooled by coincidence or design. This ensures that I am rarely disappointed and often very pleased.

Since the end of what can only be called a terrible season, and a frankly disastrous second half, it is difficult to point to positives.

Johnnie Jackson comes out of the season with much credit - he was missing for most of the shocking run and performed well and scored some vital goals - and he started the season in defence.

Bradley Wright-Phillips looked like the 20 goal a season striker that we have been so desperate for since Darren Bent left, and despite not looking as good towards the end of the season I think we can be assured that if he can stay fit he will be a real asset for us next season.

Paul Benson showed, in flashes, that he might well be able to cope with this division. His discipline may be a little bit of a problem, two red cards in one season is a worry.

Racon and Semedo had acceptable seasons, well Semedo did, all be it that if we want to be winning this division there is some argument as to the need for a defensive midfielder. Racon looked better on the left and I am concerned that this coincided with his contract coming to an end. There are some players that only seem to bust a gut when they are looking for a new deal, and at times Racon reminded me of that. Over all I think his contribution has been less than we could have expected from him. I mention these two players together as I suspect that both of them will be able to fine higher salaries elsewhere.

This leaves the rest. I haven't been all that impressed with any of the rest to be honest. Chris Solly has been ok, all be it that I think I (like many others) cut him more slack as he came through our youth side, but he suffers in my estimation due to the length of time that he is unavailable due to injury. A similar issue exists with Rob Elliot and Joe Anyinsah. Kelly Youga hasn't played all year, and Christian Dailly has been sent off three times earning himself twelve games suspended, and also had a lengthy spell out with a broken face.

I'm not looking to attribute blame for injuries, but it does affect a players ability to impress when it matters.

I'm not going to go to much trouble to discuss the loan players as they are probably not going to be back playing for us, and I'm really looking to the future rather than the past. I will just mention Lee Martin, however, as I think we has underrated, and was missed when he left.

There are a number of players that were so disappointing that they deserve a special mention. I'm not normally keen on singling out individuals, but as I'm here discussing the squad I'd probably include Kyle Reid, Alan McCormack, Simon Francis and Gary Doherty in that list. Reid has looked like he believes he is too good for us and at times and his comments on Twitter haven't helped him.I believe he lacks a real end product, he is skillful, but he often seems to run into dead ends or end up shooting from distance. This is a good way to score great goals, but also loses possession too often. Doherty is a good pro, and had he not come with such a great reputation he might not have been on this list, but I just expected so much more from him in terms of commanding the back four. The two Southend players are just too limited in my view. Francis can look really good going forward, sometimes, but his lapses of concentration at the back make him a weakness that we should be looking to eradicate. McCormack did himself no favours bragging about his expensive night out when he, and the team, performed so badly. I have some sympathy with him, and I agree with those that say that if you want the players to share their personal lives with us fans then we need to accept that very rich young men are going to enjoy, and take for granted, things the average fan cannot. I find that a bad game can affect me much more than a bad day at the office, so why should he be any different. However, that said, I just don't think he is good enough for Charlton. Despite the fact that we have fallen from grace so dramatically in the last five years, I cannot accept that we can ever be bad enough that we need to fill our squad with players with so little to offer. I don't doubt their effort (maybe Reid's attitude) but those players have just not been good enough this season.

So on that basis I think we have a decent midfielder (left or centre) and a couple of decent strikers, this is assuming that Semedo and Racon leave (which I believe will happen), and we have a number of players that are ok at padding out the rest of the side when they have a good day.

This leaves Chris Powell the task of finding a new right back, a new left back (or two), two new centre halves (maybe one really good, fast one will do) a better winger than Wagstaff, at least one more winger, two or three central midfielders and another striker (or two). I'm adding a new goalkeeper to that list as Ross Worner has been released already.

Thus we need - I've attributed names of signings where appropriate

Goalkeeper - Sullivan
Right Back
Left Back
Left Back
Centre Half
Centre Half
Central Midfielder - Hollands
Central Midfielder
Central Midfielder ?
Right Winger
Another Winger
Striker ?

The signing of Danny Hollands from Bournemouth is encouraging, unless, of course, he is the only replacement for Semedo and Racon. If we can attract another quality (creative, please) central midfielder then we may well be ok.

Sullivan looked good enough to be considered a better replacement that Worner, and if the rumours of us offering £300k for the Bournemouth left back are to be believed it does bode well.

The signings made last summer, some of which I've already talked about, were made with little or no money to spend. I believe that the current financial climate, coupled with the division we are in, means that free agents can be good enough to be successful for us. We just need to be looking to attract the right kind of players, and this will, ultimately, be down to how much money we have to play with.

Following on from the disclosure from Chris Powell that we will not have a much bigger budget for 2011/12 than we had for 2010/11 we need to remember that we will not be hamstrung by having three players earning c. 25% of our total budget. I have a lot of time for Semedo, but I doubt that either Racon or Youga could have matched their salaries elsewhere twelve months ago, so there contracts coming to an end may well be better for us than having them on the payroll - especially for Youga who hasn't played for nearly two years.

With just under four weeks until I need to make a decision about renewing my season ticket or risking losing my seat I'm still erring on the side of paying on a match by match basis as I'm not convinced that on the whole there is going to be enough to make me want to give up my Saturdays. This is a combination of the general malaise that I feel following five seasons of free fall, the commitment of time now that I have more pressures, and family obligations and the fact that I'm not sure that I will enjoy watching us play next season enough to want to go to 20 plus home games. Also by going to fewer home games I will have more time and money to go to away games, and I have always wanted to see new grounds. It could be argued that we were not much better at home than away last season, so you are not necessarily likely to enjoy the games any more at home either. This is especially true if you factor in that you are generally happier with a draw away than you are at home.

There is still plenty of time for the new signings to inspire me, but as it stands I may well be starting my first season without a season ticket for 22 years. What is most frightening about that is that the thought of it doesn't feel wrong. If you'd asked me five years ago what are the chances of me deciding not to renew I would have just laughed at you.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Ryan Giggs

Following on from the events of this week, I have to say that this chap has really won a lot of Premier League titles, hasn't he?

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Rochdale 2 -0 Charlton

I have to say I'm not really surprised by this result. I was incredibly pleased with the performance against Southampton, and the result there and at Bournemouth. Both of those two results were a bonus as far as I’m concerned.

I really believed that we were going to find ourselves in a relegation battle before I saw us against Southampton. I was encouraged by that game and really thought that we would be able to get another couple of points, and as I pointed out previously we are almost certainly going to be safe with 51 points, and 50 could well be enough.

Bournemouth was a bonus, and it made us unbeaten in two, but just like I was not convinced by the performances when we won four on the bounce at the start of Powell’s reign, I was not really bowled over with two draws, especially as Southampton seemed nervous to go on to kill us off at 1-0, letting us back into it, and Bournemouth should have scored at least three goals in the last five minutes, and from all accounts we were very lucky there.

There has been some suggestion on Charlton Life that we played well yesterday and deserved to win. However, despite not wanting to sound hypocritical (criticising wins when we play badly) at this point we need a win to be sure of being in this division next season. I no longer care for good performances when we lose – especially as we have failed to put back to back performances together all season.

If we underperform on Saturday against a Orient team that really can still make the playoffs, and beat us at home last season then we will be back where we started.

Dave has a good analysis of what the run in and the potential implications, and I don’t intend to covering the same here, but I do agree with his conclusion. You would think that we would be able to secure at least one more win by mere statistics, but if you work on the basis that we have only performed well in about ten percent (or less) of the games since Powell came in, there is a real possibility that last night took all that our players have to offer for the last ten games.

I still think that we must be able to luck a win from somewhere, and with Walsall needing to make up ten points, Dagenham & Redbridge nine and Notts Co. eight we might well have enough points already. Walsall only have seven games left, which gives them a maximum 21 points. Even if we lose our next six games (possible but not very likely) I still think we will be safe if we draw at their place on 30th April. However I’m beginning to think that a defeat there will take us into the last game of the season with something to play for.

I know we have a game in hand over them but if you assume that we will lose it (and it is, technically, Southampton away) it will only make our goal difference worse and is unlikely to yield any points. In fact with a goal difference that is 13 better that Walsall, one big defeat and four other losses during this time and we could well lose gap.

As Dave says, if anyone can, we can.

One bit of good news, however, is that I am going to Florida on Sunday for two weeks to see Mickey Mouse. Needless to say my six year old son is getting excited but nowhere as near as excited as I’m getting. Work has been really good for the last twelve months, and I’m encouraged both by that and the future outlook. My Son is doing well at school and it looks as though Mrs KHA is going to be getting a promotion this week (fingers crossed). All in all everything in the Kings Hill Addick household is looking rosy – save for the rubbish football team, of course.

I know this sounds mad now but we deliberately booked to fly on the Sunday as we didn’t want to miss the Orient game. My whole life has been arranged around Charlton home fixtures for years – no more!

The only disappointment about our two week holiday is that we are not going to miss more than one game – Huddersfield.

When we get back we will have just four games left. By then it could be really interesting. It could be squeaky bum time, as Alex Fergusson likes to say.

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

An audience with Chris Powell

I have been to a few meetings over the years with club officials. I've seen Richard Murray speak several times and went to the Slater/Powell meeting at The Valley earlier this year. These meetings are always interesting, and you often get an idea of the thoughts behind those running the club.

The manager is a different proposition all together. You get much more insight into the thoughts of those making the footballing decisions, and you often learn a few things about players that you didn't know and this can often change your perspective on things.

I went along to Bromley Supporters Club last year to hear Parkinson speak and he was a revelation. He was very, very open and my view of him. both as a manager and a man, changed.

Sadly he was not able to complete what he started at Charlton, and this is not the time nor the place to debate that. However his replacement is going to following into the cauldron that is the Bromley Supporter's Club.

The following was posted on Charlton Life by Henry Irving:

"This will be members only.

If you aren't a member or just too tight to pay up like Rothko : - ) you can pay on the night. Your membership will cover you for the 2011/12 season.

£5 adults, £3 Seniors and free to students in full time education.

Money left after costs goes back to the Football Club in some form or another anyway such as shirt sponsorship, Valley Gold or Sponsoring the U15s tracksuits.

Usual venue.

Bickley and Widmore WM Club
Tylney Road

8.00 pm start

People will moan that "no one will ask him a difficult question" or say after the event that "Why didn't anyone ask blah, blah, blah." Well come along and ask the question yourself. It's only £5 and it's only in Bromley.

Those that have been to the meetings before will tell you that the difficult questions ARE asked and answered.
No pre-set questions, no vetting. You just stick your hand up and ask.

They'll be the usual raffle for a signed Charlton shirt and the bar is open.
There will be plenty of opportunity for photos and autographs if you want.
See you all there."

I haven't edited what he wrote, and I doubt that there are many reading this that do not pop onto Charlton Life from time to time so you probably already know, but just in case you didn't....

Up the Addicks!

The Season Ticket Scandal

I'm not sure how long the club keep information of season ticket holders. I know it was mentioned on Charlton Life some time ago that the club doesn't know how long current season ticket holders have had their ticket - not seat as some have had them since we played at Selhurst Park, Upton Park and during various building schemes at The Valley. Thus, those of us that were season ticket holders at Selhurst Park were not differentiated against by those that bought s ST in the Premier League to turn up half a dozen times a season to watch the glamour games.

Admittedly there are probably none of those type left now, but if the historical information is discarded we are all treated the same.

Having said that most businesses are infinitely more interested in how much money than can extract from their customers in the future, opposed to how much they have gave in the past, so we can hardly be surprised or disappointed. Also, for obvious reasons, the more likely one is to renew the less effort should be expended to convince him to do so. In fact, the majority of the budget should be allocated to those that might not renew. Loyalty is a great thing, and shouldn’t really be taken for granted, but equally if you are ever going to take someone for granted it should be one of those that are most loyal, as you can trust them to be there what ever happens.

I seriously doubt that these discussions have not gone on. It would be irresponsible of the Target 40,000 committee and their associates if they did not target those that the club are most likely to lose. I appreciate that it must be difficult to identify the specific groups, and it might be more expensive to market them in different ways, however, the price that will be charged in the summer, along with the ‘threat’ of fans losing their seats is likely to be more pivotal for renewals for those that don’t do so in April.

This leaves the club with a dilemma. Do you need to be seen to be treating the loyal (will renew at any price and when ever the club demand it) fans by them getting a better deal for renewing early, or do you want to offer better terms to those that refuse to renew with the current prices in April but could be tempted in June, July or August.

I know it is different, but there are similarities between this and the football for a fiver scheme, which looks to reward exactly the least loyal customers. The cheap football was, in effect, a financial reward for those that declined the option to buy a season ticket in March 2010, again in June (before swap week) again in August just before the season started, and again in September when a deal was made after a few games and again at Christmas when, I believe, the last PR campaign was run for part season tickets.

It would be business suicide for the club to reduce the prices in the summer to incentivise those that didn’t renew in April, but it would also be a little naive to think that those who didn’t commit for next season in April would be willing to pay more and/or switch their seat in June, July or August.

I believe there is a real possibility of those fans choosing to pay as they go. I’m not suggesting that any of them will stop supporting Charlton, but all the time we have seen no visible signs of actual squad rebuilding, and quality being added at that, there is the temptation to believe that some of the midweek games (especially in the winter) and the run in if it is going to anything like this one present very missable games. If there are enough of these missable games, combined with the odd football for a fiver deal and one or two family occasions it might even work out cheaper – this is before you factor in the cost of paying for a whole year upfront.

The club have a very difficult decision to make about future sales of season tickets. Promotion is virtually impossible now, as is relegation (thankfully), so the marketing people will have to weigh up the cost of losing some season ticket holders against the risk of upsetting those that will always renew irrespective as to how they are treated.

They also need to ensure that their credibility is intact. This is the second year in a row that the club made it perfectly clear that no seats will be guaranteed if you don’t renew early (and I think March and April is very, very early) yet I don’t know of any seats being made available before the swap week last year and current season ticket holders were given plenty of time to renew, at the same prices, before swap week commenced.

I have no real reason to assume that the club will not follow through on all the promises that have been made, all be it that they are vague enough to make it impossible to prove otherwise, even after the event, but I do know that if they intended to build a squad on the cheap they would have said exactly what they have done. Significant investment could be £10m on transfer fees; it could just as easily be describing bridging the gap between income and expenditure for another year – which was estimated to be £4m this season. The difference in playing staff of those two is massive.

I believe that last year many fans renewed in March as they believed that there was a very real possibility that they would lose their seat if they didn’t. The way that the club ensured that no one lost their seat as long as they renewed in June last year makes that threat seem a little toothless this time around. With promotion off the agenda now, a Championship priced ticket looks very unlikely now too.

So why would anyone renew in April for something that they will not benefit from until August, and can almost certainly buy in June, probably late June at that?

Many of Charlton Life have stated that they have renewed already, and I’m sure there are many others that will also commit to next season before the end of this week, despite the worst run of results (and I’m guessing based on the division we are in) in the clubs history.

They are clearly very loyal fans. I have to say that I admire them. I used to think of myself as a loyal fan. During my three years at Kent University (in Canterbury) I didn’t miss one home game. I also attended every home game when I lived in Sheffield for a year – quite a financial commitment for a student. I have most of the replica shirts that have been available since the 1980s onwards and I have a program for just about every home game for well over 20 years. I have had a season ticket every year since 1989, and I have been obsessed with Charlton since before then and am still now.

However, I felt a little conned in 2008 when the club’s representatives pushed the free Premier League season ticket offer for the second year running only to sell several of the best players after the deadline had gone to balance the books. I felt mislead in the summer of 2009 when the ‘Takeover’ was going to be completed in a week for months while season tickets were being sold. The, then, Chief Executive promised that the club would sack the manager and get us a new one if we bought enough season tickets - something that is now claimed to be a joke but wasn’t thought of as being one at the time. All the while the board were refusing to allow Parkinson to bring in players to make the side much more balanced as it was suggested that after the takeover we would have so much more money that we would be signing better players.

Last summer the club did exactly what it said it was going to do. We sold everything that had a value and renewed none of the contracts of players on good money and allowed them to leave for free (something that we couldn’t have stopped, to be fair). However there was this ‘offer’ made of two divisions one price. The price for the next season would be held at the current price and you would be able to secure your seat (opposed to losing it) if you committed by the end of March.

Then in May, with automatic promotion sill a possibility and the playoffs guaranteed (from memory) we allowed Shelvey to leave and not be involved in the most important games of the season to raise money.

I understand the need to raise money, and I also know that my season ticket price is a drop in the ocean compared to what the board have invested (and in most cases lost) but I still feel as though I have been misled at best, lied to at worst.

This season, like last, I am not going to renew early. I have my season ticket application pack, not that I think I’ll need it as I will purchase online if it is going to save me £5, and I can’t see me being anywhere else than at The Valley on a Saturday afternoon when my Dad is not away. But, I feel as though my loyalty has been abused. I know some will claim that we have new owners and I should give them the benefit of the doubt, but I doubt that it is a coincidence that the club has many of the same employees and consultants strategising on Season Ticket sales, and the ‘threats’ of what happens if you don’t renew early look the same as last year.

For that reason I’m going to wait until the summer. If the price is increased slightly, and/or the board make what I believe to be impressive investments in the playing staff I’ll renew then. If, however, they put the price up a lot and/or sell my current seat to someone else then I’ll not renew at all. Then those selling tickets will have to keep impressing me with the football each week to tempt me to come to the next game, something the club has failed miserably to do in at least three of the last five years.

If this makes me disloyal then so be it.

Since I started my love affair with Charlton, thirty years ago, I have been all the way through senior school, ‘A’-Level college, University, twice, had major open heart surgery, started two business, got married and become a Dad. During all that time Charlton has been the one constant in my life (apart from my family), but I have a full life, and I now love other parts of it more than I love football. Can I take it or leave it? No, I can’t. Can I cope with being a little lower on the ‘Loyal Supporter’ ladder by not having a season ticket? Yes I can.

Time will tell.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Next... Southampton at home

As we enter the the last eleven games of the season we have a much better idea of how likely the top two is, how likely the play offs are and how likely relegation is. Ignoring deviation (which I know distorts the results) the average number of points achieved by the team finishing 2nd in this division over the last five seasons in this 86. 6th place had an average of 74.8 (let's call it 75). The average number of points the fifth from bottom team achieved was 50 and two thirds (50.6 recurring - let's call it 51).

We currently have 48 points with 33 to play for. That means that we must finish on between 48 and 81 points. Realistically that makes the automatic places beyond our reach. However in 2006 Colchester (with a Mr Phil Parkinson in charge) finished second with 79 points above Brentford in third with 76 points. Thus, potentially, we could have won automatic promotion with 77 points - a massive four points less than we still could achieve. That means that we could lost tomorrow night or draw tomorrow and at Bournemouth and still go up without the need for the playoffs.

The 75 that I suspect we would need to make the playoffs would only require that we only win nine of our remaining eleven games. Certainly if we win them all 81 points would be enough (the maximum a sixth placed team has achieved is 80, and that was last season. I would also suggest that if we go into the playoffs on the back of an eleven game winning run we would have to be considered the 'form' team and I would be confident of a successful conclusion.

However, I am not all that confident, as things stand, that we are going to win our next eleven games, or nine of them for that mater. So we find ourselves looking down. First the good news, we are only one win away from having the magic 51 points that would be enough to keep a side up in four of the last five seasons. One win and a draw would be enough to keep us up in all of the last five seasons.

The bad news, however, is that if all the teams below us manage to replicate their last six games over the next six the team forth from bottom would have 46 points - we have 48 and have to go to Walsall in the penultimate game of the season, and they managed 9 points in their last six games - they are nine points behind us and are currently forth from bottom.

The biggest worry for me is that we haven't looked like winning a game since Parkinson left (despite winning four that we had no right to) In fact if you take those twelve points away, or even make them four (i.e. four draws) we have managed just 9 points since the 20th of November, fully 18 games. If you assume we'd lost all four of those games (and from what I saw we could easily have done so) we have managed five points from 18 games. Scary stuff eh?

You can see why I'm no longer looking at MK Dons remaining fixtures can't you? Our average points haul since 20th November is 0.94 per game. The good news, however, is that there are four teams with a worse average during that time than us. Sadly this doesn't take into account the 12 points we won with pure luck. Take them away and we have the lowest return in the league for that four month period.

So, on that basis I think New York Addick might well be in the money with his hedging on us being relegated. It looks like we have enough points with eleven games to go, but if we perform as well (and get what those performances deserve) as we did in the last eleven games we are going to be very close when the fat lady opens her throat.

In some respects it makes the end of the season more exciting. Sure it's not the kind of excitement we had all hoped for, but exciting none the less.

This is, of course, assuming that Chris Powell doesn't have any special tricks (or Jedi Skills) up his sleeve to snatch two wins out of that eleven. Who knows, anything can happen.

Southampton have never been my favourite second team, and the way they knocked their debt a couple of years ago still annoys me, but right now (post Pardew) they are nothing more than another game in which we can look to secure the magic three points we need this season. I don't want to be too greedy, I'd take a point tomorrow night.

In fact, I'm not sure I would turn down a 2-0 defeat right now our goal difference is better than Walsall and Dagenham and Redbridge, but a couple of 5-0 defeats and that would all change.

There is so much doom and gloom about right now it's difficult to feel any enthusiasm for the club or the football that we have been watching - hardly the best time for the club to asking for season ticket renewals, but we are where we are.

I will be there tomorrow night, I am not exactly looking forward to it, but who knows, maybe we will play well and win - stranger things have happened.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Next... Chelsea v Man City

This weekend I'm being saved from watching us lose again. With our season over, save for a flirt with relegation that I predict early in April, there is no real interest in our result, not now.

So, I was delighted when I was offered a ticket for the Chelsea v Man City game that is on Sky on Sunday. I am a little indifferent as to who wins if I'm honest, but as I'm going with a Chelsea fan who is supplying the ticket, and as we are in the home section I will be a Chelsea fan for two hours.

Make no mistake I will not defect on a permanent basis, but I am really looking forward to seeing some decent football and not feeling embarrassed by the result. The truth is that of all the teams in the current third division Dagenham and Redbridge are probably the team that it would be most embarrassing to lose to. With us only drawing against them at home I can see this being a season to not remember between the two sides for all Chalton fans.

Anyway, I will not be there, and I will probably not bother listening to the commentary, and I have today cancelled my current subscription to CAFC Player as there is going to be little to see or hear on there of any interest from now until August. That will save me £15.96, which I can spend on a few pints and a burger at Stanford Bridge.

I don't intend to do a match preview, as I doubt there are any Chelsea or Man City fans reading this, save for my last boss who is taking me, but I guess he will hear enough of my drivel on Sunday.

To those that are going to Dagenham and Redbridge I salute you. I just don't have it in me any more this season.

Blue is the colour...

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

MK Dons 2 - 0 Charlton

Let's ignore the fact that we beat them at home and really, really didn't deserve to. Let's ignore the fact that we beat them 5-1 last season when they were clearly better than the score line. Let's ignore the fact that we've beaten them five times in the last two seasons (this and last). Let's look at the implications of this result, and the importance of the game on our season.

Actually, let's not. Parkinson might have put this team together and that might be a disadvantage to Chris Powell, but there is no getting away from it, we have performed well below Parkinson's teams since he left. I know there is an argument that not beating a ten man Brighton and Colchester were not exactly great achievements, but to be fair Colchester were on a bit of a run when we played them (4 wins and a draw in 7), and Brighton have been a little bit good all season.

Sure the Walsall and Swindon games were poor, but they were no worse than Exeter, Carlisle or Tranmere. This season Parkinson managed to average 1.54 points per game, Powell, with Eccleston and BWP has averaged 1.3 points per game. I know it's early days for Powell, but out of interest last season MK Dons averaged 1.3 points over the season and finished 12th. Also it needs to be mentioned that Powell's ten games have come against teams that were in an average position of 13th when we played them. We won four games and were, shall we say, a little fortunate, then we lost five and drew one out of six.

What this tells me is that we have not improved. We have actually gone backwards. We have released the two strikers that we had that could be used as target men and brought in two that clearly cannot. We have now committed to playing a different style of game from long ball (something we have done for over a year - including in most of Powell's games). We just do not have the players for the pretty passing on the floor - not if we want to see any forward passes.

I know it's early to be jumping to conclusions (and believe me I really want to be proved wrong) but it looks like Chris Powell is out of his depth. His substitutions on Saturday were too ineffective - mainly because they were way too late, and the way the team is being sent out to play is just not suited to the type of players we have. I know he's new, but surely he has seen these players in training and watched a few videos of our games.

It seems like a decade ago now that Michael Slater answered the question about the criteria of the new manager that 'he needed to win the first three games', followed by laughter and cheers from the fans in the North Stand Lounge.

We will never know what would have happened if Dowie had been kept on in 2006, we will never know what would have happened if Pardew had been kept on in 2008 and we will never know what would have happened if Parkinson had been kept on in 2011, but one thing for sure is that the club has failed to get as high in the league pyramid as it was at the time of any of those sackings since.

How long does Powell have to be given to turn things around? I don't know. The truth is that, unlike an experienced manager with a long term track record, there is no evidence that Powell will turn it around. I know you can never tell and some managers are good at some places, and rubbish at others, but if Chris Powell is never going to make it as a football manager then the longer we leave him in his post the worse off we are likely to be.

I don't want to be accused of panicking, and I'm not calling for his removal, even though others are, and more will the longer we continue to look this poor, but at some point things have got to improve or he will have to go, I guess.

The worst thing is that we are most likely too far away from 6th place now to make the playoffs a realistic target, but if the performances continue as they are we might be pulled into a relegation battle. I know that is very unlikely, and I'm not suggesting it is going to happen. However, the board are going to have to do something to lift the fans enthusiasm to renew their season tickets. If we continue to slide (even a few wins along the way are likely to see us fall down the league) then the renewals are likely to be dependent on summer signings. Despite suggestions to the contrary I suspect that summer signings will be dependent (maybe even financed by) season ticket sales.

Thus we are likely to need to bring in expensive loan signings this spring even when they are likely to make no appreciable difference to our season just to help sell season tickets. I know we have a new board, but for each of the last four years the season tickets have been marketed and sold with the 'suggestion' that what you were going to get was significantly better than what actually happened.

In 2007 the season tickets were sold with the potential of avoiding relegation from the Premier League, and a free ticket if we were relegated and then promoted at the first attempt. We finished 11th in the Championship in 2008.

In 2008 the season tickets were sold with a free ticket if we are promoted, and the promise that the club would do everything in their power to achieve that. Then over the summer we sold Bougherra for £2.5m, Marcus Bent and Amady Faye for about £1m each, and McCarthy and Iwelumo for about £500k each. That raised c. £5.5m and we only brought in Nicky Bailey for £400k. Apparently we were ready to sell ZZ for a further £2.5m but he didn't want to go to WBA. I would say that this was hardly doing everything they could to win promotion - we were actually relegated the follwing spring.

In 2009 the season tickets were sold with the backdrop of the 'Takeover' that club insiders promised was going to happen 'within a week' every week for two months. This was also at a time when we were promised that negotiations were ongoing to see if we could keep ZZ, Hudson and a few others (that I can't be bothered to look up) all of whom were long gone by the time the season started. Needless to say the takeover didn't happen either. That summer there were suggestions that if we had new owners there would probably be a new manager who would want to bring in his own players, so there was no point in Parkinson signing any. He didn't and we had a very unbalanced side and finished 4th and missed out on the playoff final.

Last summer there were few promises, except that the club would look to manage budgets and would expect to be well positioned to challenge for the playoffs. However, before the summer, we sold season tickets in March (many of which were for 5 seasons), we sold Shelvey in May and went on to sell Bailey late in the summer - long after the deadline for the swap week had passed (the true deadline to renew your seat). In all honesty I think the club had (until Parkinson was sacked) achieved just about all it 'suggested' when selling season tickets in the summer. However, the season tickets were originally marketed in March as being a good deal for the Championship if we went up. There was also the cleverly worded 'suggestion' that if you didn't renew by 31st March there was no guarantee that you could keep your seat. There was some debate about this at the time, but it was clear to me that the club were not going to sell fans seats out from under them in April, but still I would suggest that the club positioned the tickets as being for something that was very different from what we got.

So, what happens at the end of this month if we fail to perform better in the next six games than the last six, and there are no player movements to add credibility that the board are going to back the manager? Rochdale in 13th are just two points behind us, Brentford who we play on Saturday are 16th and just five points behind us. It is hardly unrealistic to suggest that we could be in the bottom third of the third division by the time the deadline for the current price expires. The club has not promised that there will not be a price rise even if we are not promoted if you don't renew by 4th April. I'm tempted to risk ridicule by saying that I am confident that the club will not put the prices up in June if we fail to win promotion.

This all suggests that the club will almost certainly have to bring in more loan players between now and the end of the season, irrespective as to the cost, or they might find they will sell very few season tickets before June (or even later). I guess it doesn't help that the season ticket application packs haven't arrived yet.

I don't have much to say about tonights game. Fom what I could establish on the commentary we played like we did against Exeter and Carlisle, and got what we deserved. I don't think there is much nore to say really.

There is some good news, however. Today I went to my six year old son's Parents' Evening, and it would appear that he is doing very well at school - something that I haven't always been able to say, and he was described by his teacher (who I liked a lot before she said it, and even more afterwards) as a very nice boy. His reading has improved significantly and it would appear that he has a bit of a flair for Maths, and his only real weakness is that he doesn't like writing, especially joined up writing, and needs to remember capital letters and adjectives. Clearly there is a little bit of a conflict of interest as I would likely have been a very unsatisfied customer had she said something too critical, but it's nice all the same. It's also nice when your football club is slipping down the toilet if something else in your life can compensate by going in the other direction.

The other piece of good news is that my Dad is back for Saturday so I will not be driving up to game on my own again. Having said that I had a very pleasant chat with Dave and his friends before, and during, the game last Saturday - something I will hope to do again when my Dad is away.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Next... Tranmere at home

I decided to wait until today before posting anything as I wanted to avoid being too emotional.

Strangely, I wasn't angry. I went to the game with an old friend of mine, and we had a good laugh. We used to work together and don't see each other very often now, so we could have done anything and we would have enjoyed each other's company. Just as well really.

That was (when taken into context of what has gone before) the most rubbish football game I have attended. There were goals, we scored one, we weren't really taken apart and in the end we only lost by two goals. That said it was cold, we played rubbish, and when all's said and done we have managed to lose four games in a row in the 3rd division. Between the 4th and the 18th of April 1981 we lost four games, and went on to finish third. That statistic is the only thing that stops this the worst run since I started going to Charlton, but it does equal it. However, we didn't concede three goals at home in that whole season, in fact you have to go back to March 1926 for the last time we conceded three goals in back to hack home games in this division, and we drew one of those 3-3. In all fairness we did draw the last home game of 1972-73 3-3 before losing the first game of the new season 4-2 at The Valley, but you get my point.

It is just rubbish. This must surely be the worst position the club has been in since I started going in 1981, and taking into account all other factors (our recent past, the fact that in the 1920s we were a young Football League club, the current set-up, expectations and running costs) this must be the worst state of affairs.

In fact, I can't ever remember deciding to avoid a league game on a Saturday. I've passed on a couple of FA Cup games against lower league opposition over the years, but not a league game. I've had a season ticket since 1989, and have missed just a couple of games since then (when I had a heart valve transplant) but after Tuesday night I decided that I would find something else to do on Saturday. Remember that I don't even have to pay for the ticket - or, rather, I've already paid for it.

I thought that by now I would have changed my mind. I thought that I would have accepted the inevitable, and that is that I always go, irrespective. However, my resolve seems to have hardened. It's not as though I have a family wedding, or the like, to go to, I have, obviously, kept the day free as I always go to the games. No, I have come to the conclusion that even with an already paid for ticket I would rather stay home and sit on the sofa or be marched 'round Bluewater with Mrs, and Junior, KHA than go to the Valley on Saturday.

I have to confess that a lot of this is that my Dad is away, and when I go with him, rather like Tuesday night with my friend, the game is a social event and well worth the dross that I have seen.

It is only Thursday, and I may well change my mind between now and Saturday afternoon, but right now I don't want to go; I don't care if we win, lose or draw; I don't even think I'll bother looking at the scores until after the final whistle.

If this is what we can expect then I'll probably be reviewing my season ticket renewal this season. My Dad goes away for a large part of the winter, and misses at least six games a season - it's normally nearer ten. With the 'promotional' days where the tickets are cheap, the games on TV and the cold evening games that we might both choose to miss I am confident the season ticket will cost more than paying as we go. This and the fact that unless something drastic changes we will be averaging close to half the capacity next season I am hardly going to struggle to sit where I want to - I might even like to move around the ground like my Dad used to do in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Again, I have plenty of time to change my mind on this, and even if I do pay as I go, I will probably get another season ticket if/when the club starts playing better and/or wins promotion. Having said that I'm not sure we sold all the available season tickets back in the Premier League days, so I doubt I'll miss out altogether.

I am not going to review the game here, if you were there you saw it, and if you didn't you are better off in ignorance.

I hate Tranmere and, under normal circumstances, would love us to beat them, but right now, I really don't care.

Something needs to change, and soon.

Up the Addicks!