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!