Sunday, 26 February 2012

Charlton 2 - 0 Stevenage

Yesterday was my birthday and I always like to go to The Valley on my birthday. It's not that I don't want to spend the day with my wife and son, it's just a lovely way to spend the afternoon before doing something family based in the evening.

At 41 the days of expecting lots of presents and being excited are well behind me - that's for children really - but I had a fair few cards. Since I started doing the school run I am now in a group of Mums at my son's school and as well as taking me out for lunch they all, obviously, gave me a card.

As it happens my wife did surprise me with a new briefcase/man's bag. The day couldn't have started any better to be honest. All that was left was for Chris Solly and the Skipper to be declared fit to play and it was going to be a great day.

Due to plans for the evening my Dad came over to pick me up. Some of you will remember that he caught JJ's arm band that he threw into the crowd after the Fulham game. Imagine my surprise when my Dad removed his cardigan (he is 70) to point to his arm and announce that "Since I've been wearing this we haven't lost a game".

Oh yes, he had the arm band on. He wore it all day, and would have kept it on all evening had we not been changing for my birthday party dinner.

Anyway I was excited enough about going to a game against a team that beat us away, but the large crowd was also going to make the game special. I have, in the past, made a few snipes about the continuing discounts to match day prices when I paid for a season ticket, but I have to say that the football for a fiver deal is great. I spent most of the way up to the ground checking twitter to see what the latest attendance forecasts were.

I don't know what it is, but I suspect that you all feel it too, but there is a real excitement when I think we might break an attendance record. I would love us to be playing in frond of forty, fifty or sixty thousand every week. I know this will, almost certainly, not happen, but big crowds are just something that football fans crave, and I am no different. So when it became apparent that we had smashed 25,000, and were well on the way to beating the 26,104 for Palace in 1975 there was another box ticked in my birthday wishes.

Then the teams were out and both Solly and JJ were starting - all that was left was a win, a goal for Bradley Wright-Phillips and a convincing performance that looked like we went out and won the game rather then clawed out a win, like Champions do.

I have been a little disappointed by some of the recent draws, all be it that we still maintained an average of 2 points per game, but what was more worrying was that we were having to 'show character' to come back and earn a draw. The strikers hadn't scored from open play for ages, and we just weren't taking the game to opponents.

I am not going to do a full review, others are better than me at it, and with 26,546 at The Valley, there will be few of you that were not there so you saw it for yourselves. I heard Christian Dailly talk about BWP on new years eve and he suggested that he was a very confident striker and will just keep going and will never let his head drop. To be fair this is exactly what we have seen. A great save from Weaver at Hillsborough prevented an almost certain one on one but the chances had seemed to have dried up.

My Dad and I have talked about BWP recently and it's interesting that he recalls a Man City fan friend of his that suggested that he would seem to do nothing for the whole game then pop up and score a goal. This is how he started with us last season, but since November it is hard to think of anything more he could do for the team but the goals had dried up. We concluded that, maybe, he should stop doing anything else and just pop up and get a goal or two each game.

The side is not, I believe, set up for a striker like BWP to score a lot of goals now. All the time we are winning that doesn't really matter, but I was a little desperate for him to get a goal sooner rather than later, and when better than my birthday? In the first half he missed two that, under normal circumstances, you'd have expected him to bury and this was stressful to say the least.

Morrison's fantastic goal settled the result for me. I was so confident that Stevenage didn't have a goal in them that I was even thinking that this could be a food time to take the Skipper off to save him for the upcoming games (almost two a week for the rest of the season). So all that was left for a perfect birthday was for BWP to get that goal. Obviously he did just that - he scored the hardest of all of the chances he had on the day. The fact that he went on to have three other chances, two of which I would bet on him to score 9 times out of 10 was just irrelavent. He is back scoring, and showed the same attitude that he has since he last scored in November.

So a great day, a great result and a great performance! We are now ten points above Sheffield United and fourteen above third. A big game today in Sheffield that could see our lead at the top established. If Sheff Utd win their two games in hand it leaves us just four points clear, but I would have taken a four point lead at the end of February if you'd offered it to me in August. Also the gap to third place makes it almost a certainty that we will win promotion, but for now I'm just revelling in the comfortable 2-0 win in front of our biggest crowd in the 3rd division since the Second World War, and I'm confident that the tickets were even less than £5 then as well

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Charlton 1 - 1 Rochdale

Last week was a disaster for me. On Sunday I managed to pull or tear something in my neck so I was in bed for most of the week. This meant that I wasn't at the MK Dons game and I wasn't able to make the trip to Tranmere that I had been planning on taking. Then on Friday I had to call the Vet out to put my cat to sleep. At 16 he could have hardly had many complaints, but he was suffering from so much that it wasn't fare to let him carry on.

The MK Dons result was fantastic. I know they had a player sent off, and we scored both out goals from penalties, but they all count and three points left us eight points clear at the top of the table.

I had a bad feeling about Tranmere before I started reading about late fitness tests for the Skipper, but when it was announced that he wouldn't play I concluded that a draw wouldn't be a bad result. If you are going to draw a game it is much better to come from behind, and that's what we did. I wasn't thrilled that our lead had been reduced to six points, especially as our goal difference over Sheffield United is five goals - something that would as good as erode if we lost two while they won two. United are looking like the real deal again. Their current form (last 6 games) included five wins and a defeat to the league leaders (us) where as we have managed just three win and three draws in that six games.

On the plus side we are third in the form table and even though Stevenage are second (and face us in a football for a fiver game on Saturday) it does mean that our lead over the third placed team (irrespective as to who that is) is getting bigger, which is all part of the plan, after all.

However our eight point lead from a week ago is now seven with Sheffield United having a game in hand (potentially just four points).

I'm not going to complain about our results or how we've come by them, but winning games 1-0 from wonder free kicks does not inspire confidence for me. The two goals that JJ scored against the two Sheffield teams wouldn't have looked out of place in the Premier League. Frankly they would have benefited from much coverage on Sky TV had they been scored by Barcelona in the Champions League. What I'm getting at here is that they could easily have not been scored. Take those four points away from us and give the two Sheffield clubs another point each and the table would look very different now.

As New York Addick has said a few times, however, the results are now just relative to those that we are hoping to finish above. In the last six games we have lost three points to Sheffield United but we have gained 1,4 and 5 on Huddersfield, MK Dons and Sheffield United respectively to be 14, 14 and 12 points above them, all be it that Huddersfield have a game in hand on us while Sheffield Wednesday have played one more.

That was a long winded paragraph buy the gist is that we are well in front of them and the gap got bigger in the last six games when we've been poor by our own high standards this season.

I had a feeling that we were going to struggle a bit last night. I have a private competition going with a friend of mine on the results of our games and that of Spurs (his team) and he went for a 3-1 win (for us) last night, I went for a 1-1 draw. We just don't have the cutting edge right now.

Despite still suffering with neck pain and all the associated muscular discomfort I made the trip last night hoping to be pleasantly surprised by both the result and the performance. I was neither.

 There were reasons for last nights failure to win - in no particular order:

1> Evina looked a little off the pace - but has hardly played for most of the season.
2> Wiggins was, literally, wasted on the right.
3> We missed Solly (and subsequently missed Wiggins on the left).
4> We missed the Skipper - who I believe is a massive part of our side. In fact I would go as far as to say that his absence in the second half of last season was part of the reason we fell to pieces.
5> Green is, in my opinion, a limited player. This is not to say he is not a good player, but unlike John Robinson he can't play on the opposite wing and cut inside with devastating effect.
6> Pritchard is just not a winger - I, sadly, also think he is a bit of a weak link.

With all of that in mind we then have to consider the specific factors of last night. We were a little unlucky with a few chances that on another night would have gone in. A mad pass gave the ball away when we were attaching that left us open at the back. I believe that the Rochdale goal was a miss-kick (I've not seen it again so I could be wrong) that would not not normally have beaten Hamer. The midfield being so disjointed meant that the forwards were coming deeper and deeper to retrieve the ball. This is something that has been evident in many recent games to be honest.

On the whole we played nowhere near as well as I believe we can and we still came away with a draw and for a period in the second half we bombarded their goal with such ferociousness that I thought we would get the winner. There is, therefore, no real need to panic, but we really do need to be putting away these teams at home if we are going to maintain our lead at the top. I also don't want the nerves of having a team catch us. After what we have done this season I think we should all (players and fans alike) settle for nothing less than winning the division. For this to happen we are going to raise our game a little. Having said that, of course, if you can win half and draw half of your games in a season you should be expected to finish top, and all of the games are going to get harder now as the teams at the bottom are going to be fighting for their lives, so the teams around us will probably drop a few points in the next few weeks too.

I'm not going to comment on the 'strange' line up expect to say that we clearly don't have the strength in depth that that I thought we did. We've signed something like 21 players since May yet we don't seem to have a dedicated reserve left winger or right back. Pure misfortune meant that both those players were missing last night. Still we are unbeaten in the league this year, and we can extend our lead over Sheffield United to ten points on Saturday before they play in a derby that can go either way.

One last question. What has happened to Scott Wagstaff? At the start of the season he looked incredible and now he can't seem to get in the team, and when he does he looks out of place there. Have we really improved so much that we've left him behind, or has he gone backwards? A dilemma, but based on what I've seen in the last three months I'm not convinced he will still be around next season - which is a shame.

It's my birthday on Saturday, and my Dad will be back for the first game since we played Fulham. We can expect a big crowd - not as big, sadly, as if we'd beaten Bury and Rochdale by a couple of goals each, but a decent atmosphere should be assured.

Let's see if we can send the fans home happy from that one.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 10 February 2012


I don't normally get involved in discussing England on this blog as most Charlton fans (like all passionate fans of clubs) are not really all than interested in England, save for the big tournaments when even the Receptionist with the ridiculously big boobs and even more ridiculously small IQ becomes and England Fan for a fortnight - "Yay!"

However, with my New Years resolution to write more this year and with us facing a successive Saturday with no football I thought I'd add my two penneth worth to the debate.

Firstly I should mention that it is my preference for all managers to be of the nationality of the team they manage. This is not some Anglophobe attitude - I have no problems with all nationalities coming to be employed in English football (or other industries, for that matter) but when it is a competition between the English and, say, the Italians the English Manager should be English and the Italian manager Italian.

I know this risks me being accused of being silly, but would we have been so accepting if we'd employed an Italian striker or an Italian 'Keeper? I'm sure that those that run the Premier League would be more than happy to have the 'National' teams eligibility being based on where the players ply their trade. Thus the 'English' team would have to be picked from players that play in the Premier League and the Brazilians would have to all play in Brazil. That would make for a different tournament. However, this is not how it works - and nor should it.

So my preference is for the English manager to be English.

This brings me on to the two major discussion points:

1> Fabio Capello - and Sven-Göran Eriksson

2> Who should be the new England Manager

The further back you go in history the more difficult it is to analyse what happened and specifically what the impact of changing one event would have been. The FA have alternated their policy of Manager recruitment to include the 'Form' manager, the 'Popular' manager, the manager that has managed to achieve so very much with so very little (normally by managing very few players of international standard) and the 'Successful' manager. I know the definition of successful is not simple, but I think we would all agree that Eriksson and Capello had CVs that made them look successful.

If we go back to Glen Hoddle (the last English Manager that managed to get the National team past the group stage in a major tournament) you have to conclude that the Press hounded him out of his job. The Press in the UK (and for all I know the world over) have an inflated opinion of themselves. You only need to spend ten minutes watching the Sky Sports program the Sunday Supplement to realise that these chaps think that they know more about football than most of those playing and managing. They seem to believe that they have a greater input than reporting what happens, and they are totally offended if they are not shown respect. Hoddle used the press (without their knowledge) to mislead opposition - particularly in the 1998 World Cup Finals. He made the journalists look stupid and as a result when we lost that penalty shoot out to Argentina his days were numbered.

There was a lot of discussion about some mad woman messing with the players' heads, and he was reported to have said some controversial things about reincarnation (all of which might have been true) but the press hated him because they failed to show them the respect that they believed they were due, so they built up a campaign that forced the FA to push him out the door. After a great World Cup he had managed a couple of indifferent results, and that was all it took. For the record I think this was a mistake on a footballing basis, and we haven't got close to winning a tournament in the six that have follower, despite having better and better players available to the managers that followed.

As the press had forced the FA to sack Hoddle they were allowed to drum up public support for his replacement. In stepped Kevin Keegan. I don't have the time to do the necessary research, so I'm going to use a bit of poetic licence so please excuse the lack of specific facts. However Keegan had taken over at Newcastle in 1992 when the club were in dire striates. They were facing relegation from the second division and a potential decade of decline. Keegan kept them up (maybe from his mere enthusiasm alone) and in the following season he basically spent a fortune to get them promoted. He bought Robert Lee from us for something like £650k (he later went on to play for England) when we were challenging them for the top spot. He also signed Andy Cole for a club record transfer fee (£1.75m from memory) as well as others that were all too good for the division they signed to play in.

He was then given a transfer budget that dwarfed just about every other club in Europe while they made a couple of serious attempts at the Premier League title. During all this time there was little pressure on Keegan as he was managing a team that was (despite spending a fortune) performing better than expectations. His, now famous, outburst aimed at Alex Ferguson "I would love it if we beat them" showed how the pressure affected him. On 21 Jan 1996 Newcastle were 12 points above Man United (and Liverpool) with 15 games to go, but the pressure got to them and they finished the season four points behind United and Keegan was a broken man. The following season Newcastle spent £15m on Alan Shearer, but Keegan lasted until January when he resigned after failing to beat us at The Valley in the FA Cup.

His time with Fulham was another example of a team signing players for Premier League transfer fees, only this time they were in the third division. He managed to get this Premier League squad out of the third division and was then 'hounded' to take the England job.

It is my, personal, belief that Keegan had failed to demonstrate that he had what it took to win proper competitions when he was on a level playing field. Getting Fulham promoted with a team from two divisions higher is not the kind of thing that should propel a manager into the England job.

Anyway, none of this mattered as the press had decided that he needed to be the new man, and he was. He lasted one tournament. Two wins and three draws (against uninspiring opposition) secured us a play off spot, 9 points behind Sweden and goal difference above Poland. We managed to beat Scotland 2-1 over two legs (we lost 1-0 away) and we qualified. The tournament, itself, was a disaster. Sure we beat Germany - who drew one and lost two of their three games - but we never looked like being able to compete.

Keegan left the England job when he, allegedly, decided mid crap that he wasn't up to the job after we'd lost at home to Germany in the last game at the old Wembley.

The FA, I believe, decided that they needed a new approach. We had what was to become known as the Golden Generation of English players that included the Man Utd 'kids' - including Beckham, the Nevilles and Scholes, along with Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdand and Sol Campbell. We just couldn't allow another decade of mismanagement to allow this generation of players to fail.

The decision was taken to appoint a foreign manager (should he be the best choice) to maximise the chances of International success that seemed to have alluded us for so long.

Sven was an interesting choice. He had managed two Swedish clubs to the title, and one to Uefa Cup success. He had won everything in Portugal with Benfica, and made both a European and Uefa Cup Final. He'd won the Italian Cup four times (with three different teams) and another Uefa Cup Final appearance, a European Super Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup.

For me the seven top tier titles with four different teams were impressive but the record in the European Cups (which I think are more like International Football) was the clincher for me. As I've already said I would have preferred an English manager, but if he wasn't going to be English then this guy had the CV didn't he?

In my view Sven did enough as English Manager. We made it to three quarter finals (what Hoddle achieved)  losing one of them to Brazil, who went on to win it, and the other two were losses on penalties. One with just ten men.

Sven was, also, targeted by the press, although not necessarily the sports journalists, and he was caught on tape accepting another job for a pay rise (shock horror) and left the England job with a credible record - both on the field and with the ladies.

Sven's replacement was an Englishman. It was the Wally with the Brolly. How he got the job I have no idea. He had managed to keep Middlesbrough in the Premier League with more money than many of the clubs he regularly finished below. He also won a League Cup - this being the competition that none of the top teams play first team players in. Sure he was English (my preference) and he had won something (which none of the others interviewed - including Curbishley) had, but he was just not good enough.

In fact I was at Wembley when we lost 3-2 to Croatia and all three of us (that had gone together) were quite happy to lose and fail to qualify as it meant McClaren would be sacked. What a shocking state of affairs.

For the record I'm not sure that I would have preferred Curbishley or Allardyce as they were both known for dour football and hadn't won anything. At least McClaren had been involved in the England camp - the only thing I can think of that get him the job.

So in 2008 we needed a new manager, and we had discovered that despite failing to find a decent English manager in the ten years since Hoddle had gone we were still nowhere in terms of training managers to manage at the top level. Bobby Robson was approached (it might not have been in 2008) but he was happy at Newcastle, and the only other English Manager that had been successful was Venables, who had been involved with McClaren and was not getting any younger either.

The decision to 'insist' on English in 2006 had now backfired on the FA and they went for the best they could find. Capello had an outstanding CV and he was the kind of strict manager that it was thought was needed after the WAG debacle of 2006. McClaren had attempted to sort this by dropping Beckham (presumably assuming that the press interest was all about him and Victoria) but brought him back into the squad (too late) when it was clear that he was, in fact, also a footballer.

The hard line by Fabio seemed to work during the qualifiers (a week or two together under strict rules) as we qualified with ease for the 2010 World Cup. He, even, managed to wrangle an extension to his contract until 2012 before the tournament started.

It was an unmitigated disaster. The strict rules, that were clearly ok for short periods were never going to be accepted by multi-millionaire men that are surrounded by sycophants that blow smoke up their backsides all day long. I've heard stories that players at the top teams call out 'hired help' to empty their vacuum cleaners, change their tires and pick up their dry cleaning. These boys go to night clubs are are offered sex in the toilets by complete strangers - they just do not do 'As they are told'. They were never going to be 'managed' in the way Capello thought for six weeks plus in the run up to, and the tournament itself.

The results, and performances, were only two years ago so I don't think I need to describe them,but they were bad!

The dropping of John Terry before the World Cup, and the reinstating him a year later, along with the recent events, are not necessary to be discussed here, but the fact that Fabio thought he would come out and publicly criticise the FA over their insistence that he lose the armband this month meant that there was always a possibility of him leaving before the tournament.

What a mess?

So there are a few candidates, apparently. Remember that the FA stated last year that the new manager would be English.

The latest odds from are:

'Arry Redknapp 2/7
Stuart Pearce 7/1
Jose Mourinho 9/1 - Not English
Guss Hiddink 9/1 - Not English
Roy Hodgson 12/1
Arsene Wenger 25/1 - Not English
Martin O'Neill - Not English, but been in English Football for most of his career
Alan Pardew 28/1 - I would have to stop following England if he took over
Alan Shearer 33/1
Rafael Benitez 33/1 - Not English
Roberto Mancini 33/1 - Not English
Sam Allardyce 40/1

All others (including Sven) are 50/1 plus.

Now, I know that all these odds are determined by the bets that are put on them, but if we ignore Shearer, Pardew and Allardyce (all Newcastle managers at one time, incidentally) we have three Englishmen. With Pearce having so little experience (two years at Man City and the U21 job) that leaves us Hodgson and Redknapp. Hodgson would have been an ideal candidate if it were not for the disaster that he had at Liverpool, but I still think he is a credible option.

Redknapp is just about everyone's favourite. He has shaken off the fraud issues due to twelve of his peers believing that money being paid into a bank account, offshore, in the name of his dog, from his employer was not, in fact, income. Case closed.

Redknapp does not have a reputation for selling himself cheap, and with Fabio's reported £6m salary I can see Redknapp holding out for the same - especially as just about all the players have already called for him to get the job. The FA are reportedly hoping to reduce the Manager's salary.

What worries me is that the clamber for him to take over is not unlike that of Keegan in 1999. Also, the fact that Redknapp has only won one trophy (an FA Cup with Portsmouth, who ended up c. £150m in debt) and has, in fact, only managed a big side (well Tottenham) for two full seasons. Sure they have done well, but he has spent some serious money and is known for being a wheeler dealer. Despite the fact that Mr Redknapp, the professional football manager, doesn't like to be called a wheeler dealer he has been successful by changing the squad that he is managing. This is very important for club management, but is largely irrelevant for an international manager as the 'squad' is limited by the nature of players having to be English.

Clearly you wouldn't expect Redknapp to court the England job while he is at Spurs and Fabio is in situ, but I can't help feeling that what is going to happen is that he will hold the FA to ransom in order to secure the largest salary possible. I can understand why he would do that, and just because I would rip their arms off for £1m a year doesn't mean that 'Arry can't demand more - and probably get it.

What I don't want to see is another long term contract on outrageous money that forces the FA's hand if things don't work out.

Having said that as there is, realistically, no obvious alternative he can demand what ever he likes, and unless we are going to go foreign again any time soon he will, probably, be the best alternative for the medium term.

At some point we need to address the fact that there are so few English managers in the Premier League, but I have no idea how we do that, and I don't think this is the place to discuss it.

I'm OK with 'Arry. I am not completely sure I'd employ him to oversee the financial transactions of my company, but as far as managing the England team and being English, he does seem to be first in a group of one.

Come on England!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

"Don't shoot! Don't shoot!"

An average, at best, game that had all the ingredients that we can expect from now until the end of the season. We had most of the possession, we created a number of half chances - none of which is was a crime not to convert. Mostly, however, we looked unable to break the deadlock from start to finish.

If you consider that the Skipper managed two cracking free kicks and Green managed to force the Keeper to palm the ball into his own to account for the total goals we've scored in the last three games, it is clear that we are not carrying the goal threat that makes us favourites to score three or more goals.

Clearly this hasn't mattered as we have been keeping clean sheets and 'snatching' a goal from an unlikely source (by that I mean not from a striker). Sooner or later a 1-0 win is going to turn into a 1-1 or a 0-1 defeat. This is not a problem if you have strikers that can score (and we do) as there is every possibility that the 1-0 win will turn into a 2-0 win and then the whole situation changes.

Anyway, we started last night with out a forward that had the pace to stretch the defence. On another day this wouldn't have been a problem., We know how good Yann is, and we, also, know how many goals Clarke has scored in this division this season, so there was no reason to worry that BWP wasn't playing. Well, there was a small part of me that worried that we were finalising a deal to sell him, but with the benefit of hindsight (and the closure of the window) it made sense to rest him as he is not 100% fit in the knee department and two games in a week (well, three in 8 days) might have been a bit much for him.

The game panned out in the way that I feared. We couldn't get the early goal that would have changed the play completely, and totally against the run of play Bury scored. The goal came from a difficult angle, but what was most significant about it was that in the run up to the final pass we were just a foot (or a fraction of a second) short of making the tackle about half a dozen times. If any of those tackles had been closer it might have ended up with a different game and result, but once we'd conceded it was going to be ten men against the ball with serious amounts of time wasting - and that's exactly what it was.

With MK Dons and Sheffield Wednesday drawing it was probably a decent nights work, but it was an opportunity to increase our lead further, and we didn't, but we did beat the two teams we really needed to, and we have MK Dons at home in a couple of weeks, and that is a much more important game. Also we managed to gain a point (I say gain as our goal came very late and on that basis we came close to losing - both on the night and our unbeaten home record too).

Anyway as the game was coming to a close, Stephens had a shot from distance and he missed to the left of the goal and hit, and ripped, the advertising hoarding. The goal is not a big target from that range, and with so many bodies in the way the potential for a deflection or block makes it most unlikely that one will score from that far out.

Then in injury time we had an attack and we looked like we were going to overpower them at the back. Morrison had come up from the back and Haynes was providing the pace that we'd been missing all game. Then the ball was cleared and fell to Stephens, something like 40 yards out. There was a minute or two of injury time left, the box was crowded with our players - players that can score and Stephens just had to chip (or pass) the ball into the box. He looked like he's gearing up for a shot - just minutes after he missed the target from closer in.

"Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" I shouted - or screamed if I'm perfectly honest.

He did, and he scored! There are few better ways to score an equalising goal than a long shot in injury time, even if it is after one demands not to shoot.

It is likely that BWP will be back for Rochdale, and in any event we only needed score early last night and I'm confident that the game would have been completely different. I'm not, at all, concerned about not winning every game, and it has looked, recently, like we are going to struggle against those sides that come to defend more than those that come to win. MK Dons, for that very reason, should prove to be a more open game - and hopefully a win.

We still look like Champions - coming back from a goal down in injury time when we have not played well is also a plus point.

On a separate note my Son says he enjoyed the game and wants to go again. He did spend a little while on the iPad, but he chose a new hat from the club shop which he wore all night, and he did join in with some of the songs, as well as singing them on the way home. He was tired though, not that this was a huge surprise. I'm not sure it was ever our intention for him to come to many evening games on school nights, but one was ok. I don't want to 'push' football onto him as I fear it might scare him off, but so far so good.

Up the Addicks!