Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Next... Hartlepool at home

I've been a little quiet in recent weeks and have, to some extent, allowed others to share their memories of the end of this season while I've kept mine to myself. This wasn't a conscious decision, it was a combination of work and family pressures and just not getting 'round to it.

After winning promotion at Carlisle I was confident that we might win the title at The Valley as MK Dons are a tough side. In the end I suspect that the prison sentence handed out to Chad Evans made all the difference. I'm not going to get into the court case, or the outcome of it for the player specifically, but there is no doubt that this would have had a psychosocial effect on the other players. If, for no other reason, (and despite what happened he was a work colleague and probably a friend of many of the players) they would have worried about the impact losing a 35 goal striker would have on their final three games. Even if none of the other players were affected, losing their best striker made them weaker - much weaker. Ched Evans had scored 14 goals in Sheff Utd's last 11 games.

In the end they did lose at MK Dons and we did beat Wycombe and there was an impromptu celebration at The Valley. The Wycombe game reminded me of some of the games we played in the season we won the First Division under Curbishley. We looked like we could go on and score at will, but were, kind of, holding back. We were cruising at 1-0 and when we let one in we immediately looked like we were going to go on and get a winner.

The draw at Preston was a real disappointment to me. I didn't really agree with making the changes to the starting line up. I have no problem with giving a couple of players a run out, but Wiggins and Morrison were ever presents up until that game, and we failed to start either of our first choice strikers, and when we made a change, neither of them came on. We played two loan players that have only been here a few weeks, neither of which I have heard are going to sign for us permanently - yet.

I am not going to criticise Powell for the side he sent out, and we very nearly won the game - and there is no guarantee that we would have won if we'd started the first 11. Let me just say that I really wanted to beat Fulham's 101 point record, and before the Preston game I was confident that we would do, and now we can't.

On the plus side Danny Haynes got a goal, and looks a real threat for next season, we are still unbeaten for six games, and I believe the fans had a great day out. I also can't begrudge Alexander getting a goal on his last home appearance. I just wish it had counted for nothing as we'd gone on to win.

Anyway, that's all water under the bridge, and we have one last game to play, and a celebration to enjoy. I was a little underwhelmed when we lifted the First Division Championship trophy in 2000. Before the Premier League came along this was the trophy that all clubs aspired to. This was the Football League Champions trophy. It had been a dream of mine for years that Charlton would eventually get to lift it at The Valley. Even though the Premier League had been formed, it was still the same trophy, and it was a dream come true for me.

In the end the fireworks that the club let off before the trophy was given out made it so smoky that I couldn't actually see the players through the smog, so it was not how I'd imagined it. I guess there was also an element of a twenty year dream never being able to live up to expectations.

This time I'm more prepared for the day. Not only do I not expect it to be 'everything I'd always dreamed it would be' but I'm older, wiser, and less demanding. To top all that, however, I already have a party of my own planned.

I do the school run every day, and normally, on match days, I'll pick my son up, bring him home and leave him with his Mum while I rush off to The Valley. Since January my wife has been working in the City (opposed to on Kings Hill - where we live) so it is difficult for her to get home. So, I took my son to a couple of evening games. He's not been a real fan to date, but I convinced him that it would be a fun night out. He came to two games, and decided that he now likes it. He has a club on a Saturday afternoon (this has now been changed to mornings - for obvious reasons) and I have bought him a season ticket for next season.

Anyway with it being his birthday on 9th May I suggested that he might like to have his birthday party at Charlton, and take some friends from school for a meal and to watch a game. I thought I might even be able to get a few interested in Charlton as his school is in Rochester it's too far away.

Anyway, I contacted the club and discovered that (pre the March discount) it was going to cost me £24 per child and £50 per adult to hold his party there (meal and match ticket) and as he would want to take at least ten children (who would all want to bring at least one parent) it was going to cost me in excess of £800. No thank you, very much. However, having planted the idea in his head he still wanted to do it. What I did, as an alternative, was to hold our own (family) party at The Valley. So this Saturday my Dad and I will be bringing our wives, and my son will have his 8th birthday party in Legends. I've even ordered him a cake.

I am confident that the atmosphere will be fantastic and the handing over of the League One trophy will be something that my son will remember for years to come. Ironically there will be close to 35% more fans there than there was for the First Division title, and I'm more hopeful of a win that I was against Ipswich, who needed a win to keep them in touch of Man City who eventually finished second.

On the subject of second, there is now a real issue to be decided on the last game of the season. As mentioned above Sheff United have lost their top scorer, and have managed just one point in two games to let Sheff Wed into pole position for second place. I have always had a real soft spot for United, as they were my 'local' team when I was at University in Sheffield, but the whole Ched Evans thing has left me routing for Wednesday. I have no real issue with the club itself, and the player might even be granted an appeal and be found not guilty yet, but I can't help thinking that without his goals this season they would have been no where near second place, and for that reason I will not shed a tear if Wednesday pip them to it.

Interestingly of the two Sheffield clubs I can't see United winning the playoffs, where as I could see Wednesday doing it. However, I have a sneaky feeling about Stevenage. They have beaten Carlisle and Brentford in recent weeks, and were unlucky not to beat Sheff Utd last weekend.

Anyway, the playoffs are nothing to do with us, The Champions, and in all honesty I don't think it matters too much who comes up with us.

Apparently the club have asked for volunteers to help 'Dress' The Valley before the game on Saturday. I have no idea what this means, but it all adds to the excitement.

These days don't come along very often for clubs like ours so I intend to enjoy it to the full. I hope it turns out to be a great day out for all of the 26,500 plus fans at The Valley.

Up the Addicks!