Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Double D

Nothing to do with ladies undergarments of course, but Danny and Dale, Charlton's two new signings today. We, of course, all knew the lads were putting pen to paper yesterday, the club however seem the last to tell people. When they do break their silence, they always drop us a little bombshell as well! Today it was the first pictures of the new away shirt.

Pictured above is Dale Stephens ( not Dale Jennings as Sky Sports may have suggested), a 22 year old central midfielder signed from Oldham Athletic. Danny Green we know a little more about. A schoolboy at Charlton, he was let go by the club and went to Northampton then later to Nottingham Forest. Green failed to break into the first team at either of these and ended up playing Conference South football at Bishops Stortford. It was here that Dagenham and Redbridge spotted the winger and signed him on a free transfer. As Charlton supporters, we know exactly what Danny is capable of, scoring against us in both fixtures last season. I'm sure Benno is looking forward to having his old team mate linking up with him again!

Unlike the previous bout of intakes at the club, today money changed hands. Both players signed three year contracts for undisclosed fees. What does this mean? Numbers have been banded about on Twitter, both of which seem about the going rate. Why do these fees have to be secret?, I'm sure this never used to be the case a few years back. Any answers would be greatly appreciated as I'd love to know the answer!

Tomorrow sees the squad report back after the summer break for their first day of training. I hope Chris Powell has made up name badges for them all. I wonder if they all have to stand up in front of each other and introduce themselves? Personally, i hope they wear squad shirts with names for the pre season games, otherwise none of us are going to have a clue who is who with so many new faces!

So Macron have produced a new away shirt for us. It has a real polo shirt look to it, which in itself isn't a bad thing. It does remind me more of a casual item of clothing though, more suited to promotional/charity type events the players might attend. Don't think i don't like it, it's definitely growing on me. It's just that with Wimbledon on at the moment, i wonder if Macron are aware what sport The Addicks actually play........

Sunday, June 26, 2011


The Algarve, for two weeks in June? Thank you and yes please! Heidi's Grandparents wanted to treat their side of the family to a holiday to remember, and take it from me, it was. They both turn(ed) 70 this year, and celebrated another major wedding anniversary. This was how they wanted to celebrate it and we weren't ever going to talk them out of it!
Both their daughters (my mother in law, Nikki, and her sister, Julie) with their own families were invited. Julie and her husband Kit have two children, a daughter Georgina 11, and a son Harry 7. Although Harry can be a handful, it was lovely to have kids with us as they gave us much entertainment. That and we love them dearly. Mike and Nikki, Heidi's folks, have another younger daughter, Heather. Heather's boyfriend, Nick came for the first week although on a later flight. So we numbered 12 at best and 11 at all other times.

An eight bedroom villa in Almancil was our destination. Only about a twenty to thirty minute drive from Faro airport if you know where you're going. An hour or so if you don't.
On arrival we collected our rental cars. Three brand new Fiat Punto's were waiting for us. I had one, Kit another and Heidi's dad and grandad shared the third. As the only driver for the girls car i guessed i'd be chauffering an awful lot of shopping expeditions!
I did get a feeling of the Italian job with all three of us in convoy, OK so they weren't Mini's, but they were Italian built.
We did get to see the EstadioAlgarve en route. A thirty thousand odd seater stadium built for Euro 2004.
On arrival at the villa there was the chaotic choosing of bedrooms. Grandparents first, then a free for all. Heidi had made her mind up and was off! Downstairs and with glass doors opening out to where the two pool tables were. A good choice. This was followed by a tour of the place. Eight bedrooms, two kitchens, a rather lovely swimming pool and a dining room table big enough to cope with all twelve of us.
We were self catering so finding a supermarket was the first item on the agenda. As it turned out, this became a little bit of a running joke. We seemed to venture into one most days even if just for bread and beer, and i think i managed six different ones over the two weeks.
Cooking and washing up was done on a rota basis which worked well as no-one felt guilty for not helping when it wasn't their day. We did a wonderful curry in the first week to set the bar, but in all honesty every meal was superb. Every day we all feasted like royalty, frequently indulging in morning fry ups as well as large evening spreads. Eating and drinking wasn't all we did believe it or not, although the port was to die for as you would expect in Portugal!

A favourite of all tourists is the local market. We had one just ten minutes away, on the road to Quarteira, every Wednesday morning. I could probably get round the whole thing in about an hour. For the girls you could probably times that by three. While they wandered around buying scarves, ear rings and all things girly, i was trying to avoid the spivs desperate to sell me hooky watches, grass and cocaine. Out of all twelve of us, i was the only one approached. I blame it on my hat.
Just to join in with the thrill of handing over my hard earned, I did buy myself some Lacoste polo shirts. Not necessarily the genuine article, but very well made all the same.
Praise must go to one beat up old van selling refreshments. Sat under a tarpaulin which had seen much better days, i enjoyed one of the finest cups of coffee I've ever drunk. I went back the second week with Heidi's grandad just to have another cup!

A wonderful evening trip was to Fiesa, an international sand sculpture exhibition. There were an astonishing amount of sculptures from fantasy to cartoons to the animal kingdom to a sailing ship. As time got on and the sun disappeared, the whole place became floodlit with different colour lights. This just added to the experience, the temperature only dropping a couple of degrees into the high twenties meant we were in no rush to cut short our visit. Click on the link and check out some of the pictures for yourself. I have honestly never seen anything quite like sand sculptures before! The toad on the vespa (never thought I'd say that) was really something to behold.

Water theme parks are always another 'must do' experience whilst enjoying thirty degree sunshine. Aquashow was the first. Half water park, half regular theme park, the highlight had to be White Fall. On the website is a 'You Tube' video of this. None of the videos do it justice. When setting off on your rubber ring it feels like a sheer drop, only to go straight up the other side, just like the skateboarders etc do. This was such a buzz and really was borderline scary/hilarious! Heidi even got me on a roller coaster at this place. I hate all roller coasters with passion, so went on this one three times just to prove it to her. The girls sat in front of me and spent the whole ride laughing at my facial expressions!
Slide and Splash became the second park we would visit. A much further drive, this was solely a water park and was full of slides and tubes you could throw yourself down. It didn't have the highlight of the White Fall but did have much more variety. Longer tubes with many more twists, turns and drops guaranteed laughter (and bruises) all round. It was however slightly busier meaning queues at each ride. Stood just in shorts a little sunburn was inevitable!

You cant go to the Algarve without venturing out onto the sea. Our first escapade was a Dolphin search and cave visit, setting off from Albufeira, the town of crazy roundabouts. Not crazy for the layout, just the decoration. Look them up online if you want, very bizarre. We started with a relaxing coastline trip to see the rock formations, have a look at the photo and see if you can spot the shark.

We then ventured further out to sea to spot some dolphins. The two lads on the boat had all the local knowledge and GPS equipment to find them. None of this helped, as our search was fruitless. The lads did admit that no way near the same amount of families of dolphins were around as there were this time last year. Yes a disappointment, but to make up for it the boys did turn on the speed on our return to shore. This is the same boat as they use for paragliding so it's motor was powerful enough to get everyone screaming in delight. I did my best to look cool standing on the back of the boat. I got my just desserts as i got a soaking in the process!

A few of our crowd did go in for a bit of paragliding afterwards. I decided that coffee was a far more sensible way to spend that particular half hour. Heather's boyfriend Nick said the highlight was little Georgina being sick on him. Or something like that....

The next boat trip came the following week. A reef fishing trip sounded enticing enough for eight of us to sign up. I must point out here that there wasn't one experienced (or even slightly competent) fisherman amongst us. No problem, i can blag this.
The two gents that took us out were wonderful. We moored up and got an instruction on how to use a rod. I listened very carefully to take it all in whilst still looking like i didn't need to hear this beginners lesson. Guess who was last to catch a single thing. One very dented ego. In fact, Heidi's Nan who had already caught five swapped position on the boat with me out of sympathy. A good move as i went on to catch the most and save my embarrassment. In my defence, she didn't catch another thing so positioning on the boat is obviously essential. Mackerel and Bream were just two varieties amongst our haul but the catch of the day had to be the Red Snapper Julie caught. It was so significant a catch that our hosts wanted to show their friends this fish to their friends on our return to dry land.

We were told that this fish would cost us around twenty five Euros if we were to buy it in a supermarket. Dinner sorted then. This along with the rest of the haul equated to a big bag of very fresh fish which managed to stink out the boot of my car. Back at the villa Heidi's Grandad taught me how to gut and de-scale our prizes, then they were sent downstairs to the waiting BBQ. There is something very very satisfying about eating food you caught yourself, even if it does mean having its innards all over your fingers!

On the second Sunday, half a dozen of us ventured off to find a local church that we had heard of. The International Evangelical Church of the Algarve to give it it's full name was a wonderful church with some very special members. A great word was preached, a real tear jerking version of Amazing Grace was sung and some wonderful conversations over tea were had at the end. A special morning and lovely to keep Jesus at the centre of the holiday.

There was more, much more, that i haven't spent time on. Family games of cards, larking around in the pool, a trip to one of Portugal's shopping centres and some rather colourful garments of clothing bought by some members of the family at the market. All great memories and all special in their own way.
It was an unforgettable holiday, a much needed rest, and some very very special quality family time spent together.

I even got a tan!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fixtures and Fittings

I thought spending two weeks in the Algarve would give Charlton plenty of time to be busy. Not expecting an Internet connection, i really thought this evening would be spent catching up on all the exciting comings and goings, whilst ringing my brother in Taunton to arrange the details for my weekend with him whilst the Addicks are in Yeovil.
As it turned out, a highly stressed and temperamental dongle was available to us in the villa and i could check daily on all important issues back home.

This post is really a little bit of housekeeping, catching up with events many readers are fully clued up on.
The first matter of note is an uninspiring Carling Cup draw against Reading at The Valley. Reading have never been one of my favourites, drab is a word I've often used in conjunction with them. Sorry if there's any Royal's fans reading this. At least the prospect of two visits from them in close succession is no longer a reality after the cancellation of the pre season friendly only a short time before. Maybe the draw we all really wanted will be our prize and Palace will be our second round opponents.

After the disappointment of that, worse was to come. The League One fixture list was announced and our visit to Somerset is on Boxing day. Couldn't have been any more awful a date.
Christmas for Heidi's family is a very big thing. We all come together and celebrate, which is lovely, but absolutely no chance of slipping west for a day. Besides, my brother will be in Cyprus visiting my Mum. Add to this the twitter crew, from the final home game of last season, planning a jolly down there and the fixture computer has shafted us well and truly. Sure there will be other games but that's not the point!

So what else has it thrown up?  Bournemouth again first day, that'll be one for Danny Hollands to get to grips with. I don't fancy the cherries to repeat last seasons success, so not a bad opening day with a real chance of starting with a win. A trip to Colchester and the visit of Scunthorpe also both in August will i fear prove much sterner tests.
Two London derby's in three days look interesting at new year. Brisbane Road on the 31st wont be easy and our first game of 2012 entertaining Brentford two days later is a perfect holiday fixture.
Two of our last four away games are at Huddersfield and Preston, possible six pointers? At least the home run in looks more favourable. I for one will be expecting Hartlepool to out do their Oompa Loompa efforts as once again we play hosts to them on the final day.

Was this fixture news to be all from the fortnight? Permanent signings (or any other kind for that matter) were short on the ground. The rumour mill kept turning but nothing concrete. Until Tuesday. Suddenly bang bang bang three came through the door.

Cedric Evina was first. A young full back who learnt his trade at Arsenal, he shone well last season on loan at Oldham. The young Cameroon born defender is left sided which could prove a real blessing this season as players come out of contract and leave. He may be young and still developing, but Chris Powell rates him highly. At least settling in the area won't be a problem for the lad who is based in London.

Paul Hayes came next. A free transfer and signing a three year deal, the striker comes down south after plying most of his trade up north. I get the impression he's a workmanlike striker making more than he scores. We've had a few of those over the years, should fit in well then!

Mikel Alonso is number three. Yes that Mikel Alonso with the even more famous brother. A real hard working midfielder, he's proved himself in his native Spain. A handful of appearances at Bolton a few years ago and a very short stay in Swansea though, doesn't guarantee he travels well.
The Charlton faithful, myself included, do however hope we have another hero at the club. He is at the end of the day a 'name' and it's been a while (not including Bradley better than Shaun) since the club has signed a real name, so it's not surprising expectations of him are high. With rumours of Semedo going to Yorkshire, and Racon already moving to the toolbox, Alonso and Hollands could well be the first choice centre to the midfield. Sounds good to me.

Chris Powell assures us he's not finished yet. Let's hope not, he's not looked at the central defense yet. Here's praying that's next!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hart of the Matter

I wonder if it's yet another case of rose tinted glasses, but a few years ago, transfer speculation surrounding Charlton involved footballers i knew something about. Perhaps just because as a top flight team, we were mentioned in the same breath as players with household names. Maybe its just because players were a little more loyal in those days and you could remember who played for who.
So many foreigners are coming into all divisions now, no matter what level we are playing at I'd have to look up and research possible signings. Or maybe I'm just out of touch.

Paul Hayes seems to be the most popular name on the rumour mill at the moment, some even saying he may sign for us as soon as tomorrow. My first thought was, and i hate to admit it. Paul who?
It turns out this East End boy has plied his trade up north his whole career, enjoying the best of it at Scunthorpe. Looking at his goal scoring stats however, this striker is far from prolific. Maybe he can be part of a great double act for Bradley 'better than Shaun' Wright-Phillips, setting them up for the poacher to knock in. Maybe though of course, he won't sign for us at all.

I had to laugh with someones comment on twitter that we appear to be after the whole Bournemouth team. Adam Smith who was on loan from Tottenham at the south coast club is another rumour. There does seem to be new names appearing in the frame daily. I wont be getting too excited until the deals are done however.
One good bit of news is for former Addick Ross Worner. He signed a two year contract at Aldershot, a perfect move for the youngster, and perhaps the ideal level for him to gain that much needed experience. I wish him the best of luck.

So if we're not going to bring in a handful of second rate foreign players, we need to continue the good work the academy does. Earlier in the season we saw the club push the academy with posters pushing the Valley Gold scheme and a special edition of the Valley Review.  It's only when you saw all their pictures together that it really sank in how many first teamers have come through the ranks at Charlton. Its an academy that the club is very proud of, and many other sides envious of. It also has a new man in charge.
I've heard many people say in jest that appointing Paul Hart means, if things don't go according to plan for Sir Chris, we have a ready made caretaker boss inside the club. As a plan B it could be worse, but I'd like to think the work he does with the youngsters will more than keep him busy and more importantly make him more indispensable to that unit. He comes in as director, with Steve Avory remaining as academy manager. The former Leeds defender has very a credible history and plenty of experience with youth set ups. Ketts is far more clued up than myself, he says Hart was at Forest to see our own Andy Reid's progress.

The scouting system is another area to get the shake up. Jeff Vetere comes in to head the operation with Phil Chapple moving down the ladder a notch. Vetere has of course been here before and worked with Alan Curbishley. Curbs as we know took him to West Ham with him. Last season Vetere was chief scout at Aston Villa. I'm guessing he's very well connected in the game.
Add to all this a new regionalized scouting operation put into place all over the country, and even the most negative of fans (and there are many) would have to say things are looking good.
If the backroom is in a mess, it doesn't matter what stars we bring to the playing field, things will self destruct.
I have to be honest and say i didn't really trust Mr Slater when he came to SE7. Something about him didn't quite sit right with me. I'm very happy to say that my opinion is changing. Only time will tell, but I'm impressed with what I've seen so far. I believe things are moving in the right direction and the owners do have great plans for this, our great club.

On a more personal note, we went to a christening today. Benjamin is a security guard at the supermarket where i have my evening job. It wasn't me that got the invite though but Heidi. The reason? She stops and talks to him. She always has a couple of minutes to stop and say hello just to ask how he is. We felt really honoured to be invited to this intimate family occasion. It just goes to show what can happen if you take time to speak to the people around you.
Living in a multi cultural environment, it was interesting to go to this Afro Caribbean affair. The generosity was outstanding and the food looked so delicious. It was just a shame I'd been struggling with a bug this weekend ruining my appetite.

Speaking of this bug, I've got a week to cure it, as on Saturday we fly to Portugal for two weeks. A nice family holiday and a well needed rest from work. No doubt I'll be blogging some of the highlights on my return.