Saturday, December 31, 2011

Festive travels

Boxing day and new year. Great days in the football calendar whoever you support. For the Addicks it was a couple of away games and the chance to improve on our already impressive record on the road.

Yeovil on Boxing day was always a blip in the fixture computer. The road was the only option for hardened travellers, but how they were rewarded. Twice coming from behind, Charlton stole the points in injury time thanks to the very deserving Danny Green.
I was spending Christmas in Tunbridge Wells with family in a house that has possibly the worst wi-fi I've ever used. For me even the twitter updates were few and far between.
Unavailable for that one, i knew the next fixture was one i would have to see from home on the bench, Leyton Orient new years eve. At least the start of 2012 would see me available for the first two outings of the year!

Before the trip to East London though, we had transfer rumours appearing from every source regarding Paul Benson. It would appear that in January he will be heading west to Swindon Town in a deal that sees Paulo Di Canio's best buddy Leon Clarke coming our way.
I wish Benno the world of luck at Swindon, he's a real 'heart on the sleeve' player who has done Charlton a great service. He is not though a championship striker and I'm guessing Chris Powell is thinking long term with his efforts to unload the former Dagger.
Leon Clarke is now famous for that bust up. He is experienced though and is certainly on form with his recent displays at Chesterfield, who are of course bottom of the league.
It's still a possibility that Bradley Wright-Phillips could be off to pastures new in January and the gaffer needs to bolster that area just in case, but i doubt many scouts will have the greatest review of our number 10 if based solely on recent outings!

Brisbane Road then and Leyton Orient. I've always had a little soft spot for the Orient going back to the days of John Chiedozie and the 'braces' kit. Living in the shadow of another East London side, I've always had the impression of a hard working club both on and off the pitch.

New years eve 2011 wasn't however going to be one Ben Hamer and Charlton Athletic will want to remember.
I thought with the Huddersfield win that the TV camera jinx was over but Sky had other ideas. I should have known better with so many former Charlton faces on display that someone was going to come back and haunt us! At least it wasn't Mooney!
Kevin Lisbie, Matthew Spring, (both of whom i have great respect for) and the very odd looking Dave Mooney (spit) all started against an addicks side that saw the welcomed return of skipper Johnnie Jackson.

I've poured the first of many beers for the night settled down comfortably and I'm ready for a display of quality football. Five minutes later and the night is in disarray.
Ben Hamer has come charging out his area and made contact with the ball on his chest. It was close to his arm, close enough for the ref to give him a straight red, but it seemed to me to be panic goalkeeping very early on. I expect us to start a little more assured than that.
So John Sullivan got 85 minutes more than he expected, and you had to feel for Scott Wagstaff who made way for him. A rare start nipped very much in the bud.
Sullivan didn't have the best of performances. it's got to be hard to come on after five as i would expect you're not mentally quite prepared for it. Even so, there were a couple of occasions where he seemed to flap a little.

Orient, it's fair to say, dominated the first half. In many respects we could think ourselves lucky to only be one goal behind at the break.
Matthew Spring scored it after a deflection from Matt Talyor leaving Sullivan, off his line, no chance.
The very impressive Jimmy Smith could have made it two later had his effort not be ruled off side. Very harsh, yes, but then so was the sending off!

And that was it really. For the last ten minutes Charlton looked like they may have been able to snatch something from the game but it never materialised. The twelve, sorry, eleven men of Leyton Orient were too much for the ten of Charlton. It's our second defeat of the season (both 0-1 away), and a boost for the Sheffield clubs who have us now back in their sights.

Monday however is another day (and another year) and Brentford at The Valley is the opportunity to send a message out to anyone thinking we've taken our foot off the gas.

Happy new year, come on you reds!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day Tripper

We all know how busy Christmas time is. A hectic twenty four days of planning, shopping and drinking before one day of total excess, not to mention a packed festive season of sport.

Like everybody else, my pre Christmas run-in is no different. A church carol service and nativity, three family birthday parties, a church group Christmas meal, whilst not forgetting the busiest time of year for delivering people's groceries. How i managed to book a day off amongst this for a real 'old school' booze cruise to Calais still baffles me, but book it (and enjoy it) i did.

The P&O ferry was a real bargain price, and surprise, costing only a pony (£25) for a return ticket for the car. Heidi's parents booked the trip and took us along with my sister in law. That's five pound a head, you don't need to buy much beer to save that!
As it turned out the beer was actually cheaper on the boat although wine, (and more importantly) port were stupidly cheap in the supermarkets.
I saved more than my fiver in one swoop with the lack of VAT on a bottle of perfume for the wife. At twenty percent nowadays, that's almost a tenner to put towards some liquid refreshment.

We didn't go just for the beer though. Arriving in France mid morning and not leaving until the evening, we did get to make a day of it, explore the town and enjoy the local cuisine.
By local cuisine, read French steak house chain. Buffalo Grill is as American as you can imagine in all but location and language, but man they serve a beautiful steak. They cater for your ears as well by playing both kinds of music inside. Country AND Western. For all i know, The Good 'Ol Boys may well be the house band!

I'd forgotten how much fun a booze cruise could be and didn't realize that, this day and age, it was still a financially worthwhile option. Looking in the fridge at some gorgeous cheeses and meats though, and I'd happily make this a regular festive event on our calendar.
I did suffer the following day with a stomach upset but i believe that bug was there beforehand and the details of which are not for describing here!

So now we are ready for Christmas. I finished work today, Heidi finished the present wrapping, and the coffee table is full of boxes of chocolate. The only thing missing is a boxing day football ticket.
In fairness, even if it wasn't Yeovil away, I'd still struggle to get away from a large family gathering to attend a game. For me it will have to be Brentford on the second followed by the trip to Craven Cottage.

In between this we do of course have that trip to Leyton Orient on New Years Eve. How wonderful would it be to have six more points on the board before the year ends, especially after the 'dissapointment' of two draws on the spin!
Oldham Athletic's visit to The Valley on the 17th coincided with my boss having the day off to attend one of his Christmas functions, resulting in me having to work all day and missing out on the Rose of Denmark and the CAFC twitter crowds Christmas drink. I'm reliably informed it had it's fair share of casualties!

The game itself won't be remembered for much. In short, the ref was once again awful, Darel Russell scored his first goal for the club and Yann Kermorgant cut his head and played with bandages wrapped around it.
The Frenchmans injury reminded me not of Terry Butcher, like most, but of Stuart Balmer. An almost iconic vision of 'Sweaty' wearing (what i have to admit to being one of my favourites), at Fratton Park, the white green and purple away shirt we wore whilst borrowing the colours of Wimbledon Lawn Tennis club. That was of course in the days before you had to change your shirt if you had the smallest drop of blood on it.

It just leaves me then to bid you all a very merry Christmas and to leave you with a question. Below is a Feyenoord sticker i spotted on the homeward leg in the loo of the ferry. Those decent chaps on twitter have translated it to 'bastions of censorship'. Does anybody know the relevance of this? I'm guessing the supporters feel the club have kept something quiet!

Have a very happy and peaceful Christmas! God bless.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

We'll saddle for a draw

If any of you had seen my tweets from this morning concerning events happening outside my place of work, you'll understand that today was never going to be a straight forward day.
In fact it had been quite a couple of days really.

After my previous post about Gary Speed, we were privileged enough to read in The Daily Mail (if we waited long enough there had to be something worth reading in there) an article by former Addick Leon McKenzie on his battles with depression. A very brave piece by another true Gentleman of the game.
McKenzie is currently with Kettering Town of the Conference Premier division and is about to retire. I believe next Saturday is his last game of football. May i wish him all the best for the future.

Another highlight of the past couple of days has been the double honours picked up by the club. The gaffer, Chris Powell was awarded the nPower league one manager of the month award for November whilst our awesome (and i don't use that word freely) centre half, Michael Morrison, received the players equivalent. Both very justifiable and both very much deserved. Such a shame the former comes with it's attached stigma. Some would say curse.

On then to an away day that, in the current light, many would have expected to win. Walsall (that's in the West Midlands not Poland by the way) and the Bescot stadium isn't however the simplest of places to go when the home side are desperate for points. And believe me, they are always desperate for points.
Last season we faced them on our final away day of the season and had a certain Julian Gray to contend with!

Back to a strong side after the exploits of the FA cup last weekend, the travelling Addicks faithful were in great voice at kick off and were anticipating another goal fest. Tuning in on CAFC player, we were led to believe that there were over two thousand Charlton supporters in the ground. This did truthfully turn into a far more conservative 1065 but that is still fantastic support for two weeks before Christmas, especially considering the current financial climate we live in.

Last season the ageing Jon Macken (ageing, like i can talk...) caused our defense all kinds of problems and it was to be the experienced striker who opened the scoring today. In fairness it came against the run of play. After an initial shot  from a corner hit one of their own, Macken was there to slot the ball home. Charlton weren't happy but the goal stood. Like i say, some would call it a curse.

Walsall weren't going into the break ahead though. Yann Kermorgant headed home from a cross from loanee Hogan Ephraim just before the interval. On the radio they jested about Chris Powell's ferocious half time team talks and how the players were scared of them. I think the Frenchman proved these BBC commentators right.

With the radio mics left on during the interval, us listeners were treated to the directions to the toilets and how these masters of football commentary all took their coffee. Make a cup of tea yourself and you risked missing a genius piece of broadcasting!

The second half saw goal line clearances, the woodwork hit and a good penalty claim dismissed by the referee. Another day could have seen plenty more goals for both sides but it ended 1-1. And a fair result it was too, even if the Saddlers did finish the game with only ten men.
A point away from home is always a point gained in my book and although Sheffield Wednesday won and closed the gap slightly, we are still five points clear at the top. I can think of twenty three teams in our division who would swap places with us.

It was a good winning streak, six in the league and eight in all competitions, but it had to come to an end at some point. Perhaps we can start another winning run next Saturday when we entertain Oldham.

Come on you reds!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cup fever

If one of our South London rivals can win at Old Trafford, there is no reason why a team that plays far more attractive flowing football (most of the time) can't have a little cup run themselves.

An opportunity to treat a young family member to a rare trip to SE7 also gave rise to my own chance of a little FA cup action yesterday which earlier in the week i didn't think was going to happen.

Carlisle United was one of the least attractive cup ties i can remember in recent years, but after a four nil drubbing in the league back in October, at least goals were on the cards and my young companions 100% Charlton record wasn't in danger.
Even at half time i was still confident of both of these facts.

Little Harry, who will be nine in a couple of weeks time, was introduced to some of the crew in the Rose Of Denmark prior to kick off. Here he was dutifully fed plenty of E numbers opening many a opportunist door for showing off and the chance to behave like a right little geezer. Just like i did at the football at his age!
The quickest of trips into the club shop, just to tantalize him before his birthday, ensued and the conformation that it's the red home shirt (luckily as it's already bought and screen printed) that's top of the birthday present list.

We bought tickets for the west stand as the upper north was closed. In all the years I've been going to Charlton, i don't think I've ever been in the west before, and i admit it was one of the deciding factors. It's now just the north west corner that hasn't hosted my matchday experience, as Harry's last visit saw us in the family stand. Never again.
It is every kids right of passage to experience the atmosphere of a packed upper north in full voice. Next time Harry i promise.

A first half of very little note did nothing to dampen our spirits. For Harry everything was big and colourful, and an almost silent seven thousand odd crowd is still huge if you know no better. I say odd, mainly due to the bloke in front of me who didn't think December warranted long trousers. I was of course tempted to offer him an ice cream, if only you could buy such a thing.

The second half picked up and we got that chance to go crazy when Michael Morrison (i really like this lad) netted at the second attempt after Leon Cort's initial header.
Substitute Jason Euell cemented the win with a very popular goal in stoppage time meaning the number 64 ball in the hat had our name, and our name alone on it.

As far as the team went, Chris Powell picked a stronger side than most sat around me had expected. Cedric Evina and Bradley Pritchard grabbed the chance of a start and showed that we already have the makings of a championship squad with plenty of talent further down the pecking order.

The Carlisle players, staff and fans had a long journey home but the supporters we met were in good spirits on the train back to London Bridge. Early December for a second round cup tie you're expected to lose, and i think four hundred is great support for Carlisle, even if they didn't have any songs to sing!
Whilst we're on the subject of the visitors, they wore yellow for the second time at The Valley this season. Obviously blue clashes with red in these modern days of colour film.

Harry and I returned to the outback here in Surrey in time for a visit to the Laser Hub in honour of his sisters birthday. I gallantly played the part of Carlisle and lost.

Fulham away then in the third round. It's a couple of days before my birthday, so with a little bit of luck I'll be able to get my grubby hands on a ticket and make a day of it.
I feel it's a great draw and the perfect opportunity to see just how far Chris Powell's red and white army have come. A winnable game and an away day London derby. Heaven.

The only downer of the weekend was Sutton United losing at home to Notts County. Again! A decent crowd and the TV cameras of ESPN meant some well deserved cash coming in and from what I've read, Sutton certainly deserved to be on the same pitch as their more illustrious visitors.
The third round draw produced it's normal amount of gems today and once Christmas is out of the way we get to do it all over again.

The FA cup, i love it. Que sera sera............