Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ram Rod

It's a lovely bottled beer from the Young's brewery, mixing with their Special bitter perfectly. It's also an instrument for cleaning the barrel of a firearm, a little more poignant then for Chris Powell who, if speculation is to be believed, is staring down the said barrel as a string of poor results and performances could be numbering his days. Certainly one of his biggest struggles, the art of the substitution, was at the forefront of every conversation around SE7 last night after his teams draw with the Rams.

With the frenzied activities of Christmas and it's extensive run up, it had felt like forever since i'd made a pilgrimage to The Valley. The ladies on the densely populated train towards London Bridge tried their hardest to delay my return even longer by constructing an obstacle course of pushchairs for me to negotiate, never has it taken me so long to depart from a carriage. All of this came after a slight worry that we had broken down as we sat for ten minutes rather ironically outside the monstrous Sehurst train depot. Relentlessly i battled on and made my way to the Rose of Denmark and still in time for a pre match glass of ale and the chance to meet the lads to discuss our Christmases.

The threat of torrential rain and a possible postponement remained (before kick off at least) just that. The game was on and with it the chance to put an end to an unwelcome losing streak. Derby were the visitors, their supporters came equipped with a rather large flag and their players kitted out thankfully in the traditional white shirts. You'll be more than aware of my disgust for the unnecessary use of away kits.

The term 'a great game for the neutrals' is one of those overused football cliches far more suited to Match of the Day than the pages of my blog, but i have to say, this game really was a good spectacle. Solid passing football from the visitors, a wonder goal, a dubious ref giving an equally dubious penalty decision and a subsequent sending off, a final rally and a glaring miss worthy of every football blunders dvd. We may not have had the quantity of goals flying in around the grounds of the Premier League but we certainly had the drama.

Derby were certainly quicker 'out of the blocks' (to boldly steal another MOTD cliche), although they were stunned into silence as Danny Haynes scored a screamer of a goal (possibly THE goal of the season) after some equally good solo work around the edge of the box. He would unfortunately pull up a little later clutching his hamstring. I'm guessing that's about six weeks out as a minimum which is a real shame, Haynes has been a shining light in our side this year.

Chris Powell seemed to still favour the late substitution, it felt like we played for four or so minutes waiting for Bradley Wright-Phillips to replace Haynes during which time Hamer made a superb save as a Derby shirt broke clean through. One of many great saves from our number one, you may believe we threw two points away yesterday, some may say Hamer earned us a point with his man of the match display. If Haynes goal was special, Hamer's double save in the second half was equally breathtaking.

And so we get to Michael Morrison. Should he have played the second forty five in the first place? After a booking and two separate stern words from the match official during the first half, many managers would have hauled him off. I agree you can't change a centre half every time he gets booked, but Morrison yesterday was still struggling to get on top of his game and the more than capable Dorian Dervite was on the bench fully fit and ready. Many of us felt he wouldn't make the full ninety long before the penalty incident. I cannot believe Nigel Clough didn't make our defender a prime topic during his half time team talk urging his players to wind him up and draw a rash challenge out of him.

Previous to the penalty incident Bradley Pritchard had every chance to seal the points for Charlton. We saw how much his goal meant to him against Brighton, yet he couldn't hide his face quick enough after hitting the bar from point blank range, and this was after having a moment to steady himself  and eye up the target. I would like to quash any rumours that my orange cagoule was in some way to blame, dazzling the midfielder from the upper reaches of the North stand.

Charlton's ten men rallied on the counter and dug deep for the final fifteen minutes as Derby sensed all three points were up for grabs but in all honesty we left for home feeling we threw it away, albeit with the help of the man in the yellow jersey. After three defeats in a row we've finally managed to put another point on the board although we have seen December come and go without a victory. They may not have done enough to secure that elusive victory yesterday but they may just have done enough to keep the gaffer in charge for the start of 2013.

I'm feeling strangely confident for Tuesday. Watford look good and Vicarage Road is a tough ground to get a result but i feel we are overdue a slice of luck. I do foresee regular use both home and away of the 4-5-1 formation as Rob Hulse sees his loan expire on Tuesday. This will leave only Kermorgant and the slightly fragile Fuller up front if Wright-Phillips does, as expected, move on during the transfer window.

If goals are going to be harder to come by, then we'll need the likes of Pritchard to be far more composed when the opportunity arises!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

All I want for Christmas is 3 points Boxing Day!

I can only see one down side to being a professional footballer and that's working, or more to the point training, on Christmas morning. I've never managed to ask a player their thoughts on this particular mornings work but i presume it's a monotonous task seeming all the more sluggish when on the back of two long distance away defeats.

Both Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday have beaten us by a two nothing scoreline over the past two Saturdays, our league position slipping dramatically in the process. After just getting our noses into the top half of the table we find ourselves back down in eighteenth, eight points from safety. Many would have predicted a defeat to relegated Bolton, but the Wednesday result is a much harder pill to swallow. The Llera and Semedo factor, the rivalry from last season, the fact they also have been a club that has a glorious past yet has been in the doldrums of the third division for too long, you can find similarities everywhere. Quite simply, and I don't mean to offend, they are relegation fodder who I expect to be scrapping for their lives in a dog fight come the Spring. A point would have been a very realistic expectation here. We have a phrase for yesterday, 'typical Charlton'.

A lot has been said over the past week or so about being the better side for the majority of the game, losing out to wonder strikes, poor refereeing decisions and penalties that should have been awarded. The fact that we haven't taken chances as they've come along frankly hits the nail far more firmly on the head. We can blame the opposition, the officials or even each other until we are blue in the face, the reality of the matter is we haven't got the ball in the net (legally) at any point over those three hours of football.

I'm not stupid enough to link this to Rob Hulse being dropped to the bench for the returning Yann Kermorgant, no matter what my personal preferences, or the constant meddling with the starting eleven. I'm also not stupid enough to get on the Chris Powell isn't good enough bandwagon. I believe we have a very bright young manager that has a lot of potential. He isn't a great manager by any stretch of the imagination but he does have the ability to become one. The art of the perfect tactical substitution will come!

I doubt very much that Brian Clough ever had a softly softly approach on Christmas morning putting his players through their paces just as hard as he would any other day. I hope Chris Powell does the same. If needs be those players need to walk back to the showers on Tuesday thinking the gaffer is a complete b*****d if it means three points against Ipswich on Boxing Day.

Ipswich have started to turn things around of late with a couple of wins away from home plus a drubbing earlier this month of in form Millwall at Portman Road. Certainly no push over and with the arrival of Derby on Saturday followed by a trip to Watford New Years Day, points over this festive season are going to be hard to come by.

It's not all doom and gloom though, we are still only eight points of the last play off spot and I still firmly believe this squad, under this management is more than capable of a top half finish. I would quite happily have taken this position at the beginning of the season as would any Charlton fan with a modicum of common sense. Christmas is the half way stage and we've already shown on numerous occasions that we have the grit and the ability to carve out a future for ourselves at this level for a lot longer yet.

The January sales will begin soon, I very much doubt we'll be bringing new names in although those unsettled amongst our ranks could very well be off to pastures new leaving a more content squad to secure our safety. You forget how many footballers will pack the whole house and family up with the Christmas tree!

Have a great Christmas folks, let's round this year off with some loud vocal support at The Valley and in return Chris Powell's red and white army may well give us the one thing we all want for Christmas, a Charlton win!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Charlton Athletic Miscellany

How much do you know about your club? A pub quiz question shouldn't cause too much of a quandary for most of us, but just consider if that Icelandic (God rest his soul) legend that was Magnus Magnusson had started but not finished a question asking where the tune for "we can see you sneaking out" came from, or even the dates for when the Addicks scored six goals in two consecutive home games. Phoning a friend (don't take offense lads) wouldn't help in my case.

If you're anything like me you'd need some first class assistance, perhaps in the form of a pocket sized book of club trivia. Good news, now there is one.

Full of answers to just about anything, including Cwm Rhondda (Bread of Heaven) and October 28th 1933 Torquay 6-0, followed two weeks later 6-1 against Newport County for those that were wondering, this book doesn't just churn out the standard facts and statistics available to anyone with a facility to Google. This has much much more, the 'heart and soul' type of indispensable historical sustenance that makes a football club what it is today.

Some call it trivia, some would call it a cornerstone. I mean, you need to know how many players with an 'X' in their name have represented the club, or for that matter the Charlton connection inspiring Linda Neighbour of Eltham to choose a name for her new born son in February 1973.

Written by Charlton season ticket holder Matt Eastley and with a foreward from the wonderful Charlton stalwart Keith Peacock, this little gem is a steal at under a tenner, the perfect stocking filler for every Addick and will certainly be an addition to that book shelf in our bathroom that contains everything you'd ever need for a comfortable ten minutes worth of easy reading.

Published by an independent sports publisher from the South coast Pitch Publishing, who can lay claim to having what can only be described as a bible of footballing romance from a bygone age, Got, Not Got the runner up in the '2012 BSBA football book of the year' in their portfolio, not to mention a rather fantastic and charming encyclopedia of Scottish football which is also well worth a quick perusal. Alongside Charlton Athletic Miscellany, they also publish, from the same author, Charlton Athletic On This Day, an intriguing piece of Addicks nostalgia to brighten your breakfast 365 days of the year.

If you fancy buying this delightful little book for a loved one, or even spending that book voucher that Grandma got you for Christmas, it's available from all retailers worth their salt or failing that you can get it from Amazon here. I guarantee you'll still be reading this long after those socks you received have developed holes and have taken residency in the very darkest corners of the underwear drawer.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Big games come and go, yet milestones arrive with a deserved fanfare and live long in local folklore. I am old enough to remember December 5th 1992 quite clearly, many who were young children then (or even not born at all) will feel like they were there, such was the enormity of the day and the achievement.

Years of exile finally over, nomadic Charlton were back in SE7, the blood sweat and tears had paid off. Move on twenty years and the corresponding weekend of the season saw another club with a migratory history rather fittingly, Brighton and Hove Albion visit The Valley to join in with our self indulgent (and quite rightly so) party atmosphere.

Before the kick off and before my arrival, former Charlton greats were introduced on the pitch amidst a bevy of red and white balloons, the club produced another bumper edition and one day collectable(?) matchday magazine (formally known as a programme), the carnival may not have been in town in body but the significance of that day wasn't lost on a soul.
Brighton to their credit showed us some respect, also parading former greats and wearing their blue and white striped shirts which of course don't clash rather than following suit with modern football and wearing an away strip regardless.

A very fine touch, the brainchild of a good friend and fellow blogger Hungry Ted was a spontaneous round of applause at seven minutes past three, the time of the goal from twenty years before, followed by a rousing rendition (still sung far too quickly though) of Valley Floyd Road. I could see Chris Powell in his technical area happily clapping along but it was a tad harder to see if he joined the covered end choir for the anthem.

December, being not only the finale to the the year but also a rather special month in the Christian calendar is always a hectic time for me, blogging plays second fiddle to just about everything else. Hence we had played twice since my last posting, a rather uninspiring win at home to Peterborough and an electric, if slightly undeserved, point at arch rivals Millwall.
The Seagulls were in South London for the second week running and were on the back of a defeat at Selhurst Park. That would have hurt them greatly and consequently seen Charlton as fair game to both turn their fortunes around whilst raining, if not pouring on our parade.

The most noticeable absence from the starting eleven was Leon Cort. Dervite and Morrison were flanked by Solly and Wilson. Kermorgant was on the bench allowing Haynes to partner Hulse up front. My preferred pairing i'm afraid all you Yann lovers!

We survived the 3.07 applause, conceding then didn't bear thinking about,  and five minutes later the home side embraced the fairytale scenario with aplomb. Lawrie Wilson nodded home from a Dale Stephens cross sending the 16,000 Charlton fans into hysteria. This was almost too good to be true.

Brighton had packed the Jimmy Seed stand and just before the half hour mark they erupted as the dangerous Craig Mackail-Smith pounced on an awful (but thankfully rare) Michael Morrison mistake. All level at the break, even if the visitors had the luxury of an extra man in the official. I'm not normally one to get on the back of the referee, it's a job i don't envy, but Mr Sheldrake had an abysmal day at 'the office'. Far too keen to play an 'advantage' when it wasn't always just that, yet happy to blow up every time it benefited the visitors.

Charlton again got their noses in front during the second half. A sublime ball from Dale Stephens to Hulse, in turn setting Jackson up on the left hand side of the box, wrong footed the entire Brighton team. The skipper played it in to Bradley Pritchard who scuffed and stumbled his way over the ball before finding a path for it goal bound. His first goal at The Valley and you could see how much it meant to him as he hung back in front of the north stand and punched the air for all of us.

The delirium was short lived though as Morrison again was the culprit, allegedly upending Ashley Barnes right on the edge of the box. Yann Kermorgant came on before the free kick was taken, i noted to Jim next to me that it was no different a platform to that cardinal sin of making a substitution whilst defending a corner. The change of personnel, the 'dubious' (well from my view anyway) decision in the first place, this ball was going into the net. LuaLua stepped up and used the Charlton wall to his full advantage deflecting the ball past a hapless Ben Hamer. LuaLua somersaulted his way across the pitch in spectacular, if not a little dated, fashion.

Brighton sensed the win was there for the taking and although both sides had chances to snatch the victory it was a relief when the final whistle was blown. It was a good spectacle to watch and a point was a fair return.

With three thousand Brighton supporters expecting to catch the same train as us, we decided to have a post match beer at the Rose of Denmark rather than one of the usual  London Bridge haunts. The quieter train a little later was, however, nothing of the sort. A Brighton 'firm' had decided to hang around SE7 and then join me on my journey back. Not having had enough 'action' last week against Palace obviously, they wanted some more and were desperately trying to arrange another meet. I figured rather than join in with their anti Palace songs i was better off reclining in my anonymity, London Bridge station couldn't come quick enough! A very small minority of course and nothing like the Brighton fans i chatted to on my way to the game drinking their Marks and Spencer Belgian lager. A different class.

Two away days follow, no more home games until Boxing Day. I said a month or two back that we'd be top half by Christmas. We are now.