Sunday, July 28, 2013

Inver respect of Paddy.

If I lived in the Highlands of bonnie Scotland I'd jump at the chance of spending a weekend away in the bright lights of London to watch my football club. About a hundred or so of the Inverness Caledonian Thistle faithful did just this and made the very long journey to South London as their club took up the invitation for a pre-season friendly which Charlton then doubled up as a testimonial match for former winger and Valley groundsman Colin Powell. It's a shame so few of the home 'faithful' did the same.

The club opened the East, Lower West and Lower North stands but in all honesty could have squeezed us all in just the one. Having looked at the club web site it appears nobody is actually keen to publish the exact attendance. Watch me get all political but I'd love to imagine the crowd would have been equally as low if we'd hosted Real Madrid at sixty quid a head.

The two teams gave Colin Powell a guard of honour, those present clapped and cheered gallantly, I know he is a player from a long time back now, and only the groundsman, but it was still pretty embarrassing. A little like our search for a striker.

Adamo Coulibaly has signed for Lens after looking rather impressive for us on his week's trial. Lens of course have that missing ingredient, the money to pay him, although I believe very early contract discussions broke down due to the hindrance of awkward communication with an agent. Next up on the trial stakes, Simon Church a striker released by Reading.

I firmly believed I'd see this Welsh striker for at least an hour yesterday, I never expected the lad to be missing completely. We lined up with that defensive old 4-5-1 formation which I fear we'll see home and away this season with unwelcome regularity. This didn't bode well for our pursuit to fill the vacant number nine and ten shirts with less than a week to go until the competition proper starts. Would there be a better opportunity for the gaffer to cast his eye over a potential signing? It hit me like a bullet at three o'clock Saturday that this really is it, we haven't as they say got a pot to urinate in.

Church did eventually appear today for a 'strong' Charlton XI at Ebbsfleet alongside another trialist, former Tranmere Rovers forward Adam McGurk. The Northern Irish front man had been on trial with Birmingham prior to this but they didn't see him as worthy of a contract. I very much doubt they'll be an announcement on either of these two from us either, Chris Powell has lost out on his targets through no fault of his own and it does appear like he's clutching at straws as we sieve through the dregs of what's left, no offense intented. I'm starting to feel a little jealous of the New York Red Bulls for their acquisition and celebration of Bradley Wright-Phillips now.

Yann Kermorgant may well feel the same. With every ball he won and every nod down he completed he looked more and more frustrated. Fitness and injury avoidance were obviously contributing factors but there was no-one to pick these balls up and take them goal-wards.

If this was Powell's preferred starting eleven (Saturday obviously, not today) for next week then there was little inspiration. Cort surprisingly wasn't at the back, Dervite and Morrison taking up the center berth. I was impressed how we switched from four at the back to just three as we ventured forward, it was almost seamless at times, but there were occasions when communication between keeper and defenders was minimal at best. Mark Gower sat in the heart of midfield with Jackson and Stephens, they were flanked by Pritchard and Harriott. The passing was neat but the lack of ideas was a worry. Yes it's still a friendly but Inverness are a good stern quality test, they certainly showed we still have some cracks which could prove costly, especially with this lack of firepower.

Nobody can question the passion, after giving a soft goal away we threw everything forward, Kermorgant especially, showing facial expressions of hurt and irritation. It's clear they don't like losing no matter how friendly the fixture. As a game though it was a non event, unfortunately similar as a showpiece to the recognition of the day.

On the plus side, it was great to take the London Bridge train from home full of expectation of a good day of football and beer once again. We had a few ales and VAT's post game and I can happily report all is looking good, my tolerance is of matchday requirement. I'm just about there and raring to go.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cherry Red

It felt like the other Kingston tonight, not the one residing upon the Thames. A shatteringly hot day in South London, who'd have thought the Cherry Red stadium was named after a record label and not the colour of our heads after all this sun.

My first ever visit (I think) to the ground which many know by the name of Kingsmeadow and I have to say I enjoyed it. I did once watch Sutton United in a Surrey Senior Cup final at Kingstonian's ground in the late eighties but I think that may have been their old Richmond Road ground. We stood tonight down the length of the pitch in a terrace with a low roof built for noise and atmosphere. This would be a great ground to get drawn at in a cup match.

It was the other team from Kingston, AFC Wimbledon that hosted Charlton this evening though, the Addicks first teams third pre-season friendly and the first since returning home from Spain.

Charlton put out a strong side which featured both our trialists from the off. Richard Wood partnered Leon Cort at the heart of the defence while Yann Kermorgant lined up alongside Adamo Coulibaly, a fellow Frenchman who has spent the last four seasons in Hungary playing for Debreceni VSC. A tall powerful front man with a good turn of pace, the 31 year old is only with Charlton for a week and hopes to impress. He got a good hour in tonight but is a week or two behind the rest of the squad when it comes to fitness.

As is the case with pre-season friendlies, the football was quite low key and the challenges mild. Moments of note were few and far between but Wimbledon had by far and away the best chance of taking the lead when a good ball from just outside their box from a lad with a little Jason Lee pineapple thing going on put through their striker who rounded the keeper and had the easiest of finishes to put it away but somehow hit the foot of the post instead, up there with Ronny Rosenthal. It transpires apparently that Button clipped him and the home side were claiming it worthy of a spot kick. Just looked like a comical miss to us.

Danny Green put the visitors in front with a lovely strike a little later, only for Wimbledon to equalise on the half hour as the Charlton defending went to pieces. A lad on the back post was ignored by all and left alone to calmly nod home when the ball floated over everyone else. Stealth like he was, except to the three hundred travelling fans, we all saw him.

The highlight of the second half except for the officials change of tops (from murky white/grey to yellow) was a sublime piece of skill from Kermorgant. He won the ball on the edge of the box from a Dons defender, turned and tried to chip the keeper. Chip him he did but unfortunately the ball went just over the bar, it was exquisite and deserved a bigger result.

Speaking of shirts, we saw tonight the new N**e home shirt for the first time and I must confess, it looks a lot better on a football pitch than it does on a mannequin (or for that matter an overweight fifty-something on a terrace). It did help that it wasn't violated with either a shirt sponsor or a players surname although that little peek through a retro keyhole won't last for long!

The linesman on our side made a name for himself with his balding head, his rather large waistband and his total lack of understanding as to why a goal kick is awarded. He then proceeded to lose his rag with Bradley Pritchard while the Charlton player was warming up for reasons only he could know. He got quite heated and for a moment looked capable of a Basil Fawlty explosion. Needless to say from this moment on he was heckled non stop.

The final whistle blew and one youngster next to us hurdled the advertising hoardings and ran onto the pitch, not to cause a disturbance but for a laugh and to show off to his mates. This kid didn't really know what to do once there and circled the players before legging it as a steward walked towards him. Good old Kingston police, they must have a quiet life as when we exited the ground one bobby was making it his sole purpose of the week to find this youth and lay the law down. Never have I seen a more peaceful pitch invasion or such an unnecessary manhunt.

A 1-1 draw in summer evening sunshine, a pint or two with friends I haven't seen for far too long, yes football is back. The pre season is as much for the fans to get back into it gently as it is the players. Me, I'm feeling almost match fit already.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Goals, Goals, Goals.

And so it's begun. Charlton Athletic are not only back in training but are kicking footballs on a pitch in front of paying spectators. And doesn't it feel good!

The first team have now had three matches, the traditional opener at Welling United followed by a now nearly traditional trip to Spain where they've faced a Gibraltar XI and Scottish Premier League side St Mirren.

At Welling a healthy crowd saw a five goal show from the visitors with young Joe Pigott bagging a hat trick and causing a minor storm on twitter with the #feedthepig hashtag.

A two-nil victory at Gibraltar's national stadium followed by this morning by a four-nil convincing victory over The Buddies to take our non competitive tally to eleven goals scored, none conceded. Great reading I'm sure you'll agree but I'm still concerned, we've lost Wright-Phillips, Haynes and Fuller yet haven't appeared to do anything about filling that void. Does Chris Powell have a cunning plan to unleash upon returning to our shores?

Haynes has gone to Notts County, young Waggy has gone to Bristol City, everybody seems to be moving in the transfer market except for us. We've signed Mark Gower and brought defender Richard Wood in on trial. I thought we were keen to sign Jonathan Obika permanently, and if that was the case wouldn't that have been one of the quick deals so he could have gone on the gaffers Spanish bonding session?

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to see us sign players for the sake of it, and as I discussed last night with a good friend over a pint of London Pride or two, I'd much rather see youngsters given a chance ahead of loan signings that don't share the club's passion, but isn't Yann Kermorgant our only striker of note at the moment? Pigott, Cook, Smith, Azeez, all strikers on the books but not a Championship first teamer amongst them yet, and love big Yann as I do, he's not a twenty goal a season striker is he.

If a neutral looked at our first three scorelines they'd never ponder such a situation, let alone worry where the goals will come from. We've been blessed of late with midfielders and defenders getting themselves on the score sheet, but if we're going to build on last season we need match winners. Despite Haynes' fitness and Fuller's age, they were for all intents and purposes match winners, they had a bit of class about them and a real presence on the football field.

We shall see, Powell knows his job (and his resources) far better than I do, but surely there's got to be an announcement or two soon hasn't there? We're in grave danger of being left behind. While we're at it, another midfield general and a centre half would be nice but I'll settle for just a striker right now. I keep thinking I've just forgotten someone, this tropical summer heat getting to my head but I've checked the first team squad list to quash this paranoia and sure enough we look as light as I feared.

Perhaps a new front man will arrive in SE7 at the same time as the new kit. Many would assume that if you've picked a design straight out of a catalogue the suppliers would have it on your doorstep very sharpish. And then you remember we're Charlton, not really on Nike's 'A' list of clientele so we can quite happily sell replica's to the supporters and keep the coins entering the sportswear giants pockets but they in return can't quite manage to kit the players out? Well done Nike, your nonchalant sentiment never fails to make me smile, keep it up. Perhaps they are waiting to officially release it at the much anticipated 'club day' on the 21st July. I do hope not.

And so to Wednesday evening, and my first visit to Kingstonian's ground for the friendly against AFC Wimbledon. I've only ever been to one of their fixtures before, a friendly away to Sutton United at Gander Green Lane which was coincidentally their first ever match. I'm quite excited, who knows there's even time between now and then that I could witness the arrival of a new player or even a new shirt.

Then again.......