Wednesday, 5 December 2012

An Emotional Return

December 5th 1992 was a day of mixed emotions for me.  As a Charlton fan, the elation I felt making the walk along Floyd Road, was immense.  Particularly as for a good few years it was uncertain as to whether this moment would even be possible.  The day was also tinged with more than just a little bit of sadness.

I was quite a sickly child.  For the first ten years of my life I was constantly in and out of hospital with severe bouts of respiratory difficulties.  My parents were in a constant state of worry and took the decision to have me tutored at home rather than send me to school.  My father was exceptionally good friends with a former school master from East Ham who agreed to take on the role as my tutor.

Now, despite being from West Ham, Michael King, my tutor, was a huge fan of Charlton Athletic.  The first memory I have of The Valley was when we took a break from lessons and we went for a walk.  We strolled past the station and into Floyd Road and came upon this huge structure that to me, looked so out of place.  But I was awestruck.  I remember walking up to the gates and pressing my face between the bars, just trying to get a look at as much as I could.  Michael said that he would be willing to take me to a game if my parents agreed.

So Michael fulfilled his promise and he became the first person to take me to watch a football match.  I remember little of it.  As a child it was often hard to see what was going on when surrounded by hundreds of men on a football terrace.  I do remember being more interested in the atmosphere than the game itself. The singing of songs, the shouts and cheers, and having a snigger to myself when hearing the odd swear word.

My relationship with Charlton had begun, and there were many more trips to The Valley with Michael, who often brought along his own son, and occasionally would convince my father to come along with us too. As I grew older and started to understand the game more and more, I wanted to talk about football with Michael all the time.  He was very disciplined however, and would always ensure that my academic education came first, and my football education second.

My parents moved us away from Charlton in 1983.  By this time I was a regular at The Valley for the majority of home games.  Getting to Charlton from Eden Park in Beckenham was a fairly straight-forward journey yet my parents, still worrying over my health, point black refused to let me make the trip without an adult to accompany me.  Luckily Michael came to my rescue, on match days he drove from his home in East Ham, took me on the 54 bus to Charlton Village where we made the short walk down the hill to The Valley.

By the time the club had moved to Selhurst Park, I was going to a mainstream secondary school.  It seemed I had outgrown many of my childhood health issues, yet Michael was still a huge part of my life.  Despite declaring he would never visit Selhurst Park, Michael continued to escort me to matches.  Standing in the Arthur Waite was never the same.  The football on the pitch was of a higher quality than we'd seen for some time, but the surroundings were all wrong.  We watched a number of matches at Selhurst Park, attending most home games, yet we longed, as other fans did, for a return to The Valley.

Unfortunately Michael became ill in 1990 and eventually passed away after being diagnosed with cancer.  We had talked much about the return home. Roger Alwen's declaration of our return probably had most Charlton fans fired up and desperate to go home.  Eventually it became a reality, but Michael was not there to share that amazing day with me.  It's something I regret a great deal. We should have walked side by side through those gates in 1992, yet it wasn't to be.

My father offered to take me to the match on that day.  Of course I accepted, and in fact other than Michael, there isn't a single person that I would rather have been with.  The entire day was a roller-coaster of emotion.  It was amazing to see the work that had been done on the stadium.  The smell of the food vendors brought back great memories, and bumping into a few friends that I had not seen in years all helped to make a fantastic day. Colin Walsh helped cap a perfect return for Charlton and the majority of it's fans.  For me it wasn't quite perfect, but I know Michael would have approved of the homecoming had he been there to experience it with me.

I want to close by giving my thanks to everybody who worked so tirelessly to bring about our return to The Valley.  It's amazing what a group of dedicated people can do.  Not only did they give us hope during the wilderness years, they turned our dream of going home into a reality.

But most of all I'd like to say thanks to Michael King, if it wasn't for him, I would probably be another West Ham fan!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Journey

Tuesday's match has been reported in just about every way possible, but the game was so astonishing that I had to put down a few words about it myself.

It's rare that I embark on the long trip to The Valley for a night game.  It's rarer still that I have to return home to the West Country immediately afterwards.  This was the position I found myself in on Tuesday.  The evening was organised by a fellow Addick and long time friend of mine, and originally I was meant to be commandeering his spare room for the night.  The best laid plans sometimes go awry and a local appointment that could not be re-arranged meant a three hour plus journey home after the match could not be avoided.

Two minutes into the game I was already questioning my sanity for making the journey.  Cardiff grabbed their first goal with little resistance.  Thus ensued one of the worst 30 minutes of football that I can remember in some time.  Whilst I acknowledge the patched up nature team, the 11 men in the Charlton colours looked like virtual strangers.  No surprise then when Cardiff added their second.  At this point, the thought of the trip back down the M4 was starting to look like a grim prospect.

I am generally an optimist, so I tried to put the lonely sojourn to the back of my mind and thought that if we could snatch a goal back before half-time, we might have a small chance of getting something out of the game.  As if on cue, Johnnie Jackson, would must have been inspired by the amazing support coming from the covered end, belted home his first of the game and I exploded with a mixture of joy and relief and jumped up to celebrate the goal.  A mixture of the home support and being buoyed by their first goal saw the Addicks starting to play football, which culminated in Jackson's second on the stroke of half time.

As the teams walked into the tunnel at half-time, I looked around at fans in my vicinity and the looks of bemusement were on almost every single face, mine included.  My smile was understandably huge, but I wasn't quite sure how we managed to pull ourselves back into a game we looked completely out of. Not only did Cardiff race into a deserved 2-0 lead, but they missed enough chances to put the game out of reach.  At 2-2, I had completely forgotten about the future liaison with my car.

I was expecting an improvement in the second half, though nobody could have predicted such a superb display of attacking football that saw us net three times in 11 minutes.  I've been banging the drum about using a more attacking strategy in our home matches, and the team certainly did not disappoint.  I kept looking wide-mouthed at the scoreboard which, for 25 minutes, was showing 5-2, and was almost having to pinch myself before I could believe it.  With the Covered End urging the team on through a chorus of 'we want six', each attack we had felt like the fans might get their wish, but in the end it was not to be.

Games involving our team are rarely straight-forward, and when the fourth official held up the board and indicated six additional minutes would have to be played, I have to say, I couldn't prevent myself from taking in a big gulp of air.  A number of both sets of fans had already left the stadium when Cardiff scored their third and fourth goal, and that feeling of 'here we go again' was definitely hanging in the air.

Thankfully, we hung on and grabbed the vital three points and I was able to walk back to my car with a spring in my step.  After a quick stop for a very large latté, I made my way home on a mixture of caffeine and euphoria coursing through my body.  Even after arriving home I found it hard to sleep with the entire evenings events playing themselves out over and over as I laid my head on the pillow.  I can't help feeling that I was so close to one of the worst journeys ever, but thanks to the resolve of the players, it was actually quite a pleasure.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Can we have a re-think please?

We were taught a real lesson today.  Middlesbrough came to The Valley with an impressive record.  In fact they had won five of their last seven games.  It was easy to see why.  Mowbray's side played with a confidence and style that us Addicks could only dream of right now.  But more importantly they had an aura of positivity about them.

It's becoming clear that if we want to kick on in this league, we are going to have to seriously reconsider our approach.  Whilst I understand caution, I'm certain that our current strategy is doing us more harm than good.  I don't think damage limitation exercises are going to keep us in this division.

Looking up the table it seems obvious to me that 'having a go' at teams is where the benefits lie.  Those teams that are bold enough to take the risks are flourishing, whilst those that have a more negative approach are finding life that much more difficult.  This is especially evident when looking at our home form and results.

I think the reason our home form is so terrible is because we are not being adventurous enough.  I've always felt that a home team should have the impetus, should take advantage of the conditions and drive the game. Unfortunately we just do not do that.  Too often we are chasing the game instead of dictating it.

Away from home our form is significantly better.  This does not surprise me however.  The standard strategy for an away team is to soak  up the pressure, keep the home side out for as long as possible, and hope to nick a goal at the earliest opportunity.  The way Powell sets out his side does that very well, but it's not a tactic that I can see working well as the home side.  There has to be a more positive approach.

Currently it is only our away form keeping us out of the bottom three.  In fact, if there was a league table which was based on home form only, we would be in the bottom two, four points adrift of the safety zone.  On the flip-side, if we were to look at a table based on away form only, we would be in the top ten.  In my opinion this clearly highlights a huge issue.

We have reached a point in the season where we have to start making some bold decisions.  Would it be such a huge gamble to instruct the team to take our home games by the scruff of the neck and really go for it?  I think not.  Two points from a possible eighteen at home proves that a complete re-think is necessary.  It remains to be seen whether change is forthcoming, but what is there to lose?

Cardiff's away form isn't special, in fact they have lost three of their last four on the road.  Now is the perfect time for us to make changes.  Let the team off the leash a bit so they can show us what they've got.  Let's start laying siege to opposition's goals BEFORE we go one behind.  I want to stop saving our best performances for when we are a goal down (today was an exception to that rule obviously).

This Charlton side does have the necessary qualities to stay in the division, I just don't think they are being utilised properly right now.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Paddy Kenny Show

Paddy Kenny ensured the Addicks could only muster a draw at Elland Road last night, with an outstanding display between the sticks for Leeds United.

The stopper denied Bradley Wright-Phillips on two occasions late on to deny Charton a deserved win. Chris Solly also came close but Kenny, on his 500th appearance in all competitions, was having a blinder.

After a poor home performance against Barnsley a reaction was required and by all accounts there was a marked improvement.

Powell made several changes to the team which included bringing in Dorian Dervite to sit in front of the back four and Cedric Evina was handed a start at left-back (hallelujah). Rob Hulse was the preferred option in the lone striker role with Fuller out injured.

The Addicks went behind thanks to a sweet strike from David Norris. Debutant Dervite grabbed the equaliser managing to find the net through a sea of legs in the box.

It was a well needed point and after the dismal display on Saturday the result can give us some confidence going into the Wolves game at the weekend.

Typically Charlton have saved some of their better performances for the bigger teams this season. I'm hoping we can keep up that trend and cause a bit of an upset at Molineux.

Although I'm only looking for us to survive this season, I would feel a lot more comfortable if we could just edge our way up the table a wee bit.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Unexpected Celebrations

Charlton's unpredictable form continues with an unexpected win at Blackpool.  Chris Powell opted to change his line-up which saw BWP dropped to the bench. New loanee Abdul Razak given his first start in a role that played him just off frontman Fuller.

Both goals came in the second half. Leon Cort headed home from a Dale Stephens corner, and Chris Solly rifled one home from 20 yards, a great way to open his scoring account.

It was a well needed result. After missing two fantastic opportunities to pick up maximum points, a win was a welcome result, and by all accounts well deserved.

We now need to find some consistency in this division, but with the international break, we have no match until we entertain Barnsley at The Valley on the 20th October. This means we lose our momentum, but it also means the team has extra time to work with the newest formation and Razak's role within that.

By all accounts the Man City youngster did well without being outstanding yesterday. I strongly believe that he could be a key figure in our team this season. He is a player full of promise and if Powell can get the best out of him, he can only be a good addition to the squad.

The biggest downer of the day was the injury to Danny Green. Since his appearance in the first team we have looked a more balanced side. I hope things are not too serious as with only Waggy as our wide cover, it probably means reverting to a central midfielder playing wide.

If the decision was mine, I might be tempted to move Wilson forward, bring in Evina at left-back and restore Solly to his correct position. It's unlikely that Powell will do this, but I feel it will allow us to keep the width in the side.

The table looks a bit better today. Our win propelled us five places up the table into 15th position. The likes of Bolton, Birmingham, Millwall and MASSIVE Sheffield Wednesday all sit below us, so all in all, things are looking okay.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Dropped points but staying positive.

So another game that we should probably have won slips by, and the league table doesn't make for great reading. As with Blackburn on Saturday, Watford were there for the taking, yet somehow we failed to capitalise.

Clearly our problem is a lack of goals. Only Ipswich, who languish in the bottom three, have scored fewer. Looking at our goals against column, we can take heart that there are teams above that have shipped more.

It therefore appears that if we can address our failure to convert chances, we might be able to pull ourselves out of this predicament. Ricardo Fuller is doing his part but things aren't going so well for BWP who has struggled thus far.

It's hard to lay the blame at Bradley's door entirely as he has been a victim of both the wrong system and a lack of quality service. Admittedly he has missed some chances that he might have buried during the last campaign, but his work rate this term has generally been good.

Maybe he is a good League One striker trying to punch above his weight? The same could be said for a number of our players if course, though I think Brad just needs a goal to kickstart things.

More disappointing than our results has been the reaction of some of our 'fans'. With less than 10 games played a section of the supporters are already on the teams back. Ben Hamer was subject to some abuse on Twitter last night, and there are many negative comments to be heard around the ground and on social networking sites.

I believe that fans have the right to air their views, though I think personal attacks via Twitter do more harm than good. The team are working hard right now but we are falling short on a bit of quality and we are desperate for a little slice of luck.

Our team needs us to show support, to get behind them. They do not need the added pressure of fans being on their backs. The effort is most definitely there and if we keep it up things will improve, I'm sure of it.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Derby Woes

Derby County ensured Charlton suffered their third defeat in as many games in a five goal thriller at Pride Park. A second half fightback wasn't good enough for the Addicks who really need to start putting in that type of performance for 90 minutes.

Chris Powell might have have surprised some fans with his team selection. Cedric Evina was left on the bench, preferring right-back Solly in the left-back position with Lawrie Wilson covering for Solly on the right.

Danny Green was given a deserved start after his second half cameo against Palace. Although his first half performance was limited by Derby's dominance, he played a big part in the turn-around by scoring one and making one.  Yann Kermorgant added a second but the Addicks couldn't find an equaliser in the final 20 minutes.

Charlton looked a better side after a double substitution on 60 minutes which introduced Fuller and Kerkar in place of BWP and Hollands. The changes seemed to give more balance to the side and Johnnie Jackson looked far more comfortable after being pushed into the central role vacated by Hollands.

Overall it was another disappointing night for Charlton fans, though they should be buoyed by the comeback. Powell would be silly not to start with the XI that finished the match in the upcoming game against Ipswich.

My only reservation is that we still have Solly playing out of position. You have to fear for the squad we have, or more particularly for the lack of confidence Chris Powell clearly has with his back-up players. Evina must be bitterly disappointed that he hasn't been given a chance under the circumstances.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Palace Reflection

I think most of us were hoping to get something from Friday nights game, and whilst it was disappointing to see one of our neighbours ruin our night and steal all three points, it would be harsh to say it was an undeserved victory for Crystal Palace.

Freedman had his troops well drilled for the occasion and as much as I hate to admit it, on the night, Palace were faster to every ball, played some neat football, and had more desire than their opponents in the red shirts.  In Bolasie and Zaha they had players who not only frightened the hell out of our defence with their movement and quick feet, they also exploited our lack of natural width.

These two players picked up balls in wide areas time and again and put us under great pressure at the back, though their end product often left much to be desired.  One thing they clearly demonstrated however, was how much of an asset it is to have players that are comfortable playing on the flanks.  It was all too easy for them as our own lack of wide men left them bearing down on our full backs on countless occasions.

As has been the case for some time with this current side, Charlton were forced to play a very narrow game.  Jackson and Pritchard are not wingers, they are just some half decent midfielders doing their best to perform that role for their team.  I have no doubt that both players give everything they have in each and every game, but unfortunately they are always going to have the tendency to drift inside, leaving too much space to be exploited along the touchline.

Palace also left lots of space on the wings.  Zaha and Bolasie are not known for performing their defensive duties well, and it seemed obvious to me that if we could get more play down the flanks, we could put their full backs under more pressure.  Sadly, Powell didn't seem to notice this until very late on, and Danny Green's appearance was too little too late.

It is often the case that using the width of the pitch helps to create more space in the middle of the park.  Wide men can pull the opponents midfielders out of position and gives more options for attacking play.  With central players dragged out towards the flanks, we can then turn the ball inside for our own midfield players to create something.  Dale Stephens had a decent game, but I felt his range of passing was limited by the lack of passing options available to him when he was on the ball.

On the occasions we did manage to get crosses into the box, we caused them problems.  Most of our crosses however came from our full backs who made their own space, but often we relied on longer balls being pumped into the box rather than attempting to play to the goal line to get the more dangerous crosses in.

Danny Green may not be our most consistent player, but once he was introduced and started linking up with Wilson, it was no surprise that we had more joy going forward, to the point where we did actually have the opportunities to level the game.  I can't help thinking that had Green started or made an appearance sooner, we might have given ourselves more of a chance.

Of course it's very easy to make these assessments after the game is done and dusted, but our lack of width has been a weak point for some time.  It needs addressing.  If Powell is not comfortable enough with the wingers we do have in the squad, then he should have brought someone in that he does have some faith in.  I know our transfer activity has been limited, but a wide player had to be a priority if he didn't want to use what we had already.

Losing this game is not the end of the world, there is such a long way to go, and I do feel that we have the tools to ensure we survive this season, but lessons have to be learned, and Powell needs to now show us that he can see what many of us have noticed and to take some decisive action in future matches.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Charlton 0 - 0 Hull

Charlton maintained their unbeaten run in the League by earning a draw against Steve Bruce's Hull City.  On a day when the weather took a turn for the worse, both teams battled on despite torrential rain and some appalling conditions on the pitch.

Hull had the better of the chances overall and had it not been for some excellent goalkeeping by Charlton ace Ben Hamer, City may have just nicked it, though a draw seemed a fair result judging by the radio commentary.  Hamer made a string of good saves including winning a one on one against Sone Aluko who probably should have done better.

Charlton had the ball in the net after Kermorgant pounced on a rebound after a good run and shot by Bradley Wright-Phillips.  Unfortunately for the Addicks Kermorgant was adjudged to be offside and the goal was ruled out.  Replays showed that the referee's assistant got it wrong and the goal should have stood, though that might have been a bit harsh on Hull who deserved to take a point from the game.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Tigers visit The Valley

Hull City are Charlton's next opponents at The Valley on Saturday.  After narrowly losing to Blackburn in midweek, the Tigers will be looking to bounce back immediately and put a stop to the Addicks good start to the season.

The teams haven't met too much in recent years.  In fact in the last 20 years we have only faced each other on four occasions.  The good news is that Charlton were unbeaten in each of those meetings having won twice and managed two draws.

Our last meeting at The Valley ended one a piece with the Madjid Bougherra rescuing a point for the home side.  Those present might remember the game for the sending off of on loan Manchester City player (and former Addick of course) - Danny Mills.

The game was largely forgettable but Mills decided to add some drama to the affair. Already on a yellow card, and after a number of clashes with Hull players, Mills was eventually given his marching orders for whispering sweet nothings into the ref's ear after yet another incident.

This game might be a tougher test than some might think.  Hull may not be up there in terms of quality with Birmingham or Leicester, but Steve Bruce's sides are usually well organised and the game will not be a walkover.  I'm hoping that our extra recovery day will help us to keep our unbeaten run going.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Addicks edge it

Leicester City were left to rue their missed chances after an entertaining encounter at The Valley last night.  Leicester started the better side but the Addicks managed to grab a goal against the run of play when Bradley Pritchard fed his namesake, Wright-Phillips, who turned and shot low to the keepers right hand side.  The ball was perfectly placed and weighted, and Kasper Schmeichel had no chance of keeping it out.

Yann Kermorgant added a second from a Rhoys Wiggins throw-in.  The ball bounced off the head of a Leicester defender and much to the away fans annoyance, Kermo banged it into the roof of the net.  The Addicks could have had a couple more during the first half with Leon Cort going close with a header and Wright-Phillips putting a shot wide.  Leicester created little during the first period though some of their play was neat and tidy.

If Charlton fans were not already in a buoyant mood, then the appearance of Ricardo Fuller on the pitch at half time may have lifted more spirits.  It was announced that Fuller has signed for the Addicks on an initial one-year deal.  A very astute signing by Powell in my opinion.  Fuller has had his share of injury problems, including a back issue that prevented him from joining Charlton when he was a 19 year old.  But at 32, he is by no means finished, and I think he can definitely do a job for us in this division.

The second half was a totally different affair altogether.  Nigel Pearson made a double substitution with Andy King and David Nugent replacing the ineffective Matt James and Jermaine Beckford.  It didn't take too long for the visitors to pull one back with both substitutes linking up and King fired in from a Nugent centre.  The goal had been coming, and having the two goal cushion at the end of the first half was enough to ensure we didn't share the spoils.

The Foxes played some great football and created bags of chances but a mixture of good defending and poor finishing meant they would leave South London empty handed.  A draw would have probably been the fairest result but after the heartbreak of losing an injury time goal to Birmingham, we'll take the three points thanks.

To have four points after our first couple of games is a great start, particularly as we have faced two of our toughest opponents in this division.  We lived dangerously at times, Leicester are obviously a very good side at this level, and we have to take our hats off to our players who never stopped running.

Yann Kermorgant will be particularly pleased with himself knowing he grabbed the winning goal, but his celebration will only help to darken his reputation with the Foxes fans, if that's even possible.  After the ball hit the net, the Frenchman wheeled away towards the away fans with his finger to his lips to silence the boos that rang out when his name was announced.  It was a well taken goal and it shows what the player can do if left with that much space in the box.

Hopefully our players will not have to endure too many barrages like we saw in the second half last night, but what it does highlight is the importance of taking your chances when they come.  We didn't do that at Birmingham on Saturday, had we done so, we might have been sitting at the top of the table, though third at this early stage of the season is good enough for me.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Hayes to Bees

Just wanted to say a quick word about Paul Hayes who moved to Brentford on a free transfer yesterday.  Paul signed for us in June last year to partner Bradley Wright-Phillips up front, and he played a vital role in getting us off to a great start last season.  Hayes took a while to get going during the pre-season and  I admit that I unfairly judged him too quickly on those performances (for which I apologised for later), but once he found his feet, he looked like an accomplished pro.

Hayes was in the starting line-up when the season kicked off, and although he was never going to be a prolific goal scorer, his partnership with Wright-Phillips obviously worked and his all round general play was excellent.  He did the simple things well.  He is was a good passer of the ball, could hold up the ball, and his link-up play was very very good.  He merited his place in the team.

Fast forward to September, and the arrival of Yann Kermorgant and we see where it started to go wrong for Hayes.  Yann made his mark during the 1-1 draw at MK Dons.  He came on as a substitute for Hayes when we were losing 1-0, and three minutes later he had levelled the game for us.  From that point on, Hayes struggled to get back into the team.  Yann improved game after game and you cannot blame Powell for leaving Hayes out, it would have been a brave manager to leave Kermorgant out, he was a big player for us last season.

It's a shame that we couldn't accommodate Paul, but I think Powell has done the right thing by letting him go on a free transfer.  It's not fair to hold him back when he does still have something to offer as a player.  I know the Brentford fans well having lived in that neck of the woods for a few years.  He will get a big welcome at Griffin Park, and I'm sure he will do well there.  I would like thank him for his efforts as a Charlton player and wish him good luck for the future.

It doesn't get any easier!

Our difficult start to the new season continues with a visit from Leicester City.  The Foxes are an established side in this division now with high hopes of promotion.  After significant investment in the Club, Leicester are on a sound financial footing with a group of players that have the potential to win the division.  Nigel Pearson, who masterminded their League One winning season, is back at the helm after a brief hiatus to Hull, and big things are expected of them this season after only managing to finish 9th at the end of last campaign.

Leicester City is  a club well known by Chris Powell after spending a couple of years there as both a player and a coach.  Powell speaks of Pearson as one of his mentors and it's clear Chris holds him in high regard.  It is because of Powell's links to Leicester that we have both Michael Morrison and Yann Kermorgant at the club having worked with both players when he was part of the Foxes set up.  Powell obviously spotted potential in both players and an ethic that would fit his style of play as they were instrumental in our rise to the Championship.

Leicester fans always speak highly of Morrison who made a total of 89 appearances for the club in all competitions.  The same cannot be said of Kermorgant however.  Unfortunately Yann was castigated by the fans after missing a penalty during the 2010 play-off semi-final against Cardiff.  The Frenchman attempted an audacious lob which the keeper saved with ease.  Little is made of Leicester's following penalty which was also missed and Cardiff would have gone on to the final anyway, but for some reason Yann got all the flack for it.  Still, their loss is our gain.

Charlton fans will be very familiar with Leicester's current left-back.  Paul Konchesky.  Paul played 138 matches for the Addicks during Alan Curbishley's tenure as manager.  In fact Konchesky was the youngest player to appear for us until the record was taken from him by Jonjo Shelvey a few years later.  Konchesky got frustrated with his lack of first team appearances in his favoured left-back position and was eventually moved on.  Unfortunately for Paul, there was a certain Chris Powell who was our first choice, and it was always going to be difficult to dislodge him.  I actually always preferred Konchesky as a winger anyway.

Games between our two clubs are normally tight affairs.  In fact over the past 10 years we have met on five occasions.  Four of those matches ended in draws though we did manage to beat them the last time we met at The Valley, a 2-0 victory with goals from big Chris Iwelumo and Luke Varney who now plays at Leeds United.

After a tough match against Birmingham we will need to be on our game tonight.  Leicester picked up three points against Peterborough on Saturday and will be looking to build on that.  I do think however that we have a decent chance to pick up our first win of the season.  The Valley was a fortress last season and we always raise our game against tougher opposition.  It should be a good game, and I have my fingers crossed that we just edge it by the odd goal.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

We'll take the point...

I made the short trip up to St. Andrews today with much trepidation.  I have pondered over and over whether this current team would be able to ply their trade in the Championship, or were wholesale changes needed.  Today went some way to answering that question, and although in the main, things looked positive, it wasn't all rosy.

The stand out feature of our League One winning season was our defence, and it will be something that could go on to shape our season one way or the other.  With the back line facing players of a higher quality than before, I was interested to see how Morrison and Co. fared.  Having Cort fit for the game was a good bonus.  I had anticipated seeing a replacement, but I felt very reassured when I saw him warming up.  Little did I know at this point that his contribution was going to be about more than just his defensive abilities.  We defended well today, though I think our back four will have tougher days.  Neither team had much cutting edge going forward, but the Birmingham attackers definitely had the quieter afternoon.

Our general play was good.  We passed the ball around well, got into some great positions, and fired in some decent crosses.  The movement was good, and as already stated the defence were solid enough and seemed to be working well as a unit.  Unfortunately however we were poor in front of goal.  Both Wright-Phillips and Kermogant had chances to snatch a goal, but a rush of blood prevented them from getting off the mark.  Jackson also had chances, yet couldn't keep his cool enough to find the back of the net.

When the goal did come it was courtesy of a game of head tennis in the Birmingham City area.  The ball bounced off a couple of players and Cort stole in at the post and nodded it past Butland.  It wasn't exactly pretty, but it sent the away fans wild regardless.  It had been a long wait for the goal, though nobody could deny that it was well deserved.  We had dominated proceedings for long periods, and for all Lee Clark's pre-season waffle, Birmingham didn't look prepared for the match.  They looked short of fitness, and certainly didn't look like a team that finished 4th last season.

Birmingham's equaliser came courtesy of some tired legs.  Credit to Zigic, his strike was clean, but the boys at the back were struggling by this point after giving their all for 90 minutes.  I don't want to be harsh by saying that it was poor defending, it may have been, but I definitely feel that exhaustion had a major part to play.  Zigic was a handful the minute he was brought on.  It's the first time I've seen the big Serb in the flesh.  He really is a lump, but what a great weapon to have in your arsenal, not only can he put himself about, he can find the back of the net as well.

Overall I think we deserved to win the game.  We had the majority of play, created the best chances, and honestly I think that if we can play of a similar quality for the next 45 games, we should definitely be at least comfortably mid-table come the end of the season.  I do have a slight worry about our forward line however.  I'm hoping Kermo and Bradley just had an off day today, let's hope that's all it was, we are going to need plenty of goals this season, and if they aren't coming from our front two, we might find ourselves in a bit of scrap later on.

It would have been nice to walk away with three points from today's encounter, though I'm sure we would have taken a point if offered without a ball being kicked.  It's a testament to the team that there was disappointment that we failed to take all three.  Still, although we didn't pick up the win today, more performances of this type will definitely ensure we get some positive results.  I'm still full of trepidation when thinking about the season going forward, though I do feel a lot more relaxed after today's match.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Fresh Start

So an exciting new season is almost upon us.  With the thrills of the Olympic Games, it's been a superb off-season.  Funny how I look forward to the World Cup and European Championships the most, yet I always find more enjoyment from the Olympics.  With Team GB's massive achievements behind us, Charlton fans will be hoping that our own team can go that extra mile to secure our place in the Championship.

If we do manage to, it will be no mean feat.  With a lack of signings and the turmoil at board level, Charlton have it all to do.  You could say that we start with a baptism of fire.  Birmingham are a decent side at this level and have (realistic) ambitions of returning to the Premier League.  After missing out narrowly last season you can bet they will be one of the sides competing for the top spots.

Both teams will be desperate for a good start, and I'm sure that Lee Clark would have preferred to have faced a different side for the opening game.  Usually it is the case that newly promoted sides carry some momentum forward from the previous campaign.  That could be evidenced by some good results during pre-season; Fulham being a particularly noteworthy case.

I don't think the Leyton Orient game gives us much of an idea about the campaign to come.  It is probable that the majority of the team from Tuesday night will not be part of the first eleven come Saturday.   A number of key players did not feature, and I expect to see their names on that team sheet when it's read out on Saturday.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

On the up

When Charlton first arrived in League One, I expected a swift return to the Championship. I never considered it would take us three attempts, nor did I think that I would feel so elated when that moment did come.

Like many fans, I was angry when we arrived in this division. After a spell of relative success, it was hard to accept the downward spiral that we had fallen into, and how quickly our fortunes had turned for the worst.

A quick promotion would have felt good, but it is only when there is some adversity that we can truly appreciate our achievements. I think some fans were starting to to take our successes for granted but this little holiday will help to keep things in perspective for everyone.

Winning promotion from the third tier of football may not be considered so special to many fans. Three years ago I might have agreed, but it has become more than just winning a place in the next tier of football. I am genuinely pleased that we will be playing Championship football, but the most important aspect of this is that we've stopped the rot and can finally move on as a club again.

This promotion can help us close the book on another blot in our history. We are now in a position once again where anything is possible. We have a young manager who clearly has some potential, we have a board that have aspirations of top flight football, and we have a team that we can all be proud of again.

Michael Slater took a gamble in appointing Chris Powell, and it's paid off. I also can't help thinking that some of the reason why this all feels so special is because we have Powell at the helm. A true Charlton man who knows exactly what this club is all about.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings. There is still much work to be done, and I hope that we now go on to lift that trophy, and put the icing on the cake.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Time Out

It's been just over a year since I started this blog, and how things have changed, both personally for me and for our beloved Charlton.

I took some time out recently after becoming both a father and a grandfather in the same month, so it's been an especially busy time in our family.

It's amazing how easily our newest member has slotted in, yet my daughter is having her life turned upside down with the arrival of her first, so my wife and I have been in looking after two newborns at times to ensure my daughter gets some space to make sense of the changes to your life that babies dictate.

On the pitch, Charlton have managed to keep up the promotion push they started before my little break, and in fact have been doing so in a thoroughly professional manner.

With Huddersfield sacking Lee Clark yesterday, I can't help but think if our own board applied a similar logic, then Powell would have been out before the end of last season and who knows who would be in charge now. Fortunately Slater and co. kept the faith and we are all reaping the rewards of that.

Powell has put together a squad of decent footballers for this level, and has instilled a work ethic and team spirit which was sorely lacking under previous regimes. It's good to see some fight back in the team.

This final part of the season is going to be defining. The team is going to have to show plenty of guts, nerves of steel, and some old fashioned Charlton grit and determination, if we are to get promoted, particularly if they want to win the division.

I have the faith, but at the back of my mind I can't help but think that we will somehow make it a lot harder for ourselves than necessary...