I'm wide awake at a time I should be asleep. In fact, I've been awake for the last hour and a bit: since 05:50am to be exact. My mind is racing. Thoughts of today's game make a nice gentle snooze impossible.
But I love days like these. No, I should have said I live for them.
The feeling of excitement and hopeful expectation mixes uncontrollably with the fear of failure. It's no surprise my mind won't rest.
I stare into the darkness of my bedroom, but before me is the most vivid images of Yann rising at the back stick to power home a cross from Wiggins or BWP scissor-kicking one into the roof of the net.
I've read all the most recent Charlton blogs two times over and take great comfort that so many Addickted believe today will bring yet another victory. I smile when I read Solly's signed a contract extension. He typifies the real Charlton spirit.
Sheffield United at home: it's a heavyweight clash that seems out of place in the third tier of English football, played out in front of a gate that most Championship sides would be envious of (especially our neighbours).
I'll be wishing the time away until just before midday, when I'll make my descent down to the Valley...
Monday, 9 January 2012
There can be few occasions in which I will leave a football stadium having seen my side lose 0-4 and yet still be bursting with pride and full of hope. Given that anyone likely to be reading this will be Addickted, I know I can safely say without fear of embarrassment that the scoreline meant absolutely nothing and was never going to long before a ball was even kicked. Talking to some of the faces that I recognised from around my usual East Stand seat, it was clear that there was a common thought amongst us all: Saturday represented a public show of unity and support for our club outside of the Valley. And what an impressive show it was.
I felt honoured to have stood with 7,000 of my fellow fans in the Putney End Stand, who, like me, have felt the agonising pain of our demise and cling desperately to these brighter days, ever hopeful of more to follow. So many more would have loved to have joined us if the capacity allowed. It's not like they would have doubted it before, but Sir Chris and the team will be under no illusions that we are 100% behind them.
The noise was relentless and those moments in which the entire stand bounced in unison will long live in my memory. My attempts at recording 'the bounce' on my iPhone proved futile as the footage and audio blurred and distorted despite my best efforts to remain still. As Johnnie readied himself to take a free-kick towards the end of the game (with Charlton already 3 goals down) the Charlton fans sang "one goal, we only want one goal", but it was not to be. Probably for the best really. Even if we'd have scored a consolation in injury time I think we'd have razed that stand to the ground!
Better bloggers than I have covered the details of the game, and you'll know where to find them. All I would say is that this game was far closer than the scoreline suggested, and other than some spectacular goalkeeping from Stockdale in the Fulham goal, we may have got the goal our efforts deserved. There was no questioning the difference in class, but perhaps this was more evident up front where chances are invariably taken at the highest level.
This was just a meaningless FA Cup game. Getting out of League One is all that matters. I couldn't help but allow my mind to drift a little on the tube journey home, dreaming of such an atmosphere if we can hold firm our position come May.
Forever hopeful. Proud to be an Addick.
Friday, 6 January 2012
It's been quite some time since I felt the magic of the FA Cup. The worlds greatest club tournament has somewhat passed Charlton by since our last noteworthy run in 2006 (and quite some time beforehand, in all honesty). In that year we managed to find ourselves in the hat for the semi-finals, after a zero - zero draw with Middlesbrough in the QF's at the Valley forced a replay (which we lost, of course).
In December, those present at the Oldham Athletic game would have been lucky enough to have seen the FA Cup on display on the Valley pitch prior to kick-off (pictured above) when fans and players alike observed a minute's applause in honour of Charlton's 1947 FA Cup winner Peter Croker, who had sadly passed away earlier that month aged 89. Let's hope the sight of the world famous cup gave the players some inspiration heading in to tomorrow's match at Craven Cottage.
Back in 1983, when I was an impressionable 9 year old lad, I experienced my greatest FA Cup moment to date. My local non-league side, Bishop's Stortford, had gone on a wonderful cup run, beating Reading and Slough away from home before being drawn away against Malcolm Allison's Middlesbrough in the 3rd round. My Dad, my Great Uncle Percy and me watched an amazing 2-2 draw at Ayresome Park (former home of Boro) in which we came from 2 goals down, which set-up a replay back at Bishop's Stortford. Unbelievably, and against all odds, Lyndon Lynch scored first for the Blues and sent 6000 fans packed like sardines in the tiny stadium into total and utter delirium. My Granddad had stood me on a support pillar that held up the corrugated cover to the stand behind the goal to keep me from getting crushed, and from my lofty position I saw the ball hit the net. It still makes my eyes glaze over to this day, and knowing where I stood, I can just make myself out on the YouTube footage of the game below. Eventually we lost 1-2, and our dream was over. I can recall crying my heart out on the walk back to the car.
And so on to tomorrow. I am like a small kid again: full of excitement and looking forward to his big day out. I'll have a run in the morning to get my mind state in order and then jump on the train on-route to West London, wearing my colours with pride.
Charlton are on the up, and with 7000 Addicks cheering on Sir Chris and the team from the Putney End Stand, the atmosphere will be as upbeat as we've seen for years. Long may it continue!
Come on you Addicks!
Tuesday, 3 January 2012
One consolation regarding the unfortunate defeat at Brisbane Road on NYE was that the naysayers had no time to rev-up their doom and gloom propaganda before we faced Brentford at the Valley yesterday. Granted, without the verve we'd love to see on a regular bases, the heavy-legged Addicks laboured to what was perhaps a rather flattering scoreline considering Brentford's slick passing, industry and first-half dominance, but it was a solid performance none the less and a clean sheet is most welcome. Solly and Wiggins were excellent once again, Pritchard continues to impress and Kermogant produced another typically powerful performance up front. Charlton's steady and focused push towards the finishing line continues...
I'll confess that I had a feeling we'd get 4 points from the three games over the tricky Christmas period, so I'm delighted with 6. Forgive me for the use of the following cliché, but there are no easy games in this division and our Christmas fixture list looked all-ends-up like the proverbial banana skin. How important that injury time winner at Yeovil could prove to be come May. I continue to draw comparisons with our current campaign and that of Norwich from a few years back when they escaped from League One. Numerous late goals crucial to the game's outcome and winning ugly on occasions proved enough for them and it is reassuring that we seem to have found that groove.
There does, however, seem an obsessive focus amongst some Charlton fans towards the points difference separating us from our nearest rivals. It's understandable in part, but whilst to think that we could retain the top spot throughout the remainder of the season is not unrealistic, it would be truly remarkable. In this respect, I think it's too early to worry about such margins in any great detail. It was interesting to hear an interview with Sam Allardyce whilst on my way to the Valley yesterday, when he stated West Ham's league position is unimportant at present and all he's focused on is the 2 points-a-game average that he believes will get them promoted. I would suggest messrs. Powell and Dyer have a similar focus.
Going forward, I do feel that we are in desperate need for Dale Stephens to get fit again to offer us some creativity from the centre of midfield. Bradley Pritchard done a typically fantastic job yesterday, and he's looking every bit like a real Charlton player (you know what I mean by that comment), but his progression must be carefully considered, and in the long term he may well benefit from playing the cameo role this season rather than having to carry the full weight of expectation so early on in his professional career.
So now we can look forward to a small break from League One football and head off to West London and a FA Cup date with Fulham. 7000 Addicks will descend upon Craven Cottage and I will be amongst the numbers. We have nothing to loose and so nothing to fear. For me, my first wish will be for us to avoid any injuries...then a goal to cheer. Beyond that, we can only dream! With Zamora and Johnson linked to moves in the transfer window, it will be interesting to see whether they are used on Saturday (and would therefore be cup-tied going forward).
One things for certain, with such a large and impressive away following, it's certainly going to be a memorable day!