Sunday, 29 December 2013

Mud & The Mundane...

 
If Roland Duchâtelet does take control of Charlton then it's debatable whether he should concentrate on strengthening Chris Powell's threadbare playing squad first or sort out the awful Valley pitch. Both need urgent investment. Unsurprisingly, today's '6-pointer' against fellow relegation threatened Sheffield Wednesday was as awful a spectacle as the quagmire pitch the game was played on.
 
Ideally, after such an encouraging performance and result against Brighton on Boxing Day, Powell would have no doubt preferred to field an unchanged side, but Solly was not considered fit enough to compete in two games back-to-back so soon after returning from a long injury and Wiggins was unavailable due to the birth of his first child. That meant Evina came in at left back, Wilson dropped to right back and Jackson returned to the side after suspension. Bizarrely, Jackson's inclusion meant Stephens was played in an unfamiliar right midfield role. The usual talismanic Jackson failed to get into the game at any point and I can't recall a single meaningful contribution, whilst we missed Stephens in the middle. Powell needs to find a different way of playing our skipper if he remains determined to include him.
 
Powell also needs to be braver, especially at home and where his substitutions are concerned. How shit must Sordell be in training if he fails to get onto the pitch when Church is clearly having a stinker? I'm not Sordell's biggest fan, I'll be honest, but I wonder if he'd have dealt any better with that glorious chance that fell to Church towards the end of the game. We'll never know, of course.   
 
Tactically I thought Powell got it wrong today but he is working with a very limited deck of cards. I for one remain 100% behind him, but I can't help thinking we could end up regretting this result come the end of the season rather than viewing it as a point gained.
 
Hopefully he will be given funds to strengthen in the January transfer window.
 
And so, despite a forgettable first half in which we created very little, we found ourselves in front early in the second period. Thanks to some woeful defending Stephens was put clean through from a throw-on by Wilson and he kept his nerve to shoot past an oncoming Kirkland.
 
The lead lasted just over 10 mins before Wednesday equalised through the impressive Connor Wickham, although just as I felt at the time, the striker was well offside in the build up to the goal (as the screen shot to the left shows). The inept linesmen failed to spot it and the goal stood. I thought we'd shaken off the bad luck? 

Wednesday continued to press for a winner and we looked increasingly like we were happy to settle for a point. Alnwick made a first class stop from a header otherwise a disappointing afternoon would have got a whole lot worse.
 
All in all, a draw was about right. Both us and Wednesday have a lot of work to do to avoid relegation on this showing. I won't dwell anymore on today's game.

On a positive note, 5 points from the last three fixtures is a good return and one I didn't really expect. We have opened up a 4 point gap between us and the bottom 3 and once we have negotiated a tricky away fixture at Ipswich on New Years Day (I'm not expecting anything there) we should look forward to some winnable games in January.  

Above all else, hopefully, fingers crossed, we can look forward to a brighter future thanks to an incoming wealthy Belgian businessman...

Friday, 27 December 2013

Divine Intervention...


For me, going to the football on Boxing Day is as much part of Christmas as turkey, tinsel and Santa Claus. Of course, I know there is a much deeper meaning to Christmas, but although I'd like to think I live my life by good Christian values I can't claim to be a religious man. That said, I spent most of the car journey to the game yesterday chatting openly to Him upstairs. I don't ask for much. I expressed a desire to see a good performance and, if He was to grant me just one simple wish, I respectfully requested nothing more than a change of fortune for Charlton. Whether or not He considers my 'when it suits me' approach to religion worthy of Divine Intervention I do not know, but it had been 10 years since we last witnessed an Addicks victory at the Valley on Boxing Day and over two decades since the last time we beat Brighton at home.

Making my way to the Valley I felt the shameful excesses of the day before weighing heavy on my belly as the growing concern for Charlton's perilous league position and continuing bad fortune weighed even heavier on my mind. We needed a lift and thank God we got one via the one Charlton player who does a very good impression of Jesus Christ!

Lawrie Wilson; scorer of goals, right-back, right-midfield, right-wing dynamo, partner to the boy wonder Solly, full of effervescence...I salute you, Sir. A wonderful performance from a team player who is sadly under-appreciated and whom deserves the plaudits from that most welcome of phenomena; a rare Charlton home win!

Contrary to the awful song sung by a section of the Valley yesterday, whether banter or not, Wilson has never been 'shite' and to suggest he's now only 'alright' is disrespectful to his continued efforts. As fans, we need to come up with a better song than that. This is not reactionary because of his brace yesterday, but if the POTY award was to be considered today, Wilson would be up there for me.  

But it all could have been so different. Brighton, with their attractive, neat passing game dominated possession throughout the entire match. The BBC website suggest they enjoyed 65% of the ball, which seemed a little generous to me, but also serves only to make the 3-2 scoreline even sweeter. Ulloa deservedly opened the scoring for the visitors after just 22 mins. Our friends and allies from the south coast celebrated wildly in the Jimmy Seed. They'd have made the journey up fully expecting 3 points.

The rampant Wilson was having none of it. This was his day. 10 mins after Brighton scored, he equalised with a net bulging shot having been cued up by Kermorgant. On the hour mark he scored again to complete the most unlikely of braces.

Even Saint Yann of Brittany could not upstage Wilson today, although heaven only knows he tried. With 15 mins to go he floated in a glorious free-kick that had the keeper rooted to the spot. The Valley erupted! The big Frenchman is back on form. The beast had returned. Charlton's survival hopes lifted.

But it just wouldn't be Charlton if it was going to end comfortably and Ulloa's second of the game in stoppage time set up a tense, nervy finish. We held on.

Considering the uncertainty off the pitch, lack of new contracts for our beloved manager and numerous key players, yesterday's performance was hugely encouraging. No matter how idiotic some fans can be in those low moments, nobody can question the work rate and commitment of this group of players. The fight will keep us up where technical ability or squad depth may be lacking.

The league table makes for better reading this morning. My smile remains and will do until Sunday at least, when Sheffield Wednesday visit the Valley. If Charlton can produce a performance like yesterday, we may be able to enjoy another Charlton home win.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Broken Record...

According to the Urban Dictionary, if you become known as a 'broken record' it will have been because you continually repeated the same statement with little or no variation. I'll admit it, I'm guilty as charged.

To save myself time it would be a whole lot easier to cut and paste sections from any of my previous blog posts this season that make reference to the seemingly endless bad luck, missed opportunities, lack of quality in the final third, complete absence of a goalscorer and referees who don't seem to like us very much and seem happy enough to turn a blind eye to blatant time wasting.

Today, I'll be adding a new negative, as Powell got his tactics wrong. He must be feeling like he's run out of options in his threadbare squad, but quite how he came to the conclusion that Bradley Pritchard should be playing in the hole behind Kermorgant I do not know. Maradona, Pele, Zico, Baggio and Beardsley are footballers who excelled playing 'in the hole', but with the greatest of respect to him, Pritchard will never join that list, and not least of all as he is arguably our weakest threat going forward. No, I just don't get it.

Not to suggest that Pritchard was the reason we lost today; no, that would be the cruel deflected free-kick that wrong footed Alnwick. The second deflected goal against us in the space of 7 days. As the ball hit the net there was a collective and very audible groan from the Charlton fans followed by a loud thump as Addicks all around the Valley slumped back in their seats. Gutted. Lady Luck kicked us firmly in the nuts yet again!

Derby celebrated the winner, even with an hour left to play.

It's hard enough to see where our chances will come from, let alone goals, so I was up and celebrating when Morrison dived to meet a cross midway through the second half. I was certain that was going in, but in the end it didn't even force a save. That will be the missed opportunity noted above.

As we committed men forward in search of an equaliser, it was inevitable Derby would get another chance. Unlike us, they never wasted it. 2-0.

I can't deny Charlton worked hard. That very fact remains a positive, no matter how it doesn't seem it tonight. Despite off the field turmoil at the club the players still look like they are working hard for each other. Confidence is obviously fragile and sadly effort alone is not going to be enough without an injection of quality. Without investment to bolster the squad in January, survival in this division is going to be a real challenge. The chances of investment look very, very slim.

Derby are flying at the moment, but they hardly looked like promotion candidates today and they will know we deserved something from this game. Yet again we finished up with nothing.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Billionaire Dispair...

Just when you find yourself wondering when even the smallest scrap of positive Charlton related news will arrive to brighten the gloomy mood, along comes yet another sizable kick in the bollocks. News filtered out yesterday via the South London Press that the 'impending' takeover by American Billionaire (it hurts to even write that), Josh Harris, has fallen through. To rub salt in the wounds, it would appear that despite the due diligence process being completed, the sports loving yank could not agree a fee with Jimenez and Slater. Quite what sort of figures they are expecting is anyone's guess, but I can only hope they are not being greedy for their own personal gain over the future of this club.
 
I don't imagine there are a long line of billionaires queuing up outside the Valley ready to write huge cheques for the betterment of our club, so to allow this deal to fall through is something that needs some level of explanation from our current owners, especially if there is a good and valid reason why they may have stood firm on this deal. Not that I'll be holding my breath; neither Jimenez or Slater seem to feel the need to speak with us, the fans, despite the whirlwind of rumours and speculation that arise from the silence.
 
But if you'll allow me to play devils advocate for one moment, whilst the association with a billionaire sounds nice, we did not know what Mr. Harris' intentions would have been for our club. Be careful what you wish for, and all that. You need only to look at Hull City to see an egotistical and rich owner who wants to change the name and identity of the club despite universal, angry objections from the fans. In recent times, Cardiff City have changed from their traditional blue shits to red at the request of their Malaysian owner against the wishes of the club's supporters. Above all else I want a club to support, but I would also be heartbroken to have to leave the Valley or change the identity of my club to suit someone with no natural love for Charlton.
 
Furthermore, whilst I make no attempts to be an apologist for the way Jimenez and Slater conduct themselves, I do need someone to explain to me how it makes any logical sense for them to allow us to slowly run into the ground and potentially loose any investments they have put into the club when they purchased it?
 
Unless I'm missing something, it would be like cutting their noses off to spite their own faces if Charlton went under. It's clear they don't have the money themselves to bankroll a club with the infrastructure and size of Charlton, but they must be confident a good deal can be found, whether by investment or by selling up to a new owner...or incredibly bad businessmen (I'm aware there is a strong case for the later). 
 
Still, in the absence of any imminent financial input from somewhere, the future for Charlton is looking pretty dark. Chris Powell is in as much need of new players to bolster his squad as he is in a new contract for himself and many of his players.
 
Charlton fans are equally in need of a lift...

Monday, 9 December 2013

Deep Breath...

I guess it's not surprising that the more we allow ourselves to be exposed to social media (because, yes, we do have a choice) the greater the gulf appears between the rational and irrational fans of this club. I've taken to boycotting the Charlton timeline on twitter post-match as I often find the wild overreactions, good or bad, to be frustrating to say the least.

Where Saturday was concerned, I was as disappointed, frustrated and angry as the next man that despite looking comfortable we'd somehow managed to throw away a two goal lead in the space of a few minutes and ended up clinging on for a point, but rather than slate the team or manager, I took a big deep breath and waited for match reports or opinions from those who were actually there. There's a myriad of reasons why a game can change in a flash - inept tactics, lack of effort, bad fortune, dodgy refereeing decisions and so on.

Someone who was at the game and offers consistent rational opinion can be found here. Kyle's attempts to make sense of the way the game turned in such heartbreaking fashion is well worth the read. As he wonderfully says at the very end of his piece...'Keep The Faith'!

That's something we'll need with Derby up next at the Valley. They thrashed Blackpool 5-1 on Saturday and their good form continues under new manager, McClaren. That's 5 wins on the spin for them now and they certainly won't be fearing a visit to SE7 this Saturday. By contrast to Derby at the top, Charlton are second from bottom of the form guide.

In other news over the weekend, Charlton drew the victors of Wrexham v's Oxford United at the Valley in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Oxford have already visited us earlier this season, loosing 4-0 in the Capital One Cup. I was dreaming of an away day at Arsenal, but it wasn't to be, for this round at least.

I suppose it's about time Charlton managed to put together a decent cup run, but personally I'd rather lady luck gave us a break in the Championship...and quick sharpish!

One other story that had Addicks groaning was the revelation that our former centre-back, Sam Sodje, has been accused of match fixing along with a number of other players currently in the game. Watching the undercover video taken of Sam chatting with a man who turned out to be a Sun newspaper reporter, it's difficult to believe the allegations are not true. I liked Sam a lot and ironically he once made me a small fortune after he scored in this victory against Cardiff City back in 2007. I bet on him to score the first goal and correctly predicted the final score.

Amazing to even think I would predict a 3-0 Charlton win at any point!             

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Valley; A Story of Destiny and Desire...

 
Recently the Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust began a campaign to have the Valley listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). Last week they announced that The Royal Borough of Greenwich Council had approved the plans, which means that infamous "Message To Our Supporters" can NEVER happen again! For a full explanation on what the AVC mean, visit here. 
 
Back in late August I wrote the piece below for the new Charlton fanzine created by Joe from ValleyTalkBlog. It tells the story of how, over a long period of time, I fell deeper and deeper in love with the Valley and how that ultimately lead me to be an Addick. I was blown away seeing it in print on those pages, but it was always my intention to post it on this blog at some point and what better time than this week, when Charlton celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the glorious against-all-odds return to the Valley. 
                      .........................................................................................
 
For most Charlton fans, supporting this great club is hereditary: for others it is simply a case of geography or the location of where you spent your formative years. The story of how I became an Addick is a little different and having never lived in South London the person I have to thank was not family (my grandad gave me my love of football), it was a British historian and writer by the name of Simon Inglis.

In 1983 Inglis wrote 'Football Grounds of England and Wales'. At the time, it was easily the most comprehensive book on football stadia that had ever been written. I had already adopted a huge fascination with football stadiums following the World Cup in '82 and I had received a copy of the book on my 9th birthday. For reasons that I simply cannot explain, there was one particular stadium that stood out; The Valley.
 
Towards the end of the section on Charlton Inglis wrote (with the help of the late, great Colin Cameron, I may add) "The inaction of several decades, when the ground threatened to become a huge white elephant and nothing but a burden to an average club side has at last been ended, and whoever controls the club, at least The Valley now has a future. It will never stage a Cup Final , nor an international match, but it wears a slightly more optimistic face nowadays, one which Jimmy Seed might appreciate if he were alive to sit in the stand named after him"

How wrong he was. As we all know, reluctantly, Charlton were forced to leave The Valley soon after the start of the '85 / '86 season. So much for the 'optimism' Inglis wrote about. Jimmy Seed was turning in his grave.

I would be lying if I said I was a Charlton supporter at that stage. I couldn't even claimed to have been a follower. My team was my local non-league side, Bishop's Stortford, and my heroes were the part-timers who represented them. But I remember being gutted when I heard Charlton had vacated The Valley under a cloud. Once again, I can't really explain why. I just did.

In '87 (I was 13 now) Inglis released the second edition of his book (now called 'Football Grounds of Great Britain'). This time around, however, Inglis spoke of a far darker picture of The Valley...

"This is one of the sadder chapters in the book; sad not only because Charlton have had to leave The Valley but because, as the story shows, they left in an atmosphere of bitterness, recrimination and concealment". Worst still, he lamented "There was an argument, but no one seemed to speak. There were questions aplenty, but no one prepared to answer".  The closing lines of the section were arguably the hardest to accept for obvious reasons. Under a sub heading of 'Selhurst Park' Inglis wrote "Take the number 75 bus, some sandwiches for the journey, turn to the following section on Crystal Palace and put on a brave face".

Thankfully, that was something Charlton fans were not prepared to do and the battle began...

At this point you have to remember all this pre-dates the internet let alone social media or satellite TV football coverage. My exposure to Charlton Athletic was rare, and so Inglis' books undoubtably led to my fascination of The Valley and Charlton. Whatever the reasons (perhaps it was simply fate), I suppose it was at this point I found myself quietly willing Charlton on, checking results and hoping for better times (something I would get very used to doing). Perhaps you could say I had become a distant follower.

Years would pass and The Valley fell further into disrepair. In 1992 I was driving for an electrical wholesaler and would occasionally pass by Woolwich Road, catching a glimps of the neglected stadium through Ransom Walk, heart heavy with the disappointment of never having seen a game there. Occasionally I'd go to Highbury to watch the Arsenal with my mates if Bishop's Stortford never had a game, but as much as I enjoyed those days out (I will always have a soft spot for Arsenal as a result), I never truly felt at home on the North Bank. By now, Charlton was the result I looked out for after watching my local side.

I'd love to say I was there when Charlton finally came home in '92, although I remember it well. I cannot tell you how much I envy those that were. I was so pleased for the club. Even so, it would be another 2 years before I finally watched my first game at The Valley. I travelled to the game alone, just as I still do. (watching Charlton would not have been an easy day out to sell to my mates). It was autumn '94 and I think it was against Barnsley. Whatever the opposition, we played terribly and lost 1-2 on a cold, grey, rainy afternoon. The game itself was irrelevant. I was inside The Valley and sat on the site of the mighty East Terrace that I'd so much admired in that picture in Inglis' book. I instantly felt at home.

Jump forward to now, nearly 2 decades later, and in all that time I've only missed around a half dozen games Charlton have played at The Valley since...and all of them reluctantly! The heartbreak of 3 relegations, joy of 3 promotions, a glorious Wembley final, those unforgettable Premiership years, the pain of dropping to the 3rd tier. Occasional tears of joy but far, far more tears of despair. Along the way I've met some great people supporting this club and over the years even my dear old mum has become well and truly Addickted!

Perhaps best of all, my son is well on the way to being a 2nd generation Addick!

If you've taken the time to read this you'll know only too well what a magical place The Valley is.

Every time I emerge from under the railway lines on Ransom Walk and set eyes on The Valley, even now, all those years later, my heart beats a little faster and I fill with a bursting pride and sense of anticipation.

As the song says, "My desire can always be found at The Valley, Floyd Road"...

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Two Steps Back...

 
This week has seen all sorts of rumours flying around of impending take-overs and speculation on who the new owners might be at Charlton. As tempting as it is to allow one's self to be even a little bit excited at the prospect of a new club owner with an injection of cash, in typical Charlton fashion, any hint of positivity is well and truly counteracted by dark rumours that players and staff have not been paid this month and the money problems are finally coming to a head.  
 
Just like off the pitch, on it Charlton seem to be taking one step forward and two steps back.
 
It's quite hard to put your finger on quite why it never went right for Charlton today, other than to say we appeared sluggish and half a yard off the pace. Up front we looked as blunt as ever. A limited plan A and no plan B. The weight of expectation inside the Valley continues to be a hindrance to Powell's men. 
 
We can't rely on wonder goals every game. I can't even remember the last time I saw two back-to-back Addick wins.
 
Ipswich, on the other hand, showed all the classic hallmarks of a Mick McCarthy team; well organised and pretty uninteresting to watch. They won't care and why should they? Within 5 mins their early pressure had got them a goal and having done their homework on us, they would have rightfully been confident that would be enough to win the game. It was. Credit to the travelling Tractor Boys who packed out the Jimmy Seed and made an atmosphere for an otherwise pretty flat Valley.
 
I'm really clutching at straws for positives today, but credit where credit is due, Charlton's media team produced a great matchday programme (or magazine, as they call it) which replicated the cover from the first game back at the Valley some 21 years ago. It was a nice touch and well received by Addicks.
 
Looking forward to the next two games, I can't see us getting much from Tuesday's game at Reading, who beat Forest away last night, and Yeovil looks an ominous journey to make next Saturday given their surprising 3-0 victory at Watford today. Is it too early to talk of 6-pointers? No, I didn't think so. 
 
There can be little question we are fighting for our lives down the bottom and the big question will be whether the take-over happens quickly enough (or at all, of course) to allow for much needed investment in January. Even then, there's no guarantee that incoming players will be able to have the instant impact we require.
 
In the meantime, we can do nothing more than back the players we have...and hope.

If I could just have a pound for every ruined Saturday night!      

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Volley Good Effort...

Eyes on the ball...bang! Back of the net!
There was no doubting the good fortune surrounding Charlton's second bite of the cherry against hapless Doncaster Rovers in this rearranged fixture, and thankfully, Powell's men were in no mood to waste their luck on a chilly night at the Valley.
 
Charlton let a number of good chances slip from the outset with Church the worst offender with an opportunity inside the opening minutes he should have done better with. Kermorgant hit the base of the post with a trickling left footed shot that had the excellent Turnbull surprisingly flat-footed. Johnnie Jackson forced a top class save from Turnbull moments later, but just when you began thinking it was going to be 'one of those nights', Stephens took centre stage.
 
Taking advantage of a poor defensive clearance following a decent Charlton move down the right, Stephens struck a full volley (above) that couldn't have been hit any sweeter. The roof of the Valley lifted as the ball thundered into the net. If you get a chance to watch the footage of the goal that was doing the rounds on twitter last night then just watch Jackson's reaction as the ball goes in. Rather than reeling away in delight he drops his head in his hands in disbelief. Priceless moment from our skipper! He later joked he had a few quid on himself to bag the first goal...
 
We may not have scored many this season, but we certainly have a few nominations for 'goal of the season', for sure. Half time, 1-0. Worryingly it should have been 4 or 5.
 
Second half was much the same, with Charlton going close with numerous chances. In particular, the ever-improving Stewart tried to upstage Stephens with a wonderful shot that rattled the bar. Before that Church had eased Charlton's nerves with a well taken goal after being put through one-on-one with the Doncaster 'keeper. I was so pleased for Church. You would have to watch him regularly to really appreciate just how hard he works for the team and nobody deserved a goal more last night. He is fast becoming my favourite current player.
 
Church could and should have had a second...but we won't mention what happened there!  
 
In the end it was a heart-warming team performance and a tough one to call for MOM. The two players who particularly stood out for me were Cousins, who was excellent in centre-mid and Church up top. A special mention for Ben Alnwick, who finally made his debut for Charlton after Hamer went down injured in the warm-up. He never had much to do (one diving save to his left in the second half the highlight), but considering he's been sat on the bench since he arrived, he looked confident and capable considering the circumstances of him being thrown in late on. There's something about this fixture and making the most of your opportunities no matter how they come about.   
 
The official gate was noted as just over 14,000, but horrendous train problems would have prevented many fans and season ticket holders from getting to the game so the real figure would have been much lower. Fair play to the few hundred Doncaster Rovers fans who made the journey down again. I bet you're hoping we don't meet in the 3rd round of the FA Cup at the Valley?
 
There's still a certain novelty factor to seeing Charlton win at the Valley. Hopefully we can begin to view victories differently if we can finally find some consistent home form. This Saturday Ipswich are the visitors and another performance like last night and we have a good chance to grab another vital 3 points.


Monday, 25 November 2013

Ethical Dilemma...

So tomorrow night Doncaster fans will face the arduous journey south to the Valley once again following the abandoned game back in late August. It was a pretty rotten bit of luck on their part to see their side leading 3-1 before the ref finally worked out the pitch was unplayable.

All things considered, I'm slightly surprised Doncaster fans and football do-gooder generally haven't been building up the game with calls for us to give them a two goal head start, which, particularly where the Doncaster fans are concerned, is to their credit given the fact Charlton are blameless for the events of that day. Actually, I'm convinced the result of that game was not set in stone when the ref halted proceedings. Church had pulled a goal back for us, we was looking threatening going forward and Doncaster had a man sent off. I've watched football long enough to know how quickly things could have changed. In fact, it would have been Charlton's luck if we'd gone 4-3 up and then the ref called time on the game!

But thinking about the ethical ramifications of that lost game made me think of a memorable game from my old footballing days...

In my last season as a player I found myself in the unfortunate position of handling the ball on the goal line, which ultimately prevented a certain goal. Now at the time my team was playing terribly, already 3-0 down in a cup QF just 30mins into the game! Glancing over at the ref  I could see him reaching for his top pocket and so I began the long walk for an early shower. As I'm walking off I had a cunning brainwave. Turning back to the ref I cheekily said "what if I told you the ball had already crossed the line when I handled it?" The confused ref thought about it long and hard and all the while I continued to argue my case (I've no idea what the rules are on this, by the way). Surprisingly, even the opposition gave me classic sympathy vote and said they'd happily take the goal and I could stay on. Eventually the ref buckled, announced the goal would stand, and significantly for me, I got to stay on the pitch! 

Our opposition may have been dreaming of a rugby score, but the moment clearly shook us up and soon enough 4-0 turned into 4-1...then 4-2...4-3...and with moments of the game left we equalised! 

Now, here's the unbelievable twist. In the first half of extra time our 'keeper gets a straight red for a horrible challenge and, yes, yours truly is the recognised back-up 'keeper. The irony that I can now use my hands not lost on the opposition who are now all over the place with rage at how the game has turned. Their act of sportsmanship backfired! I had thick enough skin to deal with it, but the poor old ref was in a world of hate. I had a brief moment of feeling sorry for him, but that soon passed.

Now, I'm not bad in the onion bag, if I do say so myself, and on that day I played a blinder. Tipping shots over the bar, claiming crosses and all sorts.

We went on to win 6-4.

Did I feel guilty? I'm genuinely not proud of it, but I'd do the same again to win a game of football. Sometimes you have to accept circumstances and take advantage of them.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A View From The School End Upper...

 
Financially, Charlton and QPR are worlds apart. We all know that. The Charlton faithful headed into West London expecting nothing other than a very tough afternoon, but in fairness, that never really happened. QPR won all 3 point thanks to a wonder-goal that should win games of football from a player, Charlie Austin, that we can only dream of having. But despite QPR's talented squad and lengthy spells of possession, Charlton worked hard (no question about that) and managed to hang on for a respectable scoreline that few predicted. Occasionally we would go forward, but sadly, the equaliser just never looked like coming and even Johnnie's late free-kick opportunity sailed woefully over the bar. So often the talismanic hero, Jackson was unable to drag us through this game with such a large gulf in the quality of these two squads.

Considering what they have to look forward to this season, QPR fans sat in silence. A near sell-out London derby and the only time they made any noise was when the Charlton fans reminded them they were at home. Perhaps they have got complacent? 
 
So in the end, no complaints from me. I stood with the rest of the 1,800 travelling Addicks and clapped the players off. They reciprocated to a man. Game out of the way. Move on.
 
The defeat does, however, drop the Addicks closer to the bottom 3 and now Tuesday's 'bonus' game in hand against Doncaster has taken on greater importance. With Ipswich at the Valley next Saturday, this could be a very big week for Charlton. We could end it deep in the relegation zone or looking comfortably mid-table. I think it's fair to say that Charlton deserve a bit of good fortune sooner rather than later...
 
The result yesterday may not have been what we wanted, but I was pleased to discover a new quality venue for good quality beer thanks to my fellow bloggers Marco and Rob, whom I met up with pre-match. The Old Loyal Britons (or whatever they call it), in SE10 is my sort of pub; run by passionate lovers of good beer it thankfully has a policy of no piped music and no T.V screens showing meaningless games of football. In other words, people can shoot the breeze over a well kept pint. 
 
In all honesty, it was very tempting for Rob, Marco and me to have given the football a miss and stayed in there all day enjoying the fine offerings from Greenwich-based, Hop Stuff Brewery amongst others. To my envy, the chaps went back there post match, but I had to be on my way.
 
So on to Tuesday. There's nothing better than a midweek game at the Valley. 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Brave Blues Defeated...

So after the disappointment of watching Charlton defeated at the Valley on Saturday, my big weekend of football continued yesterday with a trip to watch my home town club, Bishop's Stortford, go for glory in the FA Cup 1st Round.
 
I normally drive to SE7 to watch the Addicks, but yesterday my mode of transport to the ProKit UK Stadium was my bike. How refreshing it was to ride across town to watch the Blues, just like I did as a kid!
 
An impressive gate of 2,545 favoured the real event rather than watching from the comfort of their sofas courtesy of ITV's live coverage, and they were rewarded with an entertaining game. Northampton had much of the early possession and in front of goal Bishop's Stortford rode their luck somewhat until finding their feet towards the end of the first half. The Blues best chance of the half came from a header from centre-back, Francis, but the effort agonisingly rattled the bar.
 
 
The Blues more partizan fans behind the goal were in fine voice as usual and played their part in driving the team on (and winding up Adrian Chiles at half time). Around them, new faces joined in as best they could and the hope is some will return to support the Blues again. I've really enjoyed the experience of the games I've watched this season and I'm more determined than ever to make more effort to get to games when Charlton fixtures will allow. After all, so much of my football heritage is ingrained in this club.  
 
Emerton broke the deadlock for the visitors just after the hour mark and 6 minutes later Norris made it 2. The Blues refused to give up and impressive skipper, Reece Prestedge, gave the fans hope with a powerful, well taken shot 10 minutes from time. Sadly, despite their best efforts, the Blues couldn't find the equaliser. We had a goal to celebrate, at least. 
 
This game will bring a level of financial stability to the club for a short period at least, and that in itself is a sizable result for a club of Stortford's size. Hopefully a run in the FA Trophy can follow to add to the pot.
 
In the end, it just wasn't meant to be and now Bishop's Stortford must re-focus quickly on the league. Of course, the FA Cup run was always going to end in failure sooner or later, but with a top manager and a group of hungry, young players, promotion to the Conference remains a realistic aim.
 
Hopefully the loss of Blues star striker, Kyle Vassell, to Peterborough (rumoured to be a done deal) will not derail the Blues promotion chances, but I for one wish him all the best. He's one to watch out for and joins a growing list of players that have left Stortford for professional football (our very own Danny Green amongst them). Unsurprisingly he's being compared to Dwight Gayle, who had a very successful loan period with the Blues a few years back.


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Floored Four Two...


It's the hardest thing in football to accept defeat when you don't deserve to, but sometimes you have to accept the kick in the nuts and move on. There were enough positives yesterday to do just that, but a very disappointing result it was none the less. After nearly 7 hours of football without conceding a goal (let's not forget that, by the way), we go and let in 4!

For me, Charlton's latest home defeat surprisingly hinged on the introduction of our biggest hero on 67 mins. It wasn't Yann's fault, but it was obvious the balance of the side had changed with young Harriott making way for the Breton Warrior. Lacking width, our style of play altered to the ridiculously ineffective long ball tactic and we looked less threatening as the game petered out.

I love the guy, but I'd love to know Morrison's successful pass rate if judged only on those that go forward. Probably best we don't know.

Right from the outset Leeds players deployed dirty time wasting tactics and constant whinging that the ref just never got to grips with. Players and managers come and go at Leeds and yet somehow that hugely dislikable side to their personality continues to come out on the pitch. It find it rather odd that a football club would want to retain a trait like that. Leeds 'keeper, Paddy Kenny, who was forced in to a number of top draw saves throughout the game, was easily the worst offender, arrogantly clapping the ref when he finally received a yellow card for a series of painfully drawn out goal kicks. Leeds other yellow card was also for time wasting (kicking the ball away), it won't surprise you to learn.

Michael Brown is a perfect fit for Leeds. Having had the misfortune of watching him many times over the years he comes across as a nasty little footballer with a horrible approach to the Beautiful Game. I hope I never set eyes on him playing football again.

It's amazing that with such a poor philosophy on football the team are followed by such impressive numbers on the road. Impressive in numbers; compliments end there.

But full credit to Ross McCormack, who, in my opinion, had an quiet game but for 4 decisive moments. His composure and quality where and when it mattered the sizeable difference between the teams. How Charlton need that sort of clinical finisher. He'd have gone home with the match ball if his own fans had returned it from the Jimmy Seed.

Mind you, it can't be often that you score 4 in one match but still not get the best goal of the game; that accolade going to Charlton's Cameron Stewart with a strike that was always going in the second it left his boot.

In the end, Charlton contributed to their own downfall but for a spirited performance alone deserved something out of the game. Yet again we fall short at home. No question the scoreline flattered a very average Leeds United, but they won't care one bit (and why should they?). McCormack had a day he'll never forget and referee Keith Stroud can look back on yet another performance littered with critical mistakes.

Actually, something tells me Mr. Stroud probably won't see it that way...

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Allez Les Bleus...

 
If, like me, you believe that there is far too much football on T.V nowadays then you'll also lament the fading tradition of a 3pm KO on a Saturday afternoon. Thankfully they remain commonplace at Charlton, but once inside the Premiership bubble your footballing calendar becomes far less predictable.
 
Now...er...please excuse me for becoming an instant hypocrite!
 
Thank heavens for televised football matches and 2pm KO's on a Sunday!!!!!
 
Thank you ITV football (it will be the one and only time I will say that) for choosing to cover Bishop's Stortford v's Northampton Town in the 1st round of the FA Cup, and by doing so, has given me a chance to indulge in a full and hopefully memorable weekend of football, following my two favourite teams.  
 
First up on the Saturday, Charlton entertain Leeds United at the Valley and fresh from a glorious and much-needed away victory last weekend at Birmingham, I'll be hoping for a continuation of our recent good form and a rare home victory to celebrate. 
 
Then, thanks to the good fortune of the game being moved to suit T.V, on Sunday afternoon I'll be off to the ProKit UK Stadium (above pic) to cheer on my local side, Bishop's Stortford, in the cup. I'm a Stortford boy born and bread and first started watching 'The Blues' with my granddad when I was around 8 years old and although I don't get down there as much as I'd like these days due to my commitments as an Addick, I will be a proud fan on the day. There is a very different sort of buzz from following your local non-league team than from following a professional club, as anyone who enjoys the virtues of grass roots football knows.
 
As far as I can remember, this will be the first time Bishop's Stortford have appeared live on T.V and I'm chuffed to bits for the regular fans and the club, who should benefit greatly from the financial boost.
 
Bishop's Stortford are currently flying high in the oddly named Skrill South, sitting in 3rd place, 5 points behind leaders Bromley with two games in hand, whereas Northampton Town sit at the very foot of the Football League. This could well be the 'giant killing' ITV will be hoping for for their armchair supporter. Fingers crossed... 
 
Back in the 1982-83 season I watched The Blues go on a wonderful FA Cup run that finally ended with a heartbreaking defeat by Middlesbrough in a 3rd round replay. I've previously wrote about it here. Something similar this season would be lovely, and dare I dream of a 3rd Round tie against Charlton at the Valley? It wouldn't be great for the Addicks, in all honesty, as our form in cup competition, especially against lower league opposition, is truly woeful, but what a day that would be for me!
 
So, for this forthcoming weekend I will be mostly shouting 'Come on you Addicks' and as sung by the loyal hardcore of Bishop's Stortford fans, 'Allez les Bleus'! 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sausages & Sunday Morning Doodles...

I wasn't at Birmingham yesterday so I can't offer much in the way of comment other than to state the obvious, which is that it was a much-needed victory and another spirited performance, by all accounts. One thing's for sure, my beer tasted good last night. Reports from fellow bloggers can be found here over the next day or so.
 
But...what I can offer you today is an average doodle of our Skipper, as drawn by myself whilst I waited for my bangers to cook in the frying pan in readiness for a sausage sarnie (brown sauce by the way, Danny). The subject matter for the sketch was kind enough to comment that it was a "good effort" soon after I posted it on twitter, but then went on to say "[that's a] Hell of a gob I've got on me". Sorry Johnnie, I was concentrating on my sausages as well... 
 
I was at that Peterborough game, stood more or less in front of Johnnie after he equalised in the second half, and it's one of my favourite pictures of our captain. The original photo can be found down the left hand side of this blog so you can pick holes in my effort if you wish.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Fivers & The Final Third...


I can't be more proud of my young son. There he is at an impressionable age with all his mates supporting glamorous Premiership sides and yet he seems to have accepted life as an Addick. I've never once forced it on him, I honestly haven't, but I guess he's absorbed from me (and his nan) over time whatever it takes to want to wear his Charlton colours by choice and to be proud of doing so. It was his 7th birthday yesterday and he could have spent the whole day being fussed over by his mum, grandparents and friends, but instead he wanted to come to the Valley with me. I've been coming to the Valley long enough to know how hopeful anticipation can kick you so hard in the bollocks you won't ever forget the agony, but he has all that to come. Midway through the second half, just after McCann had rattled Charlton's bar with a bullet header, he turned to me and said he didn't want any goals if it may mean Charlton went on to loose. A 7 year old boy putting his team first, happy with a goalless game, taking a point.   

I was excited about watching Jordan Stewart and in the first half in particular I thought he linked up well enough with Wiggins, but overall I was left wondering what more he offered down the left above young Harriott. The latter not even afforded a place on the bench. On too many occasions Stewart looked happy enough to feed Wiggins on the overlap rather than use him as a dummy and try a quick cross himself or to take on the defender. One bright moment from Stewart, though, saw a dangerous cross fizz into the penalty area, teeing up Pritchard for a clear shot on goal midway through the first half. The Valley faithful rose from their seats in anticipation, but Pritchard lifted the ball up and over the bar. I slumped back in my seat, head in hands, wishing that the chance had fallen to a Kermorgant or a Jackson. My boy looked as disappointed as I was.

Our striking options took a massive blow when around half an hour in our Breton warrior finally admitted he needed to go off after taking an early knock on his troublesome ankle.

In the second half, only some truly woeful forward play from Wigan and some good fortune for Charlton stopped the visitors leaving with all 3 points. Charlton had a few half chances, one of which came about after a splendid lung-busting run down the right from Wilson, but even Pritchard could not get on the end of his tantalizing cross. Not at any stage of this game did it feel like it would finish up zero-zero, but it did.

In the end, it was another clean sheet which we should all be pleased about, but another game where the lack of quality and ideas in the final third cost us a much-needed victory. I though Stephens done well enough, particularly defensively, to be my MOM.

On the back of a sizable 'football for a fiver' promotional campaign by the club, some 23,600 people spread out into areas of the Valley that had not seen human beings since Johnny lifted the league One trophy back in May 2012. Encouragingly, outside the ground pre-match it was like those halcyon Premiership days, with cars jostling for parking spots, an air of anticipation from the thronging crowd and long queues at the burger vans, programme sellers and turnstiles. Inside the Valley, however, the additional faces done little to improve the atmosphere and irritated the regulars with their inability to find their seats without having to walk the full length of the row a couple of times, dropping tomato sauce from their burgers as they passed by.

Oh, I know...I'm being hard on those that have so much more in their lives than to follow Charlton more regularly. This result was not what they were hoping for from their once a season trip to the Valley. Being a season ticket holder for more years than I can even recall I doubt I've ever benefited from promotional days like this.

The most important thing for me is my boy enjoyed his day out. One day I'm hoping he'll be a regular at the Valley. Understanding that you don't always get what you want out of a game of football is an important step. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Just Rewards...

 
If you are going to set your alarm earlier than you'd normally get up for work in order to pay good money to head north to watch Charlton on your day off then you will always have my uttermost respect, especially as you'd have done so expecting the worst. Reports suggested some 200 or so hardy Addicks done just that, and each and every one of them can take as much credit for Charlton's first away victory of the season as Simon Church will for bagging the winner. I'd love to do more away days, and whilst I may not have felt like it at 6am when their pilgrimage began, I certainly envied the travelling Addicks post match. Their commitment rewarded with a vital Charlton victory.
 
By my quick calculations (I'm not noted for my grasp of numbers) Charlton have now earned 9 of their 10 points against top 10 opposition, with 5 of those points taken of teams inside the top 5. What all this tells us is that being the underdog clearly suits Charlton better (no great surprise, we've had enough practise). Charlton have struggled with the weight of expectation, particularly at the Valley and we will need to overcome that if we are to continue to pull away from the bottom. 
 
I wasn't able to follow the game until late on as I was dragging myself around a football pitch with a bunch of other ageing men unwilling to hang up their boots, but from the reports I've read and the comments on twitter, it would appear Wood was once again outstanding at the back. His inclusion in the team has coincided with a more solid defense with only one goal conceded in 3. 
 
For effort and commitment, Simon Church cannot be faulted. Whether or not he proves to be a 20 goals a season man is questionable, but I like him a lot. He never stops running and I'm chuffed that he got the winner yesterday. He took his goal on the volley superbly after a clever through ball by Stephens.

It was also great to see Yann and Johnnie make welcome returns to the team as second half subs, although the latter may be a tad concerned about breaking bad back in what has been a pretty impressive centre midfield of late.
 
After the game Blackburn's manager, Gary Bowyer commented "We've seen the goal again. I'm not sure which part of the arm it hits him but it's quite clear it's handball". Right...so I can try and understand this better, Gary has seen the incident leading up to the goal again and suggests it's 'quite clear' and yet is unsure what part of the arm it hits? Hmmm. Doesn't sound that clear to me. Clutching at straws there a little, Mr. Bowyer?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

History Repeating Itself...

Given the similarities in circumstances, Charlton fans had spent much of the build-up to this game dreaming of a repeat of that memorable night back in November of last year when we grabbed an unlikely victory against table-toppers, Cardiff. But as the saying goes, you need to be careful what you wish for! Back then, Helguson scored after just 4 mins for the visitors, this time around our old skipper, Andy Reid, found the same spot in the same goal for Forest with a cross-cum-shot after just 3 minutes to stun the Valley faithful. History repeating itself?
 
So there we were; Charlton one down before many of the players had even touched the ball, with an injury ravaged team down to bare bones, against one of the best sides in this division. It wasn't looking good, was it? The Covered End raised the noise levels in defiance.  
 
We needn't have worried. We may not have had the flurry of goals like that Cardiff game, and nor did we grab victory from the jaws of defeat once again, but we got a spirited and passionate performance up there with anything Charlton had produced this season and that earned us a point. We'd have taken that before kick-off for sure. It was a point that felt like a win.
 
Richard Wood at the back was awesome, winning every ball and distributing well. I noticed how well he lead the players; constantly encouraging and talking. Cousins, Gower and Stephens looked excellent together in the middle, with young Cousins just edging out Wood as my man of the match. I've commented before that when Stephens plays well, Charlton play well, so hopefully he carries this form into Saturday's game. It was great seeing the ever-popular Andy Hughes come on with 15 mins left to put himself about and break up Forest attacks.  
 
And if you go and do one thing the whole game, let it be a well taken goal. Sordell has not got going for Charlton yet since joining on loan and he was rarely involved in this game, if the truth be known, but full credit to him for his finish. He reminds me so much of BWP's early time with the Addicks, where his body language can sometimes look a little disinterested. I got the impression BWP worked on that over time and he will be fondly remembered by Charlton fans in years to come. There is no question Sordell has the talent, as his goal proved, and I sincerely hope this is the spark he needs to get going for Charlton. And with Church limping off late on, we certainly need him.
 
At the end, the Charlton fans gave the players a standing ovation. A fully committed performance deserved that.
 
So on to Blackpool at the Valley on Saturday, where a repeat performance will give us a decent chance for 3 points. Thinking about how Cousins rasping effort came back off the post tonight, we are due some luck as well.   

Monday, 30 September 2013

100% Support Required...

It's not easy to look forward to a trip to the Valley at the moment. Our home form has been woeful for some time and with victories rarer than a Charlton clean sheet (almost) the floating fan has seemingly long since found something else to do as attendances continue to fall. The visit of high-flying Nottingham Forest tomorrow already looms ominously, and with few hopeful of a good result I can't see the real attendance getting above 13,000. Personally, the Valley under floodlights is always magical in my eyes!

The one good thing about a trip to the Valley mid-week is those fans who do make the effort tend to be the die hards who will back the team unconditionally, and boy do Charlton need the support. Another defeat last Saturday, Charlton's 5th of the season and 3rd in a row, is disappointing enough without the irrational idiots calling for Powell's head and hammering a team ravaged by injury and low on confidence. Hopefully those negative fools will stay away.

It's a sobering thought for me to accept that when Powell eventually leaves Charlton (whether pushed or by choice) I am unlikely to ever see a manager in charge of my club with whom I will hold such high regard. That's not to say Powell is without faults or limitations at this early stage of his career, but I have nothing less than 100% confidence he has the best interests of Charlton at heart. Powell must accept the criticism when he gets a tactical decision wrong, but my view is that he works admirably with the cards he's dealt. Our squad is arguably weaker than when we competed in League One and our current owners clearly don't have the finances to invest in the team. Worst still, the rumours continue questioning the owners ability to even finance the running of the club.

But a sense of perspective is always good in life, and after finding out an old friend had reached such personal depths that he took his own life on Saturday morning it seems insensitive and ludicrous to complain about another average Addicks performance leading to yet another defeat. But the reality is that Charlton's fortunes have a huge impact on my mind state and mood, and I certainly need a lift at the moment, hopefully starting tomorrow night.

And how we need a repeat of that glorious and unforgettable night at the Valley back in early November last year, when, despite going two goals down early in the game, a partisan Charlton crowd roared the team on with a relentless wall of noise to inspire a memorable against-the-odds victory v's Cardiff. One of those 'I was there' games, for sure.

Take note of that night if you're tempted to stay away simply because you can't be bothered. I hope you miss a cracker. That night was proof if ever you needed it that supporting the team gets results.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Gutless...


Being a Charlton fan I've 'endured' so many more games of football than I've 'enjoyed' down the years. I've only myself to blame really, after all, nobody forces me to go through this. Kicks in the bollocks have come and gone and I know I'll get over them with the passing of time before foolishly going back for more. Highs and lows, rough with the smooth and all that.
 
Baring all this in mind, I've always been conscious when writing any new blog piece directly after a game to avoid being too reactionary - good or bad - but I can say with some certainty, knowing I'll feel the same when the dust has settled, when I tell you that Charlton were gutless, passionless and completely devoid of any constructive ideas today. Millwall were equally as awful, but a stroke of luck won them the 3 points in this terrible example of a football match. Deflected winner or otherwise, this result is very, very hard to accept.
 
The lack of passion I simply cannot accept.
 
No question about it, with the exception of Johnnie Jackson, Morrison and perhaps Church for his none-stop running, I needed to see so much more passion from that group of Charlton players today. Not even close to what I expect.
 
And what on God's earth was our tactics today?
 
If football was about playing meaningless, sideways passes across your back three (and occasionally letting your 'keeper have a touch) we'd be top of the league. Is this part of the plan? And then, when the crowd have grown restless enough and the opposition have had more than enough time to get their shape, one of the back three will lump the ball over our five man midfield straight to the forehead of the opposing centre-back who will clear the 'danger' effortlessly. If we're lucky we won't concede and then the cycle will begin again.    
 
And what a time for my current favourite player, Pritchard, to put in a stinker of a performance. Stephens alongside him was frightened to pass forward and looked blinkered and nervous in possession. Neither of them willing to drop deep to encourage a passing game. Johnnie huffed and puffed - his 3rd game in a week - occasionally shaking his head in disbelief.
 
It seems that when one Charlton player has a bad day, they all do.
 
It's at times like this that I'm glad I don't live in South London. I only know one Millwall fan and I've not seen him in nearly 10 years. I will be allowed to forget this quite easily on my own terms, but many of you reading this won't be so luck with neighbours, friends, maybe even family maximising their bragging rights. I feel like shit, but I know you'll feel worse.
 
The next few fixture do not give much hope of a reprieve and on this form I can see us in the bottom 3 before the month is out. The big question for me is whether there are three other teams worse than us this season, because I'll bite your hand off for 21st right now. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Nothing Special...

Today the club announced that on Saturday there would be "no restrictions on how supporters from either side are dispersed after the full-time whistle, nor will any fans be held back in the ground". Considering the amount of Charlton fans who were left frustrated and angry the last time we met Millwall at the Valley when the sanctions seemed only to hinder us home supporters, this press release comes as a bit of a surprise.
 
But a welcome one? I'm not sure. It seems to me the club are stuck between a rock and a hard place on this as relying on everyone to behave themselves is like placing Homer Simpson unsupervised in a room with a big red button and asking him not to press it. It's just not going to happen. Place sanctions on our noisy neighbours from South Bermondsey and Charlton run the risk of having the Jimmy Seed wrecked, whereas another set of sanctions for the home support will keep away fans and serve only to piss off the regulars yet again.
 
The caveat to the announcement is the police saying "should there be any disorder on the day then plans could change at short notice on safety grounds".
 
Hmmm! Expect plans to change at short notice on safety grounds then... 
 
A few years back I worked on the construction of Colchester United's new stadium and I got to know the stadium and safety manager quite well. Their approach when the knuckle-dragging idiots came to town was simple and straight forward: they deliberately lowered their steward allocation and the police stayed out of sight. The aim was to deprive them of a target and thus, most games went off without any major incidents. He did say that few clubs saw Colchester fans as worth the effort 'in a battle' and that was factored in to the decision. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Charlton, who have their own fair share of idiots ready to take up the challenge.
 
The contrasting results of our two clubs last night have only added spice to the simmering cauldron with Millwall giving themselves a much needed home win and confidence boost and Charlton taking a blow with an away defeat. As an Addick it pains me greatly to admit that history has this down as a pretty one sided derby match, but soon enough our luck has to change.
 
One positive and powerful initiative from both clubs that should help to ease the tension is that Saturday will be 'Rob and Jimmy's Day'. Rob Knox, who was an Addick and Jimmy Mizen, who supported Millwall, were both murdered in 2008 after standing up to bullies. Regardless of your colours, both sets of fans should respect the families of both of these lads by behaving themselves. 
 
Keep safe, enjoy the game and 'Come On You Addicks!!!'  

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Penalty Point...

Last time we made the short journey to Vicarage Road, back on New Years Day, we saw one of those classic encounters that will live long in the memory culminating in a glorious and unexpected  4-3 victory to Charlton. This time around the common consensus pre-match was that we'd gladly take a draw. Watford are highly fancied for promotion this season and are well capable of playing attractive free-flowing football (when they're not throwing themselves on the floor) whereas Charlton, on the other hand, are still finding their consistency and form after a disappointing start to the season. In the pub before the game, some of us were bracing ourselves for the worst!

We needn't have been quite so pessimistic; Charlton thankfully delivered the sort of spirited and committed performance that returned in abundance a fortnight ago against Leicester. Quite why it was strangely lacking in those first few games remains a mystery...

Wood replaced the injured Cort, but otherwise it was an unchanged line-up from the last game, with Powell sticking with a 3-5-2 formation. I thought Wilson and Wiggins looked good in the wing-back roles, although the latter had less chance to get forward when the impressive Ikechi Anya came on for the hosts early in the second half. It was Wilson's determined surge into the box that won us the penalty and with no obvious protests from Jackson, Kermorgant stepped up to give us the lead. Pritchard was outstanding again and Stephens' battled well despite picking up a silly booking inside the first 5 mins.    

So despite leading the game for 20 odd minutes, we ended up with a point and the 1800 travelling Addicks rightly gave the players a standing ovation at the end. No complaints. I'm happy with that. Excluding that bizarre game-that-wasn't against Doncaster, that's Charlton unbeaten in 3 after a shaky start. What we really could do with is a few clean sheets now.

Charlton Bloggers Union: Left to right, Marco, Rob & me!
Before the game I met up with Marco and Rob from the excellent 'Wrong Side of the Thames' for a couple of beers in The Moon Under Water and that continued after the game at the same venue and then back at Mabels Tavern midway between Euston and King's Cross. Going out for a drink on a match day is still a novelty for me as I normally drive to the Valley and I don't get to anywhere near the amount of away days as I'd like, so it was great catching up with the chaps for a good few beers. In fact, I met a lot of faces inside the M.U.W that I see regularly on Twitter and it was nice having a chat with them.

So on to Tuesday against Huddersfield before our noisy neighbours arrive at the Valley next week. Millwall got hammered 1-5 at home by Derby yesterday and they sit firmly at the bottom of the league table as things stand. I think it's fair to say they will not be in the best of moods and a lively afternoon is in store. A good time to play Millwall? It should be, but a wounded animal sometimes bites back hard. Traditionally, and sadly for us, it's a pretty one sided derby game, but sooner or later that has to change. God willing, it will turn next Saturday.


Sunday, 8 September 2013

Craft Beer in Copenhagen...

 
Back in late January myself and a couple of mates decided to head off to Copenhagen in Denmark for a short break to see for ourselves whether this fine city deserved it's growing reputation as one of the best places to enjoy top quality craft beer. Copenhagen has a reputation of being an expensive place to visit, but our research concluded that the beer was no more costly than the craft beer venues found in London (and what else mattered?) so that was enough for us. Like the UK, Copenhagen was gripped by a freezing winter at the time, but just like an ice cold San Miguel works wonders in 30 °C of Spanish sunshine, so does a full bodied, flavoursome 'Ugly Duck Imperial Vanilla Coffee Porter' with a whopping 10% ABV that warms you from the inside out in cold weather.

So armed with thermal vests, woolly hats and gloves we headed north.
 
I don't profess one bit to be a beer writer, so this is a personal and unprofessional recollection of the bars we visited and some of the beers we drank. When we planned our trip I can recall failing to find a 'pub crawl style' guide to the craft beer bars of Copenhagen, so I hope that this post may prove helpful if you're visiting the city. (all images my own)
 
 
On arriving in Copenhagen we ditched our bags in our hotel and took a leisurely stroll northwards alongside the series of picturesque lakes that are popular with bikers and runners. Our destination was Ølbaren (pic above - left) situated on Elmegade in the Nørrebro district of the city. It is a small venue with a dark interior and other than one friendly enough chap sat at the bar munching on a bag of nuts we had the place to ourselves. Behind the bar a well-bearded and knowledgeable, if rather expressionless, young man guided us through their beer offerings, which consisted of around 10 taps and a seemingly endless bottled beer selection. I started with the 'Ugly Duck Imperial Vanilla Coffee Porter' from Denmark's own Indslev Bryggeri. Full in flavor and even stronger in alcohol, this was a bold way to start a weekend on the beer, but it was truly delightful! A few interesting beers later I finished up with a 'Southern Tier 'Crème Brulee Stout' (9.6 ABV) before we headed back out into the cold afternoon.

Heading eastwards back across the lakes we ambled merrily over to Ørsted Ølbar on Nørre Farimagsgade  (pic above - centre) where the interior reminded me of a more traditional English pub with chunky wooden tables and candles in bottles for mood lighting. The place was slowly filling up with folk readying themselves for a big handball game on the T.V later that evening against Spain. The bar has around a dozen beer taps and over 150 bottled beers to chose from. The stand-out beer of our visit here was an 'Imperial Biscotti Break' (11.5% ABV) from the Evil Twin Brewing Company (pic above - right). Another heavy dark beer that was keeping the winter chill out nicely! By now, even at mid afternoon, Copenhagen was plunged into darkness.
 
 
From there we drifted with the steadily falling snow back across the city following a recommendation to try the Fermentoren beer bar on Halmtorvet (pic above - centre) in the trendy Vesterbro district. In our desire to see the city we chose to walk, but with sub-zero temperatures biting into us we had to seek refuge in the Bryggeriet Apollo (pic above - left) which is situated near the main station and next to the popular tourist amusement park, Tivoli. A microbrewery that takes it's inspiration from Germany's brewing traditions, it is just about worth a visit and their dark and weissbier offerings went down well enough. Thawed out, we made our way to the Fermentoren Beer Bar.

Set back from the road and entered downwards via some steps this bar feels more like a trendy city venue and you can understand why it would be popular with the hipster types often associated with the craft beer scene. We went there on both nights of our stay and on both occasions the bar tender was friendly, knowledgeable and helpful, particularly on our second visit when we experimented with various combinations of bottled ales and stouts to create our own black and tan (things you do, eh?). A couple of stand-out Danish brewed beers from this venue included the 'Purple Haze Black IPA' from Croocked Moon Brewery (8% ABV) and the 'Wookiee IPA' from Amager Brewery (7.2% ABV). If you mistakenly use the ladies WC (which is easy to do, let me assure you) you will have the 'pleasure' of having Burt Reynolds watching over you as you take a leak (a wall painting, not the real man).

The last stop of our first night was a short walk away at Mikkeller Bar on Viktoriagade. The tiny, intimate interior is deliberately understated and like a scene from an Ikea brochure in places, but as a craft beer brewers go, Mikkeller is groundbreaking and so this is the bar to be drinking in right now. The mecca of craft beer, if you will. By this time of the evening I'm afraid I can't recall what beers we drank, other than that we was gently working our way through their own delightful and varied beer offerings. Another thing worthy of note was their amazing cheeseboard (pic above - right).

Thankfully, after all that beer indulgence, we had less than a 5min walk back to our hotel...
 
 
The following morning we all jumped out of bed early, heads feeling fine from a good nights sleep (take note larger drinkers, real beer doesn't give you a hangover) and headed off for a few hours of being tourists...
 
 
We took our first beer of the day in the microbrewery, BrewPub, on Vestergade near the city's shopping region. We had been spoilt the day before and so we arrived with high expectations. We each went for the rather expensive tasting flights (pic above - left) to try and ease our way into the day and to sample as many of their own offerings as we could. Nothing stood out and the rather cold bar tender never improved matters. We left disappointed.
 
Slightly despondent, we trudged over to the Lord Nelson on Hyskenstræde (pic above - centre) which given the name and the exterior appearance, we had low expectations of. Once inside we found a dingy, dusty, dark and tired looking interior and we could well have turned on our heels and walked straight out at that point. It would have been a mistake: at the bar we found an excellent selection of Danish microbrewery offerings on draught as well as a decent bottled selection. This is a bar that concentrates on the beer and makes no attempts to become 'trendy' like it's Mikkeller or Fermentoren cousins across the city. Best of all was the large barman, who was pure entertainment throughout our visit. He was a fanatical Copenhagen supporter and you sort of got the impression he would turn on you instantly if you dared to question the good name of his club! He'd heard of Charlton, mainly through the Rommedah and Jensen connection.
 
After a good few hours we headed back over to Fermentoren and then finished up once again at the Mikkeller Bar, where, remembering us from the night before, we enjoyed some fantastic hospitality sat lazily at the bar, steadily being fed new and interesting bottles of beer from their own brewery, one of which was a chocolate and chilli flavoured dark beer called 'Mexas Ranger' (6.6% ABV). We got talking to a very large bearded chap (by know we'll take the bearded thing as a given) who it transpired was the founder of the Flying Couch Brewery. The night before we'd sampled his delightful 'Green Velvet IPA' (7% ABV) at the Fermentoren. A disappointing start to the day, but a great end.
 
 
The following morning we checked out of our hotel, but with half a day to kill before heading home we drifted over to the Danish microbrewer, Nørrebro Bryghus on Ryesgade (pic above - left) to try out their offerings. It perhaps came a little too late in our break to make an impact, but it is definitely worth a trip. I sampled the 'Pacific Summer Ale' (5.6 ABV), which was a refreshing American-style blond ale (pic above - centre). I can also thoroughly recommend their beef burgers, which really hit the spot after a heavy few days on the beer.

Last but by no means least we finished up at Ølbutikken on Istedgade (pic above - right). This isn't a bar; it's essentially an independent specialist bottled beer shop that has a small bench seated area where you can sample some beers and watch the world go by outside. Ideally placed close to the main train station, it was a great place to kill an hour or two. We began with a 'Supa Hero' (8% ABV) from the American brewer, Clown Shoes, before engaging in more attempts to create some black and tans (not particularly successful on this occasion, I may add).

Reluctantly, with trains and planes to catch, we headed home.   
 
I don't have a great memory, so I am grateful to my companions, Scott and Bolts, for their assistance in putting this post together. Copenhagen is a fantastic place to visit outside of it's growing craft beer scene, and my only disappointment is that we couldn't stay a few days longer, especially given that Mikkeller & Friends on Stefansgade rather frustratingly opened a short while after we left the city. My only word of caution is that Sunday still seems to be a quiet day in Copenhagen with some of the bars mentioned above not even open at all, which is not ideal if you're visit is over a weekend.

We have already made tentative plans to return again in February next year...

2015 UPDATE -- I recently wrote an updated version of the 'Craft Beers in Copenhagen' post which can be found by clicking here