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


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

Friday, 6 September 2013

Non-league Day...

Bishop's Stortford FC circa 1976-77 season
 (Image copyright Vince Taylor @groundtastic)
With the England national side in action tonight and no Premiership or Championship football taking place this weekend as a result, this Saturday will once again become 'Non-League Day'.
The initiative, which was conceived back in 2010, is designed to encourage football fans without a game at their usual league club to turn their attention and support to their local non-league team, with a strong emphasis on promoting it as a day out for the family and to help support the local community spirit.
I grew up watching my local side, Bishop's Stortford, with my granddad. The picture to the left is the first football ground I ever knew; The George Wilson Stadium, or Rhodes Avenue as it was more commonly known. Sadly, it was bulldozed around 20 years ago to make way for much needed housing in the centre of the town and the football club was shoved out to the outskirts of town when a new stadium was finally built after 7 odd years of exile.
I cannot tell you how much I miss that old stadium, not least of all as I have the memories of my granddad stood, as he always did, in the same spot under the shelter of that corrugated 'Town End' as seen in the picture at the top. Back then me and my mates would sit behind the goal and spend the whole game winding up the opposing keeper. Back then supporting my local side was all that mattered. Those players were my heroes.
Tomorrow 'The Blues' are at home to Havant & Waterlooville in the oddly named 'Skrill South' (Conference South to the traditionalists) and I will be planning to attend, hopefully with my boy.
I know Al from God, Charlton & Punk Rock is a huge fan of non-league football and a big Sutton United fan. In all the drama of the Doncaster game a few weeks back I forgot to mention to Al that Bishop's Stortford and Sutton United met that same day with my local side running out the winners! I'm not sure what game Al's picked, but his trusty scooter will be off somewhere for sure.  

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Solly Good News...

Wow! We never saw that one coming. Charlton Athletic broke the news today that talismanic youth product and twice Player of The Year, Chris Solly, has signed a new contract until 2017. As far as news stories go, this is massive. With most fans predicting Chris would be sold in the recent transfer window, this is better than anything we could have expected. Addicks cannot smile wide enough. 
Solly, who has played over 100 games for Charlton, is hugely popular and has represented in glorious fashion that true 'Charlton spirit' that dragged us out of League One and consolidated our position in the Championship last year. He's been a little out of form lately, but it's likely the uncertainty about his future may have played a significant part in that. Hopefully this deal will settle him down.
There has been so much skepticism of Slater and Jimenez lately, not least of all speculation we are skint and heading on a downward spiral. I've stayed quiet on the doom and gloom as I prefer to deal in facts not speculation and rumour, and there's little doubt they've not helped themselves with poor communication to the fans, but this surely pours scorn that we're broke as 4 year deal with inevitable bonuses etc don't come cheap. Quite what resonance this development has to the issues surrounding the club's board, ownership and finance only time will tell, but I will be hoping this will be the first of many new contracts issued by the club to our key players. God knows it needs to be with so many out of contract come the season end.
Already on Twitter some folk are speculating as to whether this means Charlton have had some sort of cash injection. It's too early to say and we should guard against getting carried away, but there is little doubt this is a very positive story.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Jealousy & Dreams...

So one of the most boring and drawn out transfer stories of all time ended late yesterday with Gareth Bale finally completing his move from Spurs to Real Madrid. Given that I don't have Sky TV and rarely watch Match of The Day, I've seen next to nothing of Gareth Bale in action, so to now consider him to be the worlds most expensive footballer is rather odd to me. He may well go on to become one of the world's greats (I assume he's not quite there yet?) but one thing's for certain, if the transfer fee of £85.3m is unjustifiable, then his reported wage of £300,000 per week is *beyond obscene.
I'll confess I'm more than a little envious, though. Not with that sort of pay packet, you understand, as it doesn't do a man any good to concern himself with the wealth or financial circumstances of another. No, my jealousy is that he will get to play football in the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu (below), which is one of the worlds finest football arenas and one I fell in love with back in 1982 during the World Cup.
It got me thinking on my drive to work about my own fantasy career as a professional footballer (don't laugh, we've all done it!) and those stadiums I'd love to have played in...
Having already mentioned the Bernabéu, my mind instantly drifted to my successful if not turbulent spell in Argentina (well what else would it have been?) playing for Boca Juniors (heavy influences of my idol, Diego Maradona, I'll admit) at the Estadio Alberto J. Armando (below), which is perhaps better known by the wonderful name of 'La Bombonera' or as it translates in English, 'Chocolate Box'. Few stadiums the world over have quite the character and colour of this open air stadium, set in the poorest region of Buenos Aires. 
Next up I would head north to Central America and Mexico, where I would turn out for Club America in the mighty Estadio Azteca (below) in Mexico City, the scene of that infamous 'Hand of God' moment by my aforementioned idol back in '86. Second only to the Valley as my favourite football stadium of all time, this lumbering giant now has a capacity of 105,000, but back in the world cup finals in '86, games here would attract attendances closer to 115,000.
I won't include details of the Valley on this childish fantasy adventure, although I would have ended my long and established career with the Addicks, winning the Premiership and the, enough now.
Closer to home, and coming back down to earth, I'll be spending the day keeping a very keen eye on activities at the Valley, keeping my fingers crossed that nobody significant leaves and we get pleasantly surprised by a few new faces. Slater and Jimenez have a great chance here to show intent...  
*Stating The Obvious Alert!