Tuesday 24 April 2018

Thank You, Jacko...

The potential of a home Play-Off fixture aside, Saturday's game against Blackburn represents the last opportunity for our talismanic skipper to run out onto The Valley turf in a Charlton shirt. At the end of this season, Johnnie will draw to a close a playing career of nearly 500 games (over half for Charlton) and close to 80 goals and concentrate solely on coaching. Whether or not he is fit enough to play any part in Saturday's game remains to be seen, as is the likelihood of him being involved even if he is fit, but there cannot be a single Charlton fan that would deny Johnnie the chance to 'run down the wing for me' one last time!  
The memories of Johnnie, the player, are endless, but there are a few that stand out for me personally. I was luck enough to have witnessed first hand the knee slide after his late, late winner at Watford in January '13 and the sheer delirium after his stoppage time goal against QPR at The valley in Feb '14. But for me, my favourite Jacko moment has to be the way he dragged us almost single-handily back from the dead in the 5-4 Cardiff classic in Nov '12. Others would have been even luckier to have been present when inside the space of a week Johnnie defeated the two Sheffield clubs with two wonderful free kicks and witnessed more of his trademark knee-slides after vital goals at Ipswich and Norwich away. Watching Johnnie lift the League One Championship trophy in May '12 still lifts the hairs on the back of my neck to this day. 
The list goes on... 
Of course, Johnnie's legacy extends far beyond vital goals. Johnnie was instantly believable in a Charlton shirt. He understood what playing for Charlton meant and what we expected of him and his fellow players. He knew we'd back him 100% if he just gave everything he had, and there cannot be a question mark over that. Better still, Johnnie gets what Charlton means to us, the fan. He felt our pain during low moments and has a history of providing a response of some kind, either on the pitch, or by his actions off it. As our captain, he had a welcome habit of saying the right things at the right time. Notably, after the heartbreaking Sheffield United FA Cup QF defeat in March '14 Johnnie took to twitter to single-handedly apologies to each and every fan that reached out to him. An incredible gesture. How many modern day footballers would do that? How many would care enough?
It seems inconceivable looking back that Johnnie never picked up the PoTY award.
In my son's bedroom are framed images of Sasa Illic saving that peno and Super Clive holding the cup above his head in '98. There's also a photo of Sir Chris Powell holding aloft a Charlton scarf on the day he took over as manager. My boy wouldn't have lived through the history of these guys personally; it's memories past down through me and his nan. But alongside these heroes is a photo of Johnnie, arms aloft after scoring a goal. My boy is of an age to have pretended to be Johnnie in the garden countless times. One such occasion I remember him replicating a JJ headed goal over and over again until he'd got it exactly right.
Thank you, Johnnie. You've stuck with us through thick, thin and even thinner. You will rightly be lorded as a legend; in illustrious company as one of the greatest captains our club has ever had. I hope you continue to have a long association with Charlton.
On those occasions when I allow myself to dream, I still see one last glory moment for our skipper. Lifting a certain piece of silverware at a rather large London venue. No one deserves it more.

Monday 1 May 2017

A Season To Forget...

Thank God that's over! Head and shoulders the most forgettable season in the two decades and more I've been regularly watching Charlton. From what I actually saw in person, there will not be a single moment played out on the pitch that I will remember fondly in years to come. There are countless moments I will sadly remember for all the most depressing of reasons.
I've missed more games this season than in the last 22 years combined and of the 11 games I endured, I witnessed a grand total of 3 wins. On 4 occasions I was stupid enough to purchased tickets in advance, only to later decide not to attend, one of which I got as close to sitting by my front door, shoes and coat on, car key's in hand, before accepting with a very heavy heart that I just couldn't face another depressing night at The Valley.
Thanks Roland. Thanks Katrien. Another wasted season full of empty rhetoric, empty stands, repeated mistakes, lies, arrogance and apathy. The distance between club and its fanbase continues to grow. Still, at least we never went down and don't forget there's some heavy plant at the training ground moving earth around, so it's not all bad.
Thank heavens for that top 6 budget and the 3 managers who contributed to our survival...

Pre-match a few hundred fans gathered behind the North Stand before marching to the rear of the West. I joined in, but it all felt a bit anti-climatic, if I'm being honest. I thought we'd long-since agreed that shouting at the rear elevation of a building just doesn't work.
Inside the ground black and white was the dominant colour, and the anti-Duchatelet sentiment from the vast majority of the crowd was ever-present throughout the game. But in truth, it felt like an opportunity missed. Much of the anticipation built up across social media with hashtags like 'Take Back The Valley' and 'End Game' hinted at something big being planned, but in the end, we've seen far more hard-hitting days of action. 
Not that I will criticise CARD or any other high-profile protest groups. In fairness, without CARD many (including me) may not have bothered yesterday, and whilst it might not have been militant enough for some, it would have unquestionably been an uncomfortable afternoon for Meire and Murray et al. The message was loud and clear. Some may prefer the sight of angry fans storming the directors box or invading the pitch during the game, but let's be fair about this, CARD will never advocate that. Whatever your opinion, groups like CARD, B20 and WAR are still more responsible than anyone for the continued pressure on this regime and that is something I'm very grateful for.
Charlton won, by the way. Not that it mattered. Here's Kyle's report.   

One undoubted positive in these dark times is the universal love for our skipper, Johnnie Jackson, who busted a gut second half to get on the score sheet, perhaps for the last time. For me, Johnnie's service to our club - his club - rightly puts him up there with Kinsella as the finest Charlton captain of the last 20 years, and he deserved every bit of his standing ovation yesterday.
As I walked back to my car I couldn't help but wonder when the next time I will make the journey to The Valley. Sadly, it's become too easy to find something else to do on a matchday as my priorities shift. This isn't about being one of those 'through thick and thin' supporters anymore; it's about not being taken for a mug by an ownership that doesn't value my emotional or financial investment in Charlton.
But then again, my absence will only hurt me as Roland or Katrien couldn't give a toss if I don't come. I miss caring. I miss feeling hurt when we lose. I miss felling happy when we win.
Heartbreaking. Truly heartbreaking.
My gut feeling is Duchatelet may well be sounding out potential bidders, but that is a long, long way from him actually selling. Worst of all, the sheer stubbornness shown by him and the hapless Meire, and their inability to accept and learn from their never-ending list of failures, leaves me with zero confidence that this is about to end any time soon. 

As always, I will sign off by saying thank you to anyone who's dropped by this very occasional blog this season and especially those who take the time to comment. Hope you have an enjoyable and relaxing summer. Let's hope Charlton's fortunes look considerably different come August.

Friday 28 April 2017

One Last Protest?

Will Sunday's final game of the season be the last time The Valley will see a matchday endured under dark clouds set against the backdrop of passionate, widespread anti-Duchatelet protests? We can but hope. As rumours continue to circulate that maybe, just maybe, Duchatelet is finally ready to sell, perhaps by the time next season kicks off this heartbreaking and hugely depressing chapter in the otherwise proud history of our club will finally be over. Perhaps - dare I push this dream even further - we may even be feeling positive about our future once again under a new ownership that is clever enough to harness the passion and energy of Charlton's fanbase and ambitious enough to make watching games enjoyable again. 
Earlier in the week The Guardian produced this excellent video to tug at the heartstrings. If you haven't already, I urge you to watch it. If it doesn't make you want to head down to The Valley on Sunday morning to fight for your club, then nothing will.
Don't forget, Roland couldn't care less that you're on a full boycott. He doesn't miss you anymore than he misses your money. That much is undoubtedly true. What he clearly doesn't like is bad publicity, so let's do all we can (within the law, blah, blah, blah...) to ensure he is embarrassed and shamed publically again. 
See you under the Charlton badge behind the Covered End at 11am Sunday...

Thursday 13 April 2017

It's The Hope That Kills You...

I came back from a long run yesterday afternoon and straight into a maelstrom of rumours on social media that Charlton were on the verge of new ownership, potentially as early as within a few days. A few credible sources added fuel to the fire. Something was clearly happening. I put a few beers in the fridge to chill just in case, whilst frantically refreshing my twitter feed for an announcement.
But, like everything else Charlton-related, when the news came it wasn't quite what we'd hoped for.   
If you can bring yourself to read the Daily Mail, the story of a possible takeover can be found here: Ready To Sell.
The intention of the would-be new owners, according to the report, is to turn Charlton into 'Australia's football club' which undeniably sounds ominous. As does the use of the word 'feeder club'. Most worrying of all is that the deal looks to exclude The Valley, which means Duchatelet would remain the owner of our greatest asset.
Out of the frying pan, and all that...
But on a positive, their stated aim would be to return Charlton to the Premier League and the feeder club and Australia links could simply mean we'd receive some young 'talent' to blood in the English game. You might also hope that with names like Mark Schwarzer rumoured to be involved this lot will have a better understanding of the English game than Uncle Roland has.
As a club we are not in a position of strength right now, and I think it would be very naïve for anyone to criticise any owner, Roland included, for balancing the books selling our better players from time to time. That's life, and we are far from alone. In fact, there will be very few clubs not having to face that disheartening issue. Selling out of necessity is one thing; all I ask for is realistic ambition.

I think it's also obvious that our knight in shining armour will not be a well-meaning Charlton-supporting local businessman with deep pockets...
As I've said many times, personally, so desperate am I for change, I'll roll the dice on any new ownership given how bad the current one is. My gut feeling is that it won't be Bruce and Sheila taking over at The Valley as they're currently searching down the back of the sofa for funds. But at least these latest developments give the firmest of indications Duchatelet is considering selling, despite the obvious denials from the club. That alone is a starting point I'll cling to in these dark times.

Hopefully the interest of the Aussies will force one or two others to step forward.

It's the hope that kills you.  

Wednesday 5 April 2017

A Moment To Remember, A Game To Forget...

It's impossible for me to believe that there can be a single person who is honestly enjoying Charlton at the moment. Perhaps the most hardy of come-what-may, highs with the lows types are still clinging desperately to routine rather than genuine enjoyment, but as we, the fans, continue to be taken for absolute mugs by the club, even their patience must be stretched to breaking point. At a time our 'top six budget' should be gathering momentum for a promotion push we're facing down the barrel of a gun...yet again!
Are we about to enter the fourth tier of English football? How has it come to this?
Last night Charlton should have been driven on by the high-emotions and a boosted gate ready to set aside differences with the ownership for this one special night and get behind our Charlton. PC Palmer would have wanted that, right? Instead, those players in red froze under the focus. Not for the first time this season, our team resembled total strangers, shirked responsibility, lacked any fight and showed all the body language you'd expect from individuals that would rather be elsewhere (Jacko aside).
As always, if you want a match report then Kyle consistently performs in a way I wish our football team did.
Despite the obvious concern, I don't see us going down. The points difference is frighteningly tight, but we have a cushion of four teams below us before we get to the bottom four. I think that alone may save us. Surely we can amass a better points total in the last five games than at least one of the five directly below us? (*checks the current form table and face-palms)
For this season at least, that's me done.       
In truth, I made the effort to attend last night for one reason; to pay my respects to a fallen hero and fellow Addick, PC Keith Palmer. The football was always going to be secondary. Below is the footage I took of the pre-match tribute for PC Keith Palmer. Absolute class from everyone in attendance.
I shouldn't be so cynical, but anyone else find it odd that for the first time in ages the 'official' attendance seemed about right? No, perhaps we shouldn't dwell on that point... 
I can only hope that by the next time I make the journey to The Valley, Duchatelet and Meire will have gone, Sue Parkes will have been removed from the directors box and the new ownership will be building bridges to a disillusioned and suffering fan-base. Whether the Charlton I fell in love with ever returns, only time will tell. I miss it more than I can put into words, though.      

Wednesday 29 March 2017

I Won't Miss You...

In the three-odd years of Duchatelet's ownership he and his hapless sidekick, Katrien Meire, have not given one ounce of a toss about my loyal support of Charlton Athletic, so how ironic that when the season ticket renew form dropped through my letter box on Wednesday it carried the opening line of "we've missed you!".
Very funny.
My former season ticket seat in the East Stand in Block E (zone 1) has risen to a whopping £500, which makes it only marginally cheaper that when we were operating in the halcyon days of the Premier League!
For nearly two decades my view across The Valley had comparable sightlines to the Directors Box and I took the many lows firmly on the chin, puffed out my chest and came back for more whilst enjoying the occasional highs with immense pride. 
Nowadays my view on a matchday is hindered by the 45 miles that separate my house to my second home The Valley. 
Perhaps most shocking of all is the closure of sections of the East and West stands at the southern end of the ground. The club suggest this is to "increase the atmosphere at The Valley and feel that bringing more supporters into the fewer blocks that are open will enable us to do this". Acceptance, albeit indirectly, that gates are continuing to fall at an alarming pace. Closing those blocks will not hide the embarrassing images of a sparsely populated Valley on a matchday. It will be worst next season still, and I'm actually surprised the club have kept open the upper tiers of the Covered End and West.
By the way, I wonder what sort of person would buy a £500 seat when they can purchase a £300 one a short distance away and stroll - unchallenged - to pretty much any seat in the higher-priced zone? Perhaps the club will use some the stewards surplus to requirements after closing some blocks to police the unruly 'Vinegar Pissers'?
I agonised for weeks about whether I should continue as a season ticket holder this time last season. Breaking a cycle that ran for nearly two decades because you feel so desperately disillusioned by the direction of the club was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. But I'm a man of principles and I won't be taken for a fool. This time around the decision is frighteningly easy. I will not be renewing again. Furthermore, having not attended a home game since early Feb, I've slipped into a full boycott as my apathy towards this current Charlton grows...
But I may well break that on the final home game of the season as CARD have announced a 'day of action'.
A CARD spokesperson said: “We plan to take back The Valley on the final day of the season and are asking fans who have been staying away, whether in protest or frustration, to return and send a resounding message to the next owner about what Charlton can be. This can be accomplished inside the ground or outside, for those unwilling to buy a ticket"
Once again, CARD are urging fans to delay renewing their ST for as long as possible. Absolutely no criticism of anyone who does, by the way. To each his own. I'll be back when they've gone, and how I dream of that day.  

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Missing Again...

As Charlton gear up for what is the last scheduled midweek game of the season tonight, I will once again be absent from The Valley. It will be the 5th game in a row.
I still cant quite comprehend how dramatically things have changed in a relatively short period. As little as two years ago I would never have believed it was possible for me to choose not to attend games. For over two decades, if Charlton was at home, I went, regardless of form and fixture. Simple as that. But under this cancerous regime the matchday experience has become a depressing shadow of its former self and results are becoming increasingly more irrelevant as the nonsense continues. 
I can't pretend staying away doesn't hurt. It does. So much more than I can explain in a few words. In the last year I've suffered bouts of IBS and anxiety that my doctor has put down to stress. I'm sure work has played a part, but I'm also certain the lingering anguish I feel about what is happening to my club has not helped. It's always there; especially when I'm on my own and my mind starts thinking deeply. I've gone from someone who craved solitude to someone who prefers to be around people.
Few beyond fellow Addicks would understand. In truth, by her own admission, even my own wife doesn't really 'get it'. Friends are perhaps understandably confused as to why it's taken me so long to come to this point anyway. 
For now at least, I just cannot face going to Charlton.
Last Saturday I went over the park with my boy instead. For nearly two hours the lad leathered balls at me in goal until my body could take no more. I loved every minute of it, but we can do that any time. I'd much prefer we could follow the fortunes of our club together on a Saturday afternoon as well.  
There are rumours circulating that maybe, just maybe, Duchatelet is exploring the idea of selling the club, to the point that nightMeire has supposedly shown potential buyers around The Valley. I can't allow myself to get excited, but as the speculation has come from some very credible sources it's impossible not to dream of the day this club is free of Duchatelet and Meire and I can have my Charlton back.