Tuesday 29 December 2009

The Stakes Are High - A View From Griffin Park

I sensed a fair amount of tension amongst the travelling Addicks yesterday at Brentford's homely Griffin Park. Conversations of a similar theme carried freely in the cramped, but strangely cosy conditions of the stand the locals affectionately call 'The Wendy House'. I don't think it was so much to do with the numerous players unavailable through suspension, injury or illness, I think it had more to do with the uncomfortable feeling of the East Anglain pairing of Norwich & Colchester breathing down our necks with what appears to be considerable growing confidence.

Parky suggests Leeds can be caught. He is right, they can. But it is much more likely, at this stage of the season, that it will be one automatic place from the 3 teams directly below Leeds United. But which one? I noted that some Leeds fan sites see Norwich as their main challengers, which is a tad harsh on the Addicks considering we've maintained a top 2 position all season.

I have in no way lost faith that Parky and his battle-weary charges have the ability to cope with this pressure. The team, in the last few games in particular, have certainly shown the stubborn determination, desire and never-say-die attitude required for such a challenge, and I doubt many would question the skill levels spread over the team. But none the less, the fact is, we are entering a very nervy second half of the season. The stakes are high....very, very high! Should we not gain promotion at the first time of asking, especially given the perilous financial situation at the club, I fear the future will take a very dark twist.

After the game yesterday I joined my wife and two kids at a friends house, where a post-Christmas gathering was in full swing (yes, I should have been there with the family.....I know in my heart I should have been there!!). I tried to explain to a chap as to why I felt uncomfortable despite his comments stating "you're second, what's the problem?". I likened it to having a complaint that required surgery. Occasionally you are able to forget about the pain, and enjoy yourself with hope and belief. Then, for no apparent reason, your mind torments you with a lingering doubt that the impending surgery will not be a success, and that there will be a long road to recovery. He stared at me blankly. I felt stupid to have even attempted to explain my mind state.

Anyway, hope always dies last, and without hope you will have nothing.

So I remain hopeful........

Monday 21 December 2009

Slippers, Spanners & Defensive Slip-up's

Having had time to reflect on a monumental day in SE7, I'm not sure I enjoyed the experience as much as some might imagine, especially considering the scoreline. Naturally, had the Addicks have held on with the game at 4-3, I would judge differently: perhaps even putting the game alongside the 2003 Boxing Day thriller V's Chelsea. Despite being two down at one stage, any last minute goal conceded, turning a win in to a draw, always feels like a defeat on the walk back to the car. Worst still, Norwich win comfortably again. I can't ask for more from the Charlton players in terms of commitment and desire, but I would sure feel a whole lot better about things if the East Anglian team had a rocky patch!

In truth, the day never started well for me as I'd left my Christmas shopping so late (as usual) that I was left with little option but to trawl the various retail outlets off of Bugsby's Way an hour or so before kick off. There are few things I dislike more than shopping. This had a troublesome effect on my 'preparation' for the most eagerly awaited game in the League One campaign to date. I'm not sure I recovered.

By 13.50 I was nervously looking at the watch with only a pair of slippers (for the wife) to show for my efforts. My brain had turned to mush, and I was getting hot flushes. I looked on jealously at a chap sorting through ladies dresses in H&M, with a number of female garments already laid over his arms. I admired his ability to shop in such a manor and attempted briefly to convince myself I was capable of doing the same by wandering amongst the ladies section. I left it as quickly as I entered it!

I have a routine, like most, I'm sure. Shopping is not part of that routine.

Finally, within the comfortable surrounds of the Valley, I began to turn my attentions to football. The sizable cluster of Millwall fans on Floyd Road clearly had no other intention other than to attempt to intimidate. It was worthy of a quick assessment of risk, but nothing more than that. I was surprised by the low levels of policing on the day, but upon reflection, I think they got it right. They clearly have a low-profile approach where Millwall are concerned and despite the disappointment of seeing Millwall fans in home areas of the ground 'lording it up' approached in any meaningful way by police or stewards alike, I think the day could have escalated far worse.

The game itself was a classic, no doubt about that. I won't cover the details here, many well know Charlton blog sites have covered it already (very well I may add). All I would say is I thought Bailey was outstanding on and off the ball. He is exactly the sort of player you need in a battle. Come the end of the season, players like Bailey, Semedo and Dailly will be so important.

I hope the missus is pleased with her slippers!

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Semedo - Agree To Disagree...

Football is such an emotive subject, and I have long since accepted that another man's views are his right and prerogative, and as such, rarely get drawn in to deep debates on the finite details of the beautiful game. This non-confrontational approach stems, in part, from the fact that I travel alone, whether home or (occasionally) away, to and from games and have only and ever had my own standpoint to come to terms with and/or accept.

That said, on Saturday, as I walked from my normal parking position by the Sainsbury's depot off Anchor & Hope Lane, I followed some chaps decked in red and white who were discussing one José Vítor Moreira Semedo. There was three of them. The tallest suggested to the smallest that Semedo's absence would be a huge loss to the team. The middle man questioned his sanity and proclaimed that Shelvey should be picked ahead of our Portuguese talisman "all day long". The smallest man remained quiet.

I slowed my usual pacey march down to hear how this developed....

Mr. Tall continued, "He's the only player of his type in our club, maybe Spring, but not to that standard". I nodded to myself, eagerly awaiting the response. Mr. Small said nothing and checked his mobile as if searching for a distraction. "We'll miss him defensively, he breaks things up, protects the back four, feeds a Racon or a Bailey". The Middle Man was having none of it, insisting that Shelvey was the better option, somehow 'reinforcing' his views with a tenuous reminder of Shelvey's youthful age! "He's (Shelvey) got energy, can create and score goals". Mr. Tall responded as if he'd sucked the thoughts from my own brain, "Yeah, but that's what Bailey and Sam are all about, what we need is someone to stop them scoring, protect Dailly's legs".

It went on. Mr. Small remained silent throughout.

As I tired of the debate I passed by the chaps but took a glancing look at Mr. Small. At that point he looked at me, raised his eyebrows and smiled. He was far older than both his companions.

I couldn't help it, playing dumb I said "who's in for Semedo today chaps?"

Nothing from the taller two, but our Mr. Small broke his silence at last, "Keith Jones, with any luck"!