Tuesday 27 December 2011

Christmas Cheer (a very loud one!!!)...

Ok, I admit it's not particularly sociable or even polite to stare at a phone for 90 odd mins and ignore all the festive fun of a family get-together at Christmas. But then sometimes it is well worth taking enormous amounts of grief if you believe your distraction is important enough. And it most certainly was! I may well have been in North London, but my heart was firmly in the South West!

I stubbornly held strong against the endless stream of comments and icy glares and like my beloved Charlton, I like to think I won through in the end! I couldn't have cared less if my uncontrollable screaming and jumping around the front room was the final insult as Green bagged the winner in injury time hundreds of miles away.

How I wish I could have been there alongside the impressive 1000 strong Addickted at Huish Park. Credit to every one of them for making the journey.

As I couldn't listen to the game I had to follow it via the club's Twitter feed and the BBC website. My refresh button has never taken such a hit.

Well done Sir Chris and the team (and well done Walsall, as well) I can't smile wide enough.

Monday 19 December 2011

Predictive Text...

I just couldn't help feeling like it was going to be one of those days on Saturday, and sadly the concerns noted in my usual pre-match text conversation with my Mum proved correct. Justified confidence had given way to a little bit of nervous tension, but then it wouldn't be Charlton if it all went our way. The stakes are high and the relentless nature of the chasing pack mean Charlton must themselves keep pushing forward. No easy task in a very tough division.

As was the case when Tranmere came to the Valley in early October, Oldham came to avoid defeat at all cost. It's a shame as asides from turning the game into a pretty drab spectacle with negative tactics and endless time wasting, I sensed Oldham actually had better players than their ambition showed. Regardless of these factors, a below par Charlton will rightly consider this as a missed opportunity, and like the Tranmere game, failed to overcome the obstacle. Yann Kermorgant, on the other hand, appears willing to quite literally run through obstacles for the good of the team, even if it meant losing his head in the process (he's the well-bandaged chap in the image left). There are numerous players to consider, but I am beginning to wonder if he may turn out to be Powell's greatest acquisition of the season.

Results elsewhere meant Charlton never lost ground at the top and this proved to be a welcome consolation for a disappointing and frustrating day. No great cause for concern: days like this will happen.

It was great to hear the club have sold out their 7,000 ticket allocation for Fulham. Thanks to Dave at D.D.T.G for posting an article on the fast-selling tickets last week as I'd been so busy at work I'd completely forgot about the game! Thankfully, a quick and rather frantic phone call into the club secured my ticket, but despite the temptation, I decided against taking up my available allowance as although I could have shared the experience with friends, I thought it more ethical to leave the tickets open for the genuine Addickted. I just hope that with some tough and tricky games over Christmas we can avoid any slip-ups and can go to Fulham to enjoy a day out as League One leaders on form.

Finding the time to keep this blog up to date has been really difficult of late, and it is to the credit of those fellow Charlton bloggers that when I have found time for a burst of creative writing, the subject matter or point has been noted elsewhere. It's a great time to be an Addick and if all our collective Christmas wishes come true (yes, that one!), then come May I will not care anywhere near as much about repeating a subject.

Thanks for reading anything I've wrote this year, especially if you've taken the time to comment. Seasons greetings to you all.

Sunday 4 December 2011

RIP Socrates...

For the second Sunday running I feel compelled to write a few words about the passing of another footballing legend. This time, the sad new relates to the death of Socrates, the Brazilian midfield maestro of yesteryear, who died today, aged just 57.

Back in 1982, when I was just 8 years old, I first set eyes on Socrates in the Spain 82 world cup finals. His tall, thin and bearded appearance set him apart, as did his abilities with the football. Strong, technically brilliant in every respect, goalscorer and a natural leader, he was about as classy as you could get. Make no mistake: Socrates was one of the best midfield footballers to have ever played the game.

For me Socrates is synonymous with a football era that brings back so many happy memories, and I am genuinely sad to hear of his passing.

Monday 28 November 2011

This Is The One...

In the words of Ian Brown and the Stone Roses, 'this is the one...I've waited for'! I've very deliberately tried to avoid thinking about tonight's game too much in the last week or so (for my own sanity), but it dominated my thoughts on my usual Sunday morning run yesterday and the twisted, nervy feeling inside the belly since then is a constant reminder of what's to come. There's no getting away from it now!

I love the anticipation of big nights at The Valley. Under the shrouded, magical glow of the floodlights, night games seem to rise up a notch or two in atmosphere and importance: like nothing else matters anywhere else in the world.

Despite the prospect of a chilly night ahead and the game being live on Sky, I still expect a decent gate, and hopefully the Covered End will be on form tonight, relentlessly driving the team on. There will understandably be fewer Terrier fans present than if it were a Saturday game, which I guess offers us a slight advantage in having the game switched to midweek.

The sizable loss of Johnny Jackson aside, it has been some considerable time since I've felt so confident of a Charlton side going into a big game. No weak underbelly now: confidence high.

My Mum will be coming along with me tonight. Traditionally, when I've bought my Mum along in the past it has generally been for lower-profile games (for ticketing reasons, as much as anything). This, by contrast, will easily be the biggest Charlton game she will have been to and I hope with all my heart she gets to see the Valley roof lifted high into the night sky, because if it turns out to be 'one of those nights', she will have no idea what's in store!

In reality, we all know that in terms of promotion, nothing whatsoever will be decided tonight, win, lose or draw. But the Addicked also know that to overcome the challenge of Huddersfield will prove hugely significant in our quest to escape the 3rd Division. For what it's worth, I predict a 1-0 win to Charlton, with BWP netting late on.

Come on you Addicks!!!

Sunday 27 November 2011

God Speed, Garry...

Like everyone else today I was left totally stunned by the sudden news of Gary Speed's death. It is perhaps all the more tragic that he clearly had a troubled mind that few, if anyone, knew about. I just hope and pray that as more becomes know, the good name of Garry Speed holds firm.

In every respect, Garry Speed represented the type of footballer I always wanted to be. Left foot, right foot, excellent in the air, strong, fit and most of all, reassuringly consistent.

What a terrible and tragic waste.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Cometh...and Gone!

Simple question. What's happened to Arthur and his Cometh The Haddock blog?

I miss his alternative take on all things Addicted!

Thursday 10 November 2011


I took advantage of an early finish at work on Tuesday to watch my young son play football. He's only 5, so it's football in the loosest sense of the word, but even so, he's come on a lot since I watched him last. I should make more effort to do it more often as he seemed to really respond to me being there.

As always, the young lad was decked out in his Charlton home kit, which i'll confess made my eyes glaze over when I saw him stood alongside his little pals. Apparently, so my missus says, he's never once asked for anything different despite being the odd one out. Of the 12 young lads at the club, there was pretty much an equal split of Arsenal and Spurs kits on show, with Liverpool and Chelsea making up the remainder. I wonder sometimes if he'll succumb to the lure of the more 'popular and glamorous' clubs around him. I doubt any of his teammates would have heard of Charlton.

But it wasn't all bad. I'll confess I liked the fact he was put with the Arsenal boys when the session demanded teams (reds together). I spent many a happy Saturday afternoon swaying back and forth on the North Bank watching Arsenal with my mates when I was a young teenager, so I'll always hold a strong affection for the Gunners. 

Regular readers of this blog may recall that earlier this season my Mum and me took my son to his first ever Charlton game. It wasn't the resounding success I'd hoped for (he was unnerved by the crowd noise) and since then I've taken a bit of a step back from pushing football or Charlton on to him. I still favour the thought that he'll make his own mind up and it will be all the better feeling (for me) if he does become an Addick. I take it as a good omen that he seems quite happy to be in the minority amongst his peers. I'm not really one for conforming with the standard, so if he takes on my personality in this regard, he may cope perfectly well with being unique.

At one stage my boy ran through and drilled a wonderful shot passed the goalie (who was staring off into space at the time) before spinning away and celebrating in the outstretched-arm style favoured by David Beckham (apparently, they are encouraged to celebrate their goals, which I think is a nice touch). Just for the briefest of moments, I was transported to the East Stand and found myself cheering an Addick's goal with all the usual passion, before recoiling back down on my seat slightly embarrassed by my wild overreaction!

I don't do high 5's - it's an annoying Americanism that I detest with a passion and I actively work against it. My boy well knows this (I'm not particularly proud of this fact, by the way, but a man must hold firm his principles) so when at the end of the session the coach instructed the lads to 'high 5 everyone', my son and me simply indulged in a good, honest firm handshake, whilst I ruffled his hair and told him Chris Powell may well have been watching the goal he scored. He smiled.

I wish!

Monday 7 November 2011

Happy Feelings...

Putting it simply, there is no place on this entire planet I'd rather be than at The Valley when Charlton are putting on a performance as they did on Saturday. The Covered End lead relentlessly throughout in what was a fantastic, upbeat atmosphere. The returning soles lost to darker times made up an encouraging 17,500 gate, and if they came wanting entertainment, they got far more than they could ever have expected. If you're a regular at the Valley on matchdays then you will be able to sense the change in mood building up nicely as each game passes. Chris Powell's infectious enthusiasm resonates around The Valley and the nervous tension has given way to confident optimism.

Collectively and individually this is a Charlton team that is improving with each match. Perhaps most importantly, we finally appear to have a group of players that we can believe in. Without exception, they look like Charlton players: and by the fact that you're reading this, I know you'll know exactly what I mean by that. The Manager and his players have set the standard, and given our points tally and league position to date, I now expect us to stay the distance and challenge for promotion...perhaps I could even dare to dream of us winning the title. To let the wheels fall off now would perhaps be the biggest and most hardest blow of all in recent years.

I thought Preston started quite brightly on Saturday, albeit without creating anything too threatening. Perhaps they are suffering the same hang-up that we had when we came down from the Championship. It could be that their players are making all the right sounds publicly, but inwardly they are not particularly up for the sizable battle to get out of this less-than-glamorous league (some will think they are too good for League 1, I suppose). I can't stand Phil Brown, either. I used to think he was one of the most exciting managers in the game when he took Hull to the Premiership, but I lost all respect for him when he made the worst decision he will ever make throughout his entire managerial career when he gave his players a teamtalk on the pitch at the City of Manchester Stadium in December 2008. I literally can't look at him now without laughing.

Isn't it nice to have a warm feeling inside rather than the gut-wrenching sense of despair? There has been so many times down the years that I have genuinely wished it all never meant so much to me: that I could care when I wanted. Even my missus has noticed an improvement in my mood (bless her, she's even started asking how we got on again). There will be set backs, and we should guard against complacency (I don't think this will be an issue, mind), but as was proved post-Stevenage, this Charlton side can respond. For now though, at least, the naysayer's remain quiet.

Friday 4 November 2011

Shank's Pony...

I've always preferred to use my own legs for transport whenever possible, especially when trying to get around London. I'm not one for hopping on buses and I hate the hustle and bustle of the tube only marginally more than the mindless boredom of the vista (or rather, lack of it). Asides from those reasons, taking the 'Shank's Pony' method gives you a great chance to experience our great city in a manor that public transport just wouldn't allow. I love plugging in the headphones and getting lost in my own little world whilst people watching and exploring new sights.

I had a couple of meetings yesterday afternoon which meant I didn't need to rush into town, and as I'd planned to meet a mate for a cheeky after-work beer, I had no reason to rush straight home after. Taking advantage of my leisurely day, I kicked things off with a 4 mile run in the morning before deciding upon a brisk walk to the train station soon after.

With plenty of time to kill I took a route down from Liverpool Street Station via Moorgate and Poultry to St. Paul's so I could take a look at how the Occupy London protests were progressing, before heading south over the Millennium Bridge and back along Bankside to a building just off Southwark Bridge, the destination of my first meeting. From there, I ambled east through Borough Market before following the Thames past HMS Belfast and returned north over Tower Bridge. The destination of my next meeting was Thomas More Square, near St. Katherine's Dock: a 5 min walk from The Tower of London.

Finishing up there around 3pm, I then decided that as I had a couple hours to kill I may as well walk to Euston Station, where I was due to meet my mate for a beer in the craft beer venue, The Euston Tap (a drinking spot I can highly recommend, by the way). Despite the pouring rain my legs kept on walking...via Cannon Street, back up past St. Paul's, past Holborn Viaduct (where I followed a chap for 10 mins who was having an almighty row with someone who I assume may have been his wife), turning right at High Holborn, up Southampton Row and past Tavistock Square before finally arriving on Euston Rd almost dead on our meet time.

After a few drinks, I compromised my principles with a tube ride to Tottenham Hale where I caught the train back to Bishop's Stortford. I was briefly tempted to jump in a cab, but decided I'd walk home instead. The rain had stopped by then and I fancied a stroll.

I never really gave it much thought throughout the day, but I become curious on the walk from the station of just how far I'd travelled using only the power of 'Shank's Pony'. I was sad enough to track my route via View Ranger Maps this morning and if I include my run at the start of the day, I'd done just shy of 17 miles!

I was pretty pleased with that.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Pause For Thought...

My Mum alerted me to this story this morning: her cousin is a Doncaster fan.


It's worth a read and a momentary pause for thought for a very brave man and his family. It beggars belief how he could have managed to find the courage to play in the game, but Doncaster striker, Billy Sharp (wearing No.10 in the image above), played and scored in his sides 1-3 defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough last night, just two days after the death of his newborn son.

It certainly puts football in to perspective, but also shows the intense unity that can be found in the game as well.

Monday 24 October 2011

Spinning Wheels...

I've long since come to the conclusion that some people simply prefer to moan. Despite Charlton's clinical attacking play and upbeat, energetic performance on Saturday, The Bloke Behind Me midway through the second half rather angrily suggested that "we were lucky to be winning this game. Carlisle have played the ball around far better than we have". We was 4-0 up at the time, and for once, looked as comfortable as I can remember for some time at The Valley. It's hard to imagine what more he could have expected, but thankfully, for this week at least, he would have been an isolated figure amongst the doom and gloom merchants who seem determined to dwell on the negatives. On this show at least, the wheels are still stuck on and spinning quite nicely.

Carlisle approach to the game in terms of formation and counter-attacking playing style was just what Charlton needed to face at this time. On another day, Carlisle clearly have enough about them to trouble any opposition and I applaud the fact they clearly never intended to 'park the bus' as many teams will at the Valley this season. They were confident of getting a result beforehand and you could see flashes of why they would have felt that way. Their away form has been impressive and they have some very able players. Granted, their defence certainly had an off day, but I take the view that this was as a result of Charlton's powerful forward play and pressure (for the first 45 at least) rather than their own failings. All this serves only to give the scoreline greater resonance, in my opinion. I suspect we may well have taken the foot off the peddle towards the end, but I have no great issues with this given that we have a couple of tricky away fixtures coming up this week.

Despite reservations regarding the lack of creative edge in Stephens absence (his missus had a baby the night before), we produced chance after chance. Andy Hughes done an excellent job as Stephens replacement, and although a completely different player, his energy and combative nature gave us an edge in midfield and I'd make him my Man of the Match for impact alone, narrowly beating Wiggins, who is growing ever more impressive as the games go on. Like everyone else, I was pleased to see young Solly back in the team. If it had been down to me, I'd have have bought back Hayes for Kermorgant, but Powell's faith in the latter proved correct as asides from his excellent brace, Kermie's partnership with BWP took a massive leap forward, in my opinion. Clearly evidence that relationships take time to gel. I was surprised to see that Kermogant is noted as just over 6ft tall on Wikipedia. His standing leap and general heading abilities are impressive, although he doesn't appear to be particularly big to me.

The only downside to my day was the painful aching in my belly that kicked in around half time. Normally, such issues are caused by anxiety from watching Charlton, but this this time the culprit was not related to matters on the pitch, but rather a Chicken & Leak pasty I bought at the wonderful Borough Market earlier that morning. It clearly didn't agree with me.

At present, my working week is opening up quite nicely to allow me to attend tomorrow night's trip to Adams Park. Last time we was there a late goal from Nicky Bailey sealed a 2-1 victory, and the relatively short distance home seemed to fly by. Let's hope for much the same on Tuesday night.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Simply Fry...Why?

I've always been a huge fan of Stephen Fry and after watching his new TV show 'Fry's Planet Word' on BBC 2 tonight something struck me as being rather odd...or rather, a bloody disgrace! 

I hope, dear reader, you can help me understand why despite his almost universal popularity - often being referred to as a 'national treasure' - Stephen Fry has never been honored by the Queen? Not so much as an MBE or OBE, let alone the Knighthood I'd say he was well worthy of.

Actor, broadcaster, author and social commentator, surely Fry is deserving of an extension to his name?


Friday 21 October 2011

An Alternative View...

Back in November last year I posted two simple but rather jingoistic sentences under the heading of 'Dare We Dream?' It was an instant and spur-of-the-moment response to the astonishing 5-1 away win at Peterborough United. The result was our 4th straight win, which included an equally impressive 3-0 away win at Swindon the Tuesday beforehand, and lifted us from mid-table to 2nd place: the highest we'd been all season. Had Charlton hit form at a crucial stage of the season? Dare we dream of promotion?

On the face of it, it appeared a very credible run of results, but in all honesty, deep down I wasn't so convinced, and nor was the majority of the Addicted. Too many question marks and lingering doubts hung over the team for me to really believe we could push for promotion. The following Saturday we laboured to a 5th straight win at home against Yeovil, but despite this I recall leaving the Valley that day struck by the realism of the greater picture, having all-but-accepted we just never had what was required to escape the 3rd tier of English football. Just 5 games after that glorious result at Peterborough, we lost 2-4 at home to Swindon, Parkinson lost his job and the club's new owners faced head-on the desperate need for a complete and unreserved re-build of the entire playing staff.

In life it is hugely important to face up things that are not working, no matter how hard it may be...

Unlike last year, my overall outlook is far more positive and thankfully I have considerably more faith that Powell, Dyer and the team will not throw in the towel and give up like some of the Charlton supporters (and I use that term loosely in some cases across the forums) appear to have done of late. I may not have the written prowess of some of the more established Charlton bloggers, but I shall try to offer an alternative view on our current heroes and guess what...it's going to be POSITIVE!!!

I may well have found a niche in this blogging thing at last!!!

No, I've not been on the Friday afternoon ale (although I would like to)...and I'm quite literally throwing this together before more pressing work issues rightfully take priority...but I think the players deserve a great deal more credit that they are currently getting.

Lets all be totally honest and agree that we've exceeded expectations to date in terms of the start to this season and our current league position. Surely that's a good thing, isn't it? I don't recall anyone...and I challenge you to prove me wrong...predicting we'd push for automatic promotion this season following such a large-scale change to the squad (for the record, I felt a play-off place was achievable with a bit of luck along the way - I've not changed my view). Therefore, I don't quite see what the doom and gloomers are being let down by.

At least they are consistent. If they have let their dreams run away with them after a few victories, it stands to reason they will loose hope equally as quickly.

It's very easy to forget that this is a new group of players who should, theoretically, grow even stronger as their relationships and understandings of each others game develops over time. Its encouraging for me to think that across the squad we have an abundance of players who seem to have a hunger and a desire in a way that's noticeably different to players who have played for us in recent years, particularly on loan from clubs from a higher division. Some players may see this opportunity at Charlton as perhaps the biggest chance they will ever have to make a name for themselves at a 'big' club with a good fan base and a premiership quality stadium. These are the sort of players you want at your club and I applaud the new owners for backing Powell in getting them.

Our biggest problem of the last 4-5 years is a lack of central midfielders who could pass the ball. That's not a general term...they quite literally couldn't pass the ball. In Hollands and Stephens we have central midfielders who are far more comfortable on the ball (left and right peg) and, furthermore, actually want to play football and retain possession of it. Stephens in particular looks a great prospect, assuming we don't destroy his confidence and desire to get on the ball with anxious and nervous vibes from the crowd, which, by the way, I think cost Racon dearly.

Last season we had about as much fight as the Zanzibar army did when they foolishly took to arms against the mighty British forces in 1896, lasting just 38 mins before surrendering. Across the pitch Charlton appear physically and mentally stronger to cope with the rigours of League One. Where performances have failed this season my personal view is it is more to do with tactics than individual player ability (Stevenage away looked a tactical disaster from Powell, in my eyes).

Furthermore, because last season our midfielders couldn't pass the ball, BWP couldn't score. Because this season we have midfielders who can pass the ball, BWP will always stand a chance of scoring. Simple as that. Injuries may take it's toll as the season progresses, but we are not the only ones who will suffer in this regard.

None of the above is a guarantee for success, but nothing I've read this week condemning the team to impending failure is guaranteed either. A stylish win tomorrow and watch the hope return in abundance as if it was never in doubt.

I'm sticking to what I believe CAN happen this season. Join me in thinking positive!

Monday 17 October 2011

Head In The Sand...

I can't say I've taken too much notice of the fall-out from our first defeat of the season on Saturday, in part as I suspected there would be on-line Addicks falling over themselves to proclaim that the wheels are falling off first. Following the disappointment of the defeat I didn't fancy the doom and gloom, regardless of whether there was credible foundation in the criticism. I'm not one to stick my head in the sand, it's just that my own view on the new-look Charlton side this season is still largely positive and following such an impressive unbeaten start to the season I think the team deserve a bit more faith. We are, it must be said, exceeding my expectations, after all.

What is undeniable, however, is that we are in desperate need of a good quality 90 min performance this Saturday, because at present the doubters are able to make some valid observations whilst the case for the defence desperately needs a shot in the arm. I can't deny it is worrying that the best performance that I've seen this season came from our second 11 in the JPT v's Reading. Work stopped me from attending the game Saturday (which was annoying considering it's my closest away game), so I can't offer anything more than a simple passing comment on the team selection, which did surprise and disappoint me. The inclusion of Cort for young Solly (who has been one of our top performers this season) and the re-shuffle at the back as a result sent out a worrying message that the impending physical assault from Stevenage had got to Powell (which would have been a boost to the players of Stevenage). It smacked too much of an obvious countermeasure and I would question whether a team who sat undefeated at the top of the league should have taken such action. Perhaps Powell is guilty of over-thinking the game at times in his attempts to establish himself as a manager.

Dave at Drinking During the Game urged us in his post-match report to 'Reflect, if you will, on Huddersfield's 4-0 win at Exeter this afternoon'. He doesn't elaborate on the statement, but few would need to think too deeply to understand his hard hitting point. I doubt Huddersfield changed the dynamics of their team to suit Exeter, and the West Yorkshire team have now gone the equivalent of a whole season without a league defeat (if you don't include the Play-Off Final). Huddersfield are as powerfully impressive as Norwich were when they escaped the 3rd Division a couple of seasons back. By the turn of the year it was almost inevitable that they'd be going up, such was the consistency, might and unfaltering quality of their performances. I never sensed arrogance, it is just what happens when you know you are good enough and should be winning games if you play to your strengths. Charlton have lost to inferior opposition (in terms of player for player comparison) too many times in the last 4-5 years (and beyond...), especially at the Valley.

Another point I've picked up on elsewhere is the one surrounding Paul Hayes. I think it's quite interesting that Hayes has never received much positive attention, but no sooner was he was dropped in favour of Kermorgant (a move few would have questioned at the time) his worth to the team - linking the midfield with the strikers - has been notably lacking. New York Addick wrote 'Paul Hayes may be a player best appreciated by the purists' in his latest blog, and I can't agree more. I was concerned when he was left out of the side and now I hope that Powell reintroduces him on Saturday. Not least of all, BWP, who looks a little out of sorts, may well benefit from his re-instatement to the team.

But it's easy to look at those teams around us and question our ability to fend them off. Only a few weeks ago we were soundly beaten at The Valley (albeit in the JPT) by an impressive looking Preston team who looked far too good for League One, and yet despite this, a week later Preston loose 2-1 to Leyton Orient and, according to a friend of mine who watched the game, struggled to do anything worthwhile after a decent first 20 mins. It may well be stating the obvious, but you can't be top of the league after 13 games without some credible foundations worthy of praise and we should rightly be proud of our current position, after all, it's a tough and unpredictable division, for sure.

Work in progress...but still top!

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Leaving Early...

I decided to leave the Valley tonight around 15 mins before the final whistle. I wouldn't normally do such a thing but I was reasonably confident we wasn't going to make a comeback!

After all, I shouldn't feel too bad, the players hadn't turned up in the 75 mins I sat there enduring that awful excuse for a football match. So desperately bored was I that at one stage I even began thumbing through some work emails...

It may seem a little churlish to criticise Powell and the team considering our league position and results to date, but tonight they let down those fans who, like me, bothered to turn out to support them. This game may have been an inconvenience to Powell as he rightly pursues greater goals, but half-hearted performances like this, and the criticism that will undoubtably come as a result, could well prove damaging.

What a shame such an effortless performance was live on the TV.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Rolling Countryside To Stadium:MK

Last time we travelled to Stadium:MK I got as close as the front door before deciding I couldn't face the disappointment (at the time, if I remember correctly, we were hanging on by our fingernails to faint hopes of the play-off's). It was a good call, we lost 2-0. This time around I was far more confident we'd get a result, so headed out in to the warm afternoon, full of optimism.

Milton Keynes is only an hour away from my house, and what a pleasant drive it is. I can't think of another fixture that I could access via A-roads alone, with rolling countryside and woodland as my landscape along the entire 50 mile route. Even my sat nav seemed quite happy to avoid motorways. Furthermore, where else could you pull up your handbrake within 200 yards of a stadium on a matchday and park for free (for future reference, ASDA)? In fairness, the latter point is perhaps a lamentable juxtaposition of good v bad. After all, despite the welcome convenience of being able to park so close without charge it was because this is League One and we're playing MK Dons, who have no fans whatsoever.

Stadium:MK is certainly imposing given it's remote location, but it's far from impressive from the outside. The lack of cladding to the steel-framed structure gives it a half-finished, awkward feel. Inside it is a different story, where it is easily as good a stadium as you'll find in this country. A few years back I watched Bayern Munich play Munich 1860 in the hugely impressive Allianz Arena on the outskirts of...er, Munich...obviously, and Stadium:MK (or whatever they call it nowadays) reminded me of a smaller version of that in the way the concourse circumnavigates the entire stadium and has unrestricted views of the pitch (picture above). The sightlines are exceptional and the seats are massive and roomy. Shame there's no home fans to fill them. You do have to wonder if there will ever be a need for them to add seats to the top tear which remains out of use and set aside for future expansion.

We were poor in the first half, but credit must go to MK Dons for the way they passed quickly and pushed forward, mainly down our right as if targeting young Solly. They are a decent and capable side and have a bright young manager. I'd need to see the penalty again, but in real time I thought it looked clumsy and, as was the case Saturday, a needless challenge. In some respects, I was pleased we were only the one goal down at half time as it could have been worse. Thankfully the second 45 was better as we imposed ourselves on the game. Credit must go to Powell for recognising the two areas that needed improvement with the two attacking substitutions, whom combined to produce our equaliser. We could have gone on to win the game (Jackson's free header - which you'd have put your bloody mortgage on), but then we could have lost it as well.

This could well prove to be a very useful point come May.

Monday 26 September 2011

A Perfect Way To Spend A Saturday...

Saturday got off to a great start after I decided to pass up my wife's offer of a lift and take full advantage of the balmy late summer weather by running the 6.5m to the pub where I'd left my car overnight. I do enjoy the virtues of a good run first thing in the morning - it really sets me up for the day. The run was particularly enjoyable as part of my route took me off-road and along countryside tracks, which is a terrain I very rarely run on. By the time I got back home I was about ready to grab a shower and head for the Valley.

To raise my mood still further, I had a raft of music to get through on the journey down to SE7. One of the great advantages of rarely having company to Charlton games means I can get deep inside the sort of music I want to listen to undisturbed. Being a music man, I love those self-indulgent moments. Later on Saturday evening my missus and I were going to an Arabian Nights themed fancy dress party (more on that later) and as my varied musical taste are well documented, I'd been asked to put together some music that fitted the mood of such an event. Therefore, I spent the 45mins on-route to the Valley thumbing through my collection of music from North Africa and the Arab Peninsula, with my personal favourite being some excellent jazz from the legendary Egyptian drummer, Salah Ragab.

Knowing that the club's £5 a ticket promotion pretty much guaranteed a decent turn-out (22,000 plus), and taking into account Charlton's recent history, the game looked like a stonewall banana skin. But for the first time in some years I felt confident we'd get a result because we were at home, had the better players and had good form on our side. As any Addick would know only too well, those facts alone (excluding the last one, perhaps!) would not have been enough in recent years and so often these sort of occasions ended up being horrible days to forget. The Covered End were in raucous mood, which made for a great atmosphere inside the bustling Valley. Long may it continue!

Having faced the sort of ungracious demise that we have, I think most Charlton fans still expect the wheels to fall off and continue to guard against possible disappointment by finding it easier to focus on the elements of the team that remain work-in-progress. I can understand that, but the apprehensive feeling and fear of impending disappointment is lifting in me, and my faith in the team to produce more consistent levels of performance is growing ever stronger. Charlton do look a different team...but that's because they are: completely different. There will be set backs - and the week ahead will be a huge test - but we are now deep enough into the season to stop referring to the 'good start' and concentrate on the 'continuing good form' of the Addicks. By the end of the week, we'll be a quarter of the way through the season!

I thought a number of players produced their best performances to date, which is another encouraging sign. Wiggins, in particular, was outstanding, as was Solly, once again. Although not at his best, I love Stephens desire to play football. How refreshing it is. I just hope that the crowd encourage him rather than grow frustrated with the odd misplaced pass that will inevitably happen. We do not want to end up with the 'hot potato' scenario that Racon & Semedo were never able to shake off, and how we suffered for it. Hollands, who understandably looked a little bit away with the fairies at times (his wife gave birth to Triplets earlier in the week) gives Charlton a real steely-but-classy edge in the middle of the park. He's my new favourite Addick (he'll no doubt be pleased to know)! So often the mark of a good side, the backbone of Charlton looks pretty impressive at the moment.

Despite Chesterfield pulling a goal back from the spot, the game never seemed in doubt for me.

So on to the evening, where I took on the role of a rich Arab (I've never seen a poor one), with my missus dressing up as a Genie. The hosts of the party had gone to extraordinary lengths to create an Arabian paradise in their home which included authentic cuisine and the creation of an amazing Bedouin-style desert settlement, complete with a 4 pipe Hookah (Hubbly Bubbly) in their front room! It was a fantastic night. And as for my music...it went down a treat...for about 15 mins (14 mins longer than I thought), before being replaced by the sort of pop drivel that Capital radio hammer to bits.

A great day all round...

If the weather holds and work permits, I will be taking in my first away game of the season tomorrow night, full of hope as always!

Monday 19 September 2011

Liquid Sunshine...

(Not Charlton Related) If last year's fell walking trip to Lakeland rates as one of the best experiences of my adult life, then our return this year easily goes down as one of the biggest disappointments. As lucky as we were last year with clear blue skies all through the weekend without a hint of rain, we clearly had to pay the price this time around with swirling wind, torrential rain (or liquid sunshine, as a sympathetic local referred to it as) and low cloud that completely destroyed the otherwise glorious views.

It was perhaps that last point that has left me feeling so deflated. The landscape in Lakeland is truly breathtaking and I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to seeing it again. At around 2,400ft, the Langdale Pikes should have offered us some fantastic views across Lakeland, but sadly visibility had dropped to around 10-15m long before we got that far up.

Our plan was to camp out overnight and continue to walk the following day, but with conditions only getting worse we made the hugely disappointing - but annoyingly sensible - decision to cut short our intended route and return to our accommodation in Great Langdale. All in all, we completed nearly 6 miles in some of the most demanding walking terrain in the UK in some of the most awful weather conditions I have ever had the misfortune to be out in! The following morning the torrential rain continued to fall and even the temptation of a day in the pub offered no solace so we cut short our break and retuned home.

Oh well, that's the way it goes, I guess. After all, the clue is in the name. Lakeland has an abundance of water, and this can't happen without an abundance of rain!!! Thankfully, being an Addick I am well aware that you have to take the rough with the smooth: to experience the lows to appreciate the highs. At least the result at Rochdale cheered me up.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Return To Lakeland...

(Not Charlton related). Very nearly 12 months ago myself and four of my friends embarked on a long weekend of fell walking and wild camping in the Lake District. It was a huge success and easily rates as one of the best experiences I've had in my adult life. This weekend we return to Lakeland, take to the hills and head out into the wilderness once again. I have to confess, like a kid at Christmas, I can't wait to go back!

Last year, the ultimate goal of our 3 day trip was to climb Scafell Pike, which, at 3,200ft, is England's highest mountain. It's not a huge challenge technically, but it does require a fair bit of stamina and no less determination to reach the summit, especially after a day and a half of trekking to get there. I was absolutely thrilled to bits when I reached the top (picture below) and rather enjoyed my brief moment as the tallest person in England!

This year we're looking at a route which covers an area north of the Great Langdale valley and encompasses 8 of the 214 Wainwright Lakeland mountain fells. As was the case last year, we'll be sleeping under canvas, relying on tarns and streams for our drinking water and carrying our food and other provisions in our weighty rucksacks. We also plan to do some wild swimming at Codale Tarn, which will be the location of our camp on the first night. Last year we attempted to take a dip in Angle Tarn (below), but the water was so frighteningly cold that nobody lasted longer that 2 minutes in the water. It was so cold, in fact, that my hands began to claw-up the second I entered the water. All I could think of was my Dad telling me to "get your shoulders under, son, and you'll be fine" but our bravado was beaten all hands down by Mother Nature.

For so many reasons I feel much better prepared this time around, not least of all as I have a far greater understanding and respect for the terrain. I've spent the last year studying OS maps and reading books by and about the legendary author, Alfred Wainwright, who made it his life's work to create fell walking guides to Lakeland. I shall be taking his third book up the fells with me, but the added weight will be well worth the effort, as anyone who has read his books will testify.

Lakeland is a truly awesome environment to walk in, but it can be unforgiving as well. One of our party still suffers occasionally from the effects of a nasty fall last year which injured his wrist and back and I had quite a scare myself when I suddenly found myself submerged up to the knees in a watery bog that appeared from nowhere. In my case, the shock was worse than the actual danger, but it was a lesson learnt. As Wainwright himself once said "watch where you are putting your feet". Great advice!

The one disappointment I have when looking back over my trip last year was realising that I had climbed on notable fells without even realised what mountain I was on at the time. Take Bowfell and Esk Pike, for example, both of which are not far off 3000ft high (only a few hundred feet smaller than Scafell Pike). Looking back I really would have liked to have appreciated in real time the achievement of climbing over both mountains on-route to Scafell Pike. It wasn't intentional: the fact is I was totally blown away by the sheer enormity of the landscape in Lakeland, completely in awe of my surroundings. We also relied a little too much on our unofficial leader, Rich, who was in charge of navigation. In hindsight, his keenness to keep focused on our route meant we never really discussed exactly where we was at any one time. This year I have propelled myself forward and it will be my proposed route that we will walk this year.

I have always been a solitary person, enjoying at great length my own company. The sheer vastness and remoteness of a place like Lakeland appeals to me in this regard. But as I get a bit older my desire for solitude has lessened considerably. I'm looking forward to a weekend of manly camaraderie and endless blokey banter (with my quirky ways often baring the brunt of the leg pulling), mixed in with some of the most impressive scenery found in the UK.

Monday 12 September 2011

Can We Go Home Now?

It may not have been a classic, but it did have it's talking points. Two goals that stood and, by all account (I've not seen either repeated on the box), two 'goals' which should have also been given. So it was 3-1 then! Either way, a Charlton victory. Any sympathy I may have felt for Exeter was negated in part by the sheer stupidity of Nardiello in getting himself sent off. If Charlton were also robbed of a perfectly good goal a short while after Nardiello's effort, then young Solly showed the Exeter front man just how to react to such an injustice.

I've always felt a sending off, no matter how you feel the numerical advantage may be advantageous at the time, ruins the game. Exeter got behind the ball and defended, relying on the chance of a counter wherever possible. They never really threatened, but it took Charlton far more patience to break them down than some fans present were prepared to accept. This disappointed me, if I'm honest. I have to say, there are growing sections of Charlton fans that are sounding more like Spurs fans as the games go on, like it's our God given right to roll teams over because we've got 'history'. At present, I'm putting this undercurrent of irrational thinking down to the sheer frustration of being in League One and a desire to get out of it, but it really bothers me to hear this sort of attitude from Charlton fans. It's as if there's a growing number of 'fans' who want the wheels to fall off just so they can tell us they told us so!

In my book, Saturday was all about staying calm, sticking to a game plan and getting up and over a very stubborn obstacle - which we did. 3 points won.

Anyone who read my previous post will know that I took my young son, Thomas, along Saturday to what was his first Charlton game. In reality, the young lad done far better than I'd hoped, with a good 40 mins passing before the first "can we go home now". At times throughout the first half he genuinely looked like he was watching wide-eyed, and he pulled out a couple of sensible questions. One of which I could well have done without, following Nardiello's sending off. I had to explain the chap had been very naughty and was sent from the pitch to have a think about his actions. I thought I'd prepared myself well, with a pocket full of sweets and a fully charged DS should he get bored, but what I hadn't even considered was the noise. He was clearly a little unnerved by the volume inside the Valley. The only downside to the day will have been the 3 blokes who sat behind us in the first half who shouted and swore repeatedly throughout the first half. Firstly, I'm so thankful I'm not that negative. Secondly, what a shame you have no respect for your fellow Addicks. We moved to the Northern end of the East Stand in the second half and my boy managed to see out the game, but it was a shame we had to compromise our position for such ungentlemanly people.

In hindsight, I think the whole day was just too much for him to take in, but I'm glad my Mum and me took him. At least he knows now what Daddy does every Saturday afternoon and over time I'm hoping he may ask to come again.

A special thank you to Charlton who added a note in the matchday programme about my lad's attendance for his first ever game. That was a great bonus for me and he was chuffed to bits with seeing his name in print.

So back to my usual seat on Tuesday night, and hoping for a repeat of the excellent performance shown by the 2nd 11 against Reading.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

A New Face At The Valley...

Saturday is sure to be an emotional occasion for me as it will be the first time I take my boy to watch Charlton. For nearly 18 years, following the Addicks has been a lonely affair for me, but as much as I have greatly valued the solitude of having Saturday afternoons all to myself, I've reached a time of my life when I'd love my son to be alongside me. I've been looking forward to this day for the last few months, and I can't tell you how much I hope it ignites something inside of the young lad. My Mum is coming along as well. It is my Mum's father, my dearly-missed Granddad Thomas, who first introduced me to football and I want the connection to continue down my family. My Mum's become well and truly Addicted over the years and typically comes to The Valley with me at least once a season, so I felt it was important that we took him together. History means a lot to me, in this regard.

When my Thomas was born (named after my Granddad), I lost count of the amount of people who warned me not to inflict my love of the Addicks on the boy as it could turn him off football completely! Perhaps some were only half-joking after seeing at close-quarters how I've suffered over the years, but I'll confess that at the time it did rather irritated me as I'm just not that sort of openly jingoistic type who would buy the baby-grows, bed sheets and paint his room red and white before he was old enough to have an opinion. None the less, in hindsight, I suppose it did make me take a very deliberate step backwards from introducing Charlton to him and perhaps football generally. I guess I've assumed he'd pick it up naturally if it's destined to be a part of his life. Now I feel ready to direct him a little...and see if he takes the bait!

In the last year or so he's shown enough interest in playing football to convince me that taking him on Saturday is a gamble worth the effort. I'm not naive, at very nearly 5 years old I know he's still very young and I'm not expecting him to last much more than 20-30 mins before losing interest on this occasion. Furthermore, even if he likes football in the long term, there's no guarantees he'll follow Charlton. I know of many examples where support is not passed down through generations, not least of all my good friend Scott, who is a life-long Gooner whilst his Dad is Spurs. Without shame I'll admit that come Saturday I'll be filling my pockets with sweets galore and I'll ensure his DS is fully charged.

But I know only too well how kids minds work, and sometimes that spark can take a little while to smoulder gently before it begins to burn. Best case scenario for me is that next time I'm readying myself for a game, he asks me whether he can come along.

I can honestly remember the exact moment the flame ignited in me. I'll never forget the moment for as long as I live. My Granddad was babysitting for my sister and me (I'd have been 6-7, I guess) when from my bed I heard what I would later learn to be the theme from Match of the Day. My Dad never followed football, so it wouldn't have be commonplace in our home at the time. I remember creeping out on to the landing, completely mesmerised by the commentary and the noise from the crowd (I can recall it was West Brom V's someone or another as I remember Cyril Regis scored from a penalty - I would forever have a soft spot for him as a result, and I would mimic in the back garden his crafty technique of taking penalties by turning his back to the goal until just before he began his run-up). After a while my Granddad realised I was listening in and let me watch for a short while before packing me off to bed. The rest, as they say, is history.

So I appeal to Sir Chris & Charlton to give my lad a goal to cheer, and please, please don't put in one of 'those' performances! You may have noticed that I'm a sentimental old fool, but despite the numerous low points when I've quite literally drove home alone, tears in my eyes, in the words of Billy Cotton, I've 'lived, laughed, loved and been happy' watching Charlton, and now I want my boy with me.

Monday 5 September 2011

Return Of An Old Friend...

It seems way too early in the season to have that gut-wrenching, nervy feeling inside of my belly and where every train of thought leads inevitably to tonight's match. It's hardly 'must win', but tonight does represent our toughest test of the season so far, and the Addicted at The Valley tonight (and watching from afar on Sky) will be anxious for Charlton to prove they can raise their performance and overcome the challenge of a strong Wednesday side who will themselves be hoping to push for promotion this season. Perhaps more so, I want to believe that the renewed hope has some genuine longevity beyond the first few games of the season...and preferably for the next 41!

I do love evening games at the Valley. The atmosphere seems intensified and far more focused as if nothing else of such importance is happening anywhere else in the world. In way, I guess it isn't. The added advantage to playing this game on a weekday evening will be partly negated by the Wednesday fans who should turn out in numbers and add to what should be a great atmosphere. They, like us, will be hurting inside at the decline of their club and looking forward to better days ahead.

To add to the spice, tonight we'll see the return of last year's player of the year, Jose Semedo. In his time with the Addicks he was easily my favourite player. His determination, passion and effort was unquestionable and I loved the man to bits. But - and it genuinely pains me to say this - he also represented the biggest problem Charlton have had for the last 5-6 years (and certainly since we lost Danny Murphy) in our inability to pass the football or retain possession. It was no surprise that Semedo moved on in the summer: in fact, it was for the best. I will always hold Semedo in the highest of regards and no Charlton fan could surely begrudge him a chance to wipe his own slate clean and head off to the Steel City for a fresh challenge. I would have preferred him to have not moved to a League One club, but I for one will stand and applaud our former skipper, and it will be tough watching him playing against us tonight.

Knowing our luck, Semedo will be pinging 30 yard passes onto a postage stamp tonight...but unlike messrs. Defoe and Lisbie, I won't be too concerned about him scoring (oh, I wish I'd not written that!!!)

I've been impressed with the start to the season: not least of all as the sheer volume of new faces have appeared to gel far quicker that I could ever have hoped. Tonight those with little else to do on a Monday night but to tune into Sky can see for themselves whether Charlton are on the up. So often a monkey on our backs, the TV cameras should add an edge to what will be a tough game.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

A Rare Treat...

Chris Powell will be nursing a headache this morning, but one he will welcome with open arms. For those 6,000 hardy Addicks who ventured to the Valley last night - no doubt assuming they would be facing one of those painful and dire nights where you are left wondering why you bothered - a rare treat was in store. A glorious treat indeed! All of a sudden, Saturday's starting 11 is not quite so obvious. Powell's headache was created by an Addicks second 11 full of energy and desire and who thoroughly deserved victory against the Championship Royals. In fairness, the winning margin should have been more if Charlton got what they deserved in full.

Further more, and as bold a statement as it may seem (I deliberately wrote this the morning after, to ensure I still felt the same), I haven't seen Charlton play that well and with such passion for years. I loved every minute of it. Absolutely brilliant entertainment! Well done lads. The smiles around the Valley were great to see.

In reality, every player on the pitch had something to prove, whether, like Benson or Francis (who, in particular, played outstanding: his best game for the Addicks by a country mile) the future is a little uncertain or whether, like Pritchard, Izquierdo, Green and Mambo, their future is on the up and is firmly in their own hands. Hughes (who, in that central midfield role reminded me of Matty Holland), The Doc (who looked reassuringly steady) and Euell (who had the intelligence we have sometimes missed up top) complimented the young enthusiasm wonderfully well. Wagstaff's boundless energy as a sub was hugely impressive, and although he wouldn't thank me for saying it, may well be a great asset to us this season.

Jumping back to Francis in particular, surely he has given Powell the greatest food for thought? If a player must be worth a bit of extra effort from the coaching staff it must be this man. His height and strength are a real asset, as is his fitness. His consistency is the problem, we all know that, but I for one would love to see him given a second chance, and on the bases of last night, few who were at the Valley would argue. And what may well have been critical in his performance was that from the outset the Addickted were right behind him.

Furthermore, Pritchard looks a real effervescent talent. No nerves at all and full of thoughtful and intelligent passing, left and right. He was very unlucky not to get on the score sheet as well. My only concern about this lad would be his height, which, for a central midfielder is small.

This is one game, and so often we've faced false dawns. But dare I dream? Whatever team Powell is sending out is looking hungry and passionate to succeed, and the early season signs are positive.

If Charlton continue to take on the personality of their manager, then thank God for Chrissy Powell!!!

Monday 22 August 2011

Away From Home

I returned home yesterday from a thoroughly pleasant 10 days sweltering in the glorious Spanish sunshine on the Costa Blanca. I couldn't do a travelogue even if I was a sharp enough wordsmith to do so as we so rarely ventured from the fantastic pool we had in our rented villa. Alongside the friends we went with - who had a very young baby - we very deliberately set out to have as quiet and relaxing holiday as we could: a stay that would be centred around our young children rather than our desire to drag them about sightseeing during the blazing hot days and then drag them in and out of restaurants in the evening. I'm pleased to say it worked for me - I have not enjoyed a family holiday more - and I am one of those chaps who could take or leave a summer holiday abroad generally. What I can say is the quality of the seafood in even the most basic of supermarkets was a most welcome surprise and our homemade Paella (pictured below) was one example of some excellent dinners we enjoying in the evenings whilst taking in the odd glass of Sangria here and there. There's a lot to be said for a San Miguel in temperatures edging towards the 40's!

None the less, a downside to holidays crammed inside that 6 week school break period is the risk of missing a home game at the front end of the season. It so very rarely happens at any time, but I absolutely hate it when it does. Saturday was total agony for me. No matter the distraction of family fun around the pool, my mind was elsewhere (SE7, to be exact). Worst still, my missus knows I'm getting fidgety and irritable leading up to kick off (and I really tried not to be, especially as we were with friends) and she doesn't like it one bit. She knows only too well where I'd much rather be, if only for that 90mins. Trying to keep abreast of action was also near impossible given my iPhones awful reception, so, as was the case with the previous two away games last week, I relied completely on the intermittent texts from my Mum, who was following the games back home.

I was delighted with the news of the victories at Notts County and CUFC, but like everyone else my mood was dampened by the last gasp equaliser by the Irons on Saturday. I've not had the chance to check over a single report of the 3 games whilst I was away, so I write this post without any knowledge of the mood of the Addickted. My hope is that although Saturday would have been a blow that would have almost felt like a loss (especially after being 2 up), for the most part there should be a fair amount of optimism that things appear to be looking a little more positive around the Valley. 10 points from a possible 12 is something I'd have settled for before a ball was kicked in anger this season, after all. I'll be back to my usual East Stand seat tomorrow night v's Reading, so I will be hoping to gauge for myself how well the team are progressing since I saw them against Bournemouth.

Whilst we was away my son decided he wanted a Spanish football shirt. Despite my desire for him to have something different (no surprise there - I wanted him to have an Alicante strip) in the end the young lad went for a Messi no.10 Barcelona shirt. Deep down I don't blame him and he looked as pleased as punch when he first tried it on. I must confess, seeing him in a Barca strip wearing the number worn by my footballing hero Maradona in his time at the Nou Camp made my heart burst with pride. Whilst I dried him off following a spell in the pool he said to me that "we support 3 teams don't we Dad?". Playing dumb I asked him what teams they were and he answered "England, Barcelona and....I held my breath.....Charlton". Thank God, I thought! Interestingly, and without my prompting, he went for the Barca jersey as the club badge has the cross of St George on it. A rational reason to suport a team abroad, I guess.

He's just about to turn 5 and he may well have a tough road ahead of him if he does follow the Addicks (I totally accept that's not guaranteed), so I can't begrudge him the shirt of a more well know football team, can I? Rather Barca than Chelsea or Man United!

Saturday 6 August 2011

More Than A Passing Interest

When I emerged from underneath the railway tunnel on Ransom Walk and viewed the vast expanse of the Valley for the first time this season I was very quickly reminded of how much I missed the buzz and anticipation that Saturday afternoons at the football give you.

When Stephens scored our first goal this afternoon I was reminded of quite how powerful the emotion of following the Addicks can be and just why I could never give it up, no matter what. It was good to be back at the Valley: a Valley once again full of optimism. Let's hope it lasts.

But let's not get carried away. It did feel different by virtue of the numerous new and fresh faces on show, and perhaps equally as importantly, the lack of old faces who may have had the best intentions, but just represented a low period best forgotten.

We had central midfielders capable of running, tackling and...wait for it...passing!!! Hollands looks to be a great purchase, and young Stephens could well be a great acquisition and revelation.

The tough start to the season will test Powell's gameplan and young squad to the fullest, but with an encouraging performance (that's the point, it's encouraging...judgement reserved going forward), a clean sheet and 3 goals comes confidence and belief, which bodes well for the next month.

Well done lads, the start we all wanted. What next?

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Rumbling Tummy...

I've just read the results of the BBC's Price of Football Survey which was taken across all divisions from the Premier League down. Interesting to a point, but hardly revolutionary stuff. It stands to reason that northern clubs will be cheaper days out whilst London and the south will be more expensive. Some of the figures may raise an eyebrow or two, not least of all the fact Leyton Orient are the most expensive club in League One from a spectator's point of view.

The figures are based on certain purchases an adult fan would typically make on a matchday: ticket, programme, pie and a cup of tea. Amazingly - and I'd honestly not considered this before - when I read this piece I realised that in 17 years of watching football regularly at the Valley, I have never once bought a pie or a cup of tea from any source inside the ground. Not once. Never. That extends to beer, Bovril, chocolate or anything else edible or drinkable for that matter (I would argue - without even trying it - that the beer / larger on offer is so sub-standard that the term 'drinkable' is stretched to the very limit).

For some odd reason I'm quite pleased with myself. 17 years...beat that!!!!

Monday 1 August 2011

Google Images

Another two new players in...and another quick visit to Google Images to see what they look like! That's no discredit on their reputation or standing as footballers, but more to do with my knowledge of the lower leagues (or rather lack of it). I don't want to have a vast knowledge of the lower leagues, if truth be told.

OK...here and now I will make a positive statement of intent for the new season! Given the opening sentence of my post I would normally follow it up with a lament about how far we've fallen that players are signed to my club that I wouldn't recognise if I bumped in to them on Floyd Road. Not any more! Positive thinking from here on inwards!

So with the arrival of the versatile and experience (as I'm led to believe) Andy Hughes, comes the 15th signing at the Valley this summer. With just 5 days to go to the new season, it is certainly far beyond the re-build I was expecting. Most encouraging. In fact, having not attended any pre-season games, it's likely I'll be clutching the reverse of the matchday programme throughout the game on Saturday to make sure I correctly identify my Wiggins from my Taylor's!

Like many others that have commented throughout the summer, I've not know a close-season like it and it certainly whets the appetite for the new season. Well done to Chris Powell (I suspect he has had more say in the new faces than some may like to give him credit for), Slater and Jimenez. Now we need to be patient and see if Powell can create a promotion winning team from this group of players. I think it's fair to say it won't happen over night and the tough looking start to the season isn't ideal, but the lengthier contracts handed out to younger players would suggest that success is not expected instantly, but rather this is a longer term plan. All of which is fine, as long as the signs of progression are there.

I've not been overly active on the blogging front over the close-season break. I've been really busy at work, but not least of all I do make a very deliberate effort to avoid football as much as possible in the close-season. I spend far, far too much time worrying about things when it all kicks of so I really do take advantage of the break. I have to say, when I do dip in to check on all things Addickted, the standard of the numerous Charlton-related blogs has been excellent. It says a lot that I no longer feel the need to move around the internet and instead just follow the regular and highly reliable posters...links found on the right-hand side of this site. The views I do not always share, but a unified passion for the Addicks is what links us all.

On the face of it, I'm about ready to jump on the rollercoaster once again. Onwards and upwards...Come on you Addicks!

Thursday 14 July 2011

Behind Enemy Lines...

Recently, my work has taken me behind enemy lines to two of our League One rivals. I work in my Father-in-Law's interior refurbishment business and we're currently doing some work for both Leyton Orient and Colchester United.

Our connections with both clubs are not coincidental. Back in 2006 we completely fitted-out the West Stand at Brisbane Road, which houses the club's administration, commercial and hospitality areas, and on the back of that work we were recommended to the then-Chairman of Colchester United, who were all set to leave Layer Road for a brand new stadium that was about be built on the outskirts of town.

As a result, I spent the spring and summer of 2008 at Colchester, overseeing large parts of the internal fit-out of the new stadium. It was a really great experience for me (and one I miss, if I'm honest), especially given my love and fascination of football stadia since I was a very young lad. In fact, to this day, there can't be many people who know that stadium better than I do. In reality, the club had no idea what they were doing when they left the tiny, non-league stadium that was Layer Road for their 21st century stadium (albeit on a budget). It was truely frightening, looking back, just how naive they were about the stadium they would be moving in to and the infrastructure they would need to maintain it. They hadn't got a clue! The faces have changed a lot at Colchester since my time there, as the slate was completely wiped clean in those first few months of being in the new stadium, but like the O's, they're a good club, and I retain a fondness for them as a result of my work there. I've been back to the Weston Homes Community Stadium with the Addicks in the last two years and it always feels a little weird ordering a coffee from a kiosk I built!

At Brisbane Road (I just can't call it The Matchroom Stadium), we're installing a new bar and hospitality area for Barry Hearn to entertain his match day guests. It's a tad sobering to see a framed shirt on the wall just outside his boardroom from Charlton's FAC victory over the O's back in 2006. Of course, back then, under Curbs guidance, we'd have been wallowing about in all the glory of the Premiership, so our place on the wall would have been notable and prestigious for the O's. Doesn't seem to quite have the same effect nowadays as we rub shoulders in the 3rd tier of English football.

I doubt you'd find too many people who dislike Leyton Orient. They're a good community club with a long and proud history. But there's no doubt about it, the O's face a most uncertain future. As if to rub salt in a wound, visible from the window of Mr. Hearn's Boardroom, as if so close it could be touched, is the Olympic Village, with the Hammer's new Stadium flexing it's muscles like a school bully. You do have to wonder if there will be a next generation Orient fan. It would be a real shame to see this football club muscled out of this neck of the woods.

There's something about an empty football stadium that I will always love. I guess it's the anticipation...

You never know, I may win promotion one day and win some work in a Premier League ground. Perhaps at The Valley?

Thursday 30 June 2011

Words Of Wisdom...

(NOT CHARLTON RELATED) It's funny the things you remember from growing up. It was a source of much merriment and leg-pulling to a group of friends of mine recently when I announced that my Dad once told me that 'if you don't know where you're going, son, always go straight on'. It wasn't necessarily the statement itself that left me open for a hammering (as there may well be some sense in it, albeit metaphorically), but the apparent seriousness when I told them (I offered no defence, it was highly likely I was serious, after all, he's my Dad, and I believe him). If I'm honest, I can't say that I've ever been able to attribute the benefit of these simple words of wisdom to an event in my life, but I remember them...perhaps more that 30 years after they were told to me...and that's the point.

I doubt my Dad would even remember the moment the words came out of his mouth, and would probably be rightly annoyed that above anything else he may have told me to guide me through my youth, this appears to have taken priority. It has, however, made me think about the things I say to my two kids, most of which is total and utter nonsense.

For example, I've told my son (4) in the past to 'judge a man by the quality of his shoes, but don't ever assume it's connected to his wealth'. I also tell him 'to be wary of a man who wears his timepiece on his right wrist'. If I'm honest, I personally believe both statements have strong elements of truth and sensibility, although I realise I need to stop saying it for fear of risking my lad becoming judgemental of individuals not wearing a pair of classic brogues or distrustful of those not wearing watches on the wrist they were designed for! I also tell him never to offer up his left hand in readiness for a handshake (unless he joins some sort of Masonic lodge, I guess) and always maintain eye contact with a firm and solid grip. He struggles with that one...bless him...but then how many 4 year olds go about greeting people with a firm, robust handshake?

For years I tried to convince my little girl that a man called Mr. Spoon lived on the moon (of course, the truth is he doesn't, he just works there).

Other pieces of nonsense include:

When the ice cream man sounds his horns it means he's run out of ice cream (not sure where this came from, but it worked for a while).

If you hang your legs or arms out of the bed covers the monsters underneath will grab you (before you get social services involved, they know I'm joking...I think!!!).

Charlton Athletic are the best football team in the world.

But sometimes I do genuinely like to believe that some of what I say, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time, will shape them better as human beings. For example, I tell my little girl (7) that the best thing she could ever have is a curious mind that wants to learn and discover new things. I hope that such statements will lead her to pick up a book rather than complain of having nothing to do (it appears to be working). When my boy and me play football together, I constantly tell him to try to imagine that the ball doesn't like being kicked and will try and run away at any opportunity. He watches the ball like a hawk and he's better off for it as we all know.

I had a lovely moment with my little girl the other day when I asked her what she got up to at School. She told me she had to stand up and tell the whole class what she was proud of. Apparently, she answered "my Dad tells me I've got a heart of gold, and I'm proud of that". I couldn't be more proud of both of my kids.

On the other hand, my Father-in-Law has a saying that annoys the life out of me as he clearly believes every word of it. He says "never believe a man who says he's busy". I work for my Father-in-Law and his words of wisdom mean I can never escape more and more work being piled upon me!

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Congratulations! You Have Been Allocated Some Of The Greatest Tickets On Earth!

So the e-mail claims! For those 'lucky' people who found out they were 'successful' in receiving Olympic tickets, today was the day they would finally find out what sport they would be watching and when. From the start, the whole process seemed awfully messy and I had no patience for it. Thankfully (said with the power of hindsight) my wife made our application as she, quite rightfully, wanted our kids, if not this miserable old sod, to experience London 2012 in person.

Bizarrely, amongst our circle of friends we appear to have been the only ones who actually received some tickets!

Despite informing my missus "I wanted nothing to do with the damned process" I was asked what sport I wanted to see as she was struggling with what to apply for (no, I didn't reply with the obvious - women's beach volleyball!). Trying to be sensible about things, and in doing so, avoiding the temptation to say Mens 100m's, I decided that an event on the Olympic Park site would at least give us a day out to amble about taking in the atmosphere and other side-events, even if our chosen sport was not hugely interesting in reality. So I went for Basketball: a sport I occasionally watch on ESPN. My thinking was, given the fact we will be taking our young kids (they'll be 8 and 5 by then), that the sport is fast moving and it couldn't be more obvious what the players need to do. The rules are not complicated (at least, they don't need to be explained in detail for our kids to enjoy the game), and the sheer size of the chaps would make for a great spectacle.

So above the original result of getting tickets in the first place, I've only gone and got the exact tickets I requested: Basketball on the 29th of July!!!

Some years back, when I was a very young lad, I went to Wembley Arena to watch the Harlem Globetrotters with my Mum and Dad. It was the first time I'd ever watched Basketball and I fondly remember the razzmatazz of the event to this day. Hopefully my kids will have a memory they can hold dear from the day next year.

Friday 17 June 2011

Tough Start...

Glancing over the fixtures (released today), it looks a tough start, but then I guess that however the fixtures fall you have to play everyone twice anyway.

I'm not one for speculating or forecasting in any great detail, so I won't bother - better bloggers than me will offer a far better analysis of this fixture list and I look forward to reading it.

Anyway, the fixtures have already been entered in the calendar...7 weeks and counting!

Monday 9 May 2011

A Problem Shared...Have A Great Summer!

So, thankfully, the season is finally over. For those who wish to offer opinion on 'last season', at least the immense disappointment we all feel can now be lamented in the past-tense. Forgive me if I don't waste too much time looking back. I've experienced the worse Addicks campaign for a generation, so I've no desires to re-live it in any great detail.

What we all would like to see now is some immediate, decisive and positive action regarding the re-building of the playing squad for the forthcoming season (immediate in the sense of who's going, rather than who's coming in.

I thought the Chairman made some encouraging quotes in the programme notes on Saturday. After a quiet start to his tenure, he appears to be upping his profile. Some may question whether this is a good thing, I guess, but it's encouraging to me that he clearly recognises the huge problems that need to be overcome (on the playing side, notably) and is committed to promotion next season. It is very nice to read that the club will start next season 'financially stable'. Only time will tell if the regime he has put in place will be good enough. Naturally, I'm hoping the darkest days are over and the future will look a little brighter over time.

Talking of the matchday programme, I thought the Semedo interview post his Player Of The Year award was touching and his obvious passion for this club is believable. I hope he will be around next season.

So I wish you all a pleasant summer break. Enjoy it. I've already started to think about what I can do on a Saturday - shopping is not an option - but I know that within a few weeks I'll miss the football.

Last words to my Mum, who has, once again, shared the experience of another dire season with me. Not once has she even looked like giving up on Charlton despite being drawn to the Addicks purely by virtue of the team her son supports (I feel guilty, Mum, I promise you). Although an infrequent visitor to the Valley, my Mum will follow games religiously home and away from her computer or radio, sending me texts as the game unfolds. Her genuine passion for Charlton and those words of encouragement through the darker moments mean the world to me. You know what they say...a problem shared and all that!!!

Thanks Mum.

Thursday 5 May 2011

The Far Side...

NOT CHARLTON RELATED. If you're a Charlton fan, you can certainly do with a laugh every now and again, so the other day I thumbed through a hefty volume of my favourite cartoonist's work. Gary Larson, a man known for his surreal and often twisted sense of humour, created a unique view on the world that was either loved or totally hated. Where the latter was concerned, his work often provoked strong outrage, particularly from animal lovers fed up of the bizarre situations he would depict animals in.

Larson never created side-splitting humour or even pictures that would make you laugh out loud (at least to me he didn't). His was a subtle, clever art form that more often than not made you actually question what you should be laughing at. Take the image above, which is my all-time favourite Larson cartoon. Is the punch line alone enough of a 'gag' or the very fact that two cows are sitting quite happily on a sofa in their own front room (I assume it's their front room)? Or perhaps it's the fact that they appear unable to work the phone but seem to be enjoying the luxury of watching a T.V. I love it, but then it suits my habit of thinking far to deeply about things!

But that's the point to Larson's work...it made you think on so many levels.

Larson retired some years back and I often think of how any artist (of such talent) has the discipline to put down his pencil and say he's not going to draw again. In Larson's case, his art was still in big demand from his loyal followers (of which I was one). I consider myself to be fortunate in having a talent to draw cartoons. Unfortunately, the ability to draw is one thing but I'd give anything to have as little as 10% of the imagination of an artist like Larson. Sadly, my pencil has long since been retired as I can't think of what to draw!

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Mirror Image...

With the Blackwall Tunnel shut southbound my journey to the Valley took twice as long as usual yesterday. I decided to gamble on the ferry being a better route than Tower Bridge, but the suggested 30mins wait was more like 1h & 30mins. Predictably around this time of year there was plenty of talk on the radio regarding football clubs around the country that faced 'massive games' at either end of the table and I couldn't help but feel a strong sense of jealousness for those teams involved in the chase for promotion. Of course, Rochdale would have been amongst them at the start of proceedings, but they looked a million miles away from a side capable of winning a place in the Play-Off's. For all the wrong reasons, Rochdale's performance reminded me of some of the worst aspects of Charlton this season. It was like watching Charlton play Charlton at times.

I took my seat at the Valley just in time to see the surprising captain choice of BWP shaking hands with the ref and his opposite number. I'd love to know Powell's reasoning behind giving the armband to BWP over the more obvious choice of Fortune or the Doc. It reminded me of Sunday morning football, where managers would typically give the armband to the teams (perceived) best player, more often than not to stop him leaving for a better club!

There was no doubt that the performance was better from Charlton, although this may well be more to do with the dire opposition. The desires to retain possession and play a shorter passing game was notable, if at times a little slow and predictable. I do wish sections of the Valley crowd would refrain from showing frustrations in the team passing backwards on occasions: sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward again. There were the obvious reminders of why Charlton are mid-table, not least of all the poor deliveries into the box (Benson's effort for the 3rd goal the notable exception). But if I had to put my finger on the greatest reason Charlton have massively under-performed this season I would say that the central mid-field have just not been able to pass the ball well enough and dominate games. I missed not seeing Semedo yesterday, but the sight of two central mid-field players who made themselves available and were capable on the ball is food-for-thought for Powell who will need to find similar players for next season (I don't think either Stewart or Parrot will be at The Valley come August).

I thought Racon had a decent game yesterday. In many ways, he looks like a player that is trying to reinvent himself as a left-sided mid-fielder and on recent form I've been reasonably impressed. Perhaps he knows his days as a first choice central mid-fielder at Charlton are up and if he wants a new deal he needs to prove his worth elsewhere on the pitch. Whether Racon will be at Charlton next season only time will tell.

It's good to hear the season ticket sales are progressing well (apparently better than last year's total to date, as suggested in the matchday programme). It's hugely surprising though - especially given the awful season we've had - but fair play to the Addickted and also the Chairman, who's begging letter appealing for fans to 'not give up on Charlton' may well have done the trick in many cases. I had a friend round for Sunday dinner recently and he was pressing me about the demise of Charlton (he's a Spurs fan). I showed him the Chairman's letter and he was left speechless. By coincidence, I renewed my season ticket the same day as the letter dropped through my letterbox.

So two games left, and the season can't end quick enough.