Saturday 22 January 2011

Watching The Clock...

13.55: The Addickted empty from thier cars on Anchor & Hope Lane, SE7. Grinning faces aplenty. Laughter.

Hopeful anticipation fills the air...

14.07: Less than hour before a new era kicks off. Once again, I prepare to throw myself heart-first onto the Charlton roller-coaster. I wrap my trusty red & white scarf around my neck and join the growing masses heading for the Valley.

14.34: The Valley slowly filling. Looks like it's going to be a big crowd. No Mark Kinsella on the pitch. The capable figure of Damian Matthews warms up our heroes.

Somewhere in the West Stand Chris Powell puts the finishing touches to his gameplan.

Monday 17 January 2011

3, The Magic Number...

I suppose it was inevitable that I'd be drawn to Chris Powell. Anyone who knows me well enough will be familiar with my obsession with the number 3. As we all know, Chris played for the Addicks over 3 different periods, he typically wore the number 3 jersey, he scored 3 goals in total for Charlton (I feel privileged to say I saw every one hit the back of the net!), and, without wishing to trivialise the point, when sang by his adoring public, "Chri-ssy Powell, Chri-ssy Powell, Chri-ssy Powell" carries that all-important, chant friendly 3 syllables that almost guarantees popularity (Phil Parkinson never stood a chance in this regard). To put it bluntly, Chris Powell is a Charlton legend of the highest order, and easily my favourite Addick of all time. I can't smile wide enough that he's returned once again to my club...his club. We all knew he would.

It is a measure of the quality of the numerous Charlton related blogs out there (links to the bottom right) that the return of Chris Powell has sparked quality debate as to whether this managerial appointment is too early in Chris's coaching career, but no matter your stance, the common theme shared by everyone is one of total admiration for one of the greatest players to don a Charlton shirt in the last 15 years. My heart aches with a desire to see Chris Powell lead my favourite football team to glory. My head has never made the wisest decisions anyway, and I don't care for it's opinion now.

I was privileged enough to have been at The Valley on the 4th May 2008 when Powell came on as a late substitute in what was his last ever playing appearance for Charlton. Latching on to a ball into the box, Powell sent The Valley into total and utter delirium by scoring the most unlikely of goals. Even the most inventive of minds could not have wrote that story. The goal was the last in a 4-1 victory. Never has such a meaningless goal been greeted with such pandemonium.

I stood alone in my front room, with tears rolling down my cheeks during the national anthem when Powell was amongst the starting line-up for the England national side. On the wall in my office at home is the very poster that came free with the Charlton matchday programme around the time, commemorating the event. It has faded over time, but never once have I thought about taking it down.

But you may be surprised to learn that my favourite Powell moment is actually far more random. In the 2007-08 season, in a forgettable evening game against some opposition or another there was a break in play that saw an opposing player receive some lengthy treatment. As the lull in play took hold, cue the Covered End and a rousing rendition of "Chri-ssy Powell, Chri-ssy Powell, Chri-ssy Powell" that morphed in to "Stand Up, If You Love Chris Powell". With almost the entire stadium stood in unison, Powell, who was stretching out in front of the East Stand (just in front of me) was desperately trying to keep his emotions together as the entire stadium focused on him. When the chant morphed further to "Chrissy, Chrissy give us a wave, Chrissy, give us a wave", Powell tapped his finger on his temple, trying to dull the chant by suggesting he was trying desperately to concentrate on the game. The chant continued...but he never waved, over emphasising his desire to remain focused on the game. A humble man who never sought the adulation, and yet I admired him so much more for it.

Some years back, around the late 90's, I paid good money in Carnaby Street for a pair of Valsport Green Star football boots, just because Chris Powell wore them (at the time, only John Barnes was sporting this now familiar Italian boot). I was mocked in the changing room of my Sunday League side as nobody had heard of Valsport. The best boots I ever owned and the only boots I still have in my garage.

I also wore the number 3...

Sunday 9 January 2011

A View From The Lane...

In truth, despite the improvement in effort and organisation, Charlton never looked close to causing an upset, but although a 3-0 scoreline is never welcome, it is perhaps far better than some predicted beforehand. 

Fears of a rugby-like scoreline eased as a surprisingly lacklustre Spurs struggled to find rhythm in the first half (to Charlton's credit, in part). In the end, it took the introduction of the cultured midfielder, Luka Modric, to kick Spurs up through the gears to what in the end was a comfortable victory. Rather predictably Defoe scored against us again: when will we learn to stop booing him and providing all the incentive a man ever needs to stick the preverbal two fingers up in retaliation?

I spent the whole day in the company of my Spurs supporting Brother-In-Law, watching the game from the opposite end of the stadium to the impressive sounding travelling Addicks who had turned out in vast numbers. How I wished I was with them as they created an impressive wall of noise bellowing out of the South Stand. What a shame they never had a consolation goal to cheer: I, of course, wouldn't have been able to do so!

It was certainly a very different matchday experience to the one I'm normally used to. We kicked things off with a spot of lunch in a pleasant Turkish restaurant close to the ground. A few pints either side of the game was made possible by the rarity of travelling to the game by train. It was enjoyable enough but the Chas & Dave medley in the Bill Nicholson Pub in Northumberland Park post match began to grate on me very quickly and I headed for home where sausage, mash and onion gravy awaited my return.

As I walked home from the train station I couldn't help but lament of better times in the not to distant past when a visit to The Lane wouldn't have seemed such a big thing.

But how pleasant it was to have hot running water to wash your hands in the gents toilets inside White Heart Lane. Bloody fancy Premiership bastards!!!          

Friday 7 January 2011

Make Us Proud…

What a week! As the off the field drama continues to play out like some sort of far-fetched soap opera, complete with pantomime villains and would-be hero’s waiting in the wings, the attention turns to Sunday’s FAC game with Spurs.

I’m confident of one thing: any appointment of Charlton’s new manager will not happen before Caretaker Manager, Sir Keith of all Peacocks, leads out his charges at the home of the ultimate Glory Boys. Particularly for the older folk, the sight of a man rightly lauded as a true Charlton legend leading out the side will be an emotional sight. It is credit to him that despite his 65 years and comfortable ambassadorial life (you would hope) he has not shied away from this formidable challenge. Although I wouldn’t really benefit from doing so, I love to know whether he offered his services or was asked.

I second Chicago Addick’s calls for a continued and rousing rendition of “Keefy Peacocks Red & White Army” throughout the game. Great call CA!

It made me recall a moment towards the end of the game the last time we met Spurs in 2007. The Valley was packed to the rafters in what would prove to be our last home Premiership game. Mathematically we went into the game with a (very) slim chance of staying up, but relegation was all-but-confirmed when Spurs scored their second goal in a 0-2 win. With all irrational hope gone forever, The Valley seemed to stand as one with an emotional and prolonged rendition of ‘Valley Floyd Road’. Every man, woman and child seemed to join in and even the away end seemed to fall silent out of respect (perhaps they didn’t, it was just it seemed that way). A show of defiance and unity in the face of adversity. Moments like that I cherish dearly, no matter how desperate the reasoning for their conception.

I’ll be at The Lane on Sunday, sat in and amongst The Glory Boys with my Spurs supporting Brother-In-Law. My wife’s family is all Spurs, as is a large portion of my close friends and work colleagues. I’ve had the ribbing, but I’m well seasoned to the jokes. Life as an Addick gives you pretty tough skin. I’ll wear my colours underneath my neutral outer layer.

A message to Sir Keith of all Peacocks and the team: I expect nothing, but make us proud!

A message to the travelling Addicks that will pack the away end, of whom I will feel detached from like an isolated soldier behind enemy lines: make us proud, also.

You never know…you just never know!

Come on you Addicks!!!!

Tuesday 4 January 2011


I couldn't think off the top of my head, so I perused my programme in an attempt to remind myself when the last time I would have left The Valley with a convincing sense of genuine happiness (rather than relief disguised as such). There have been wins along the way, but in all cases they have been tinged with strong doubts and numerous question marks.

Perhaps only those who were at Peterborough could truly say they've had value for money this season, but let's face it, every team has a freak result every now and again.

This team is some considerable way from a promotion challenge. It is little wonder that the crowds at The Valley are falling fast: and they will continue to do so.

And yet, somehow we're still 5th...

Last nights all-to-familiar horror show was reminiscent of the type of performance we endured the year we went down from the Championship. No passion, no desire, no game plan, no idea. Just not good enough in every department (including the coaching, it would appear). When the simplest of 5 yard passes become problematic, you're in big trouble. Parkinson's substitutions smacked of desperation...and even that never worked.

And as if we've not been humiliated enough, next up is free-flowing Spurs. God help us! I should be looking forward to the game, but if my ticket hadn't been bought for me with all good intentions by my Brother-In-Law I'd not bother going. In the 17 years I've been regularly watching the Addicks I've never once not wanted to go to a game.

The club's new owners have some job on their hands and I wish them all the luck in the world. They'll need it.

Like the fool and idiot I clearly am, I'll put myself up for further disappointment...forever hoping!

Monday 3 January 2011

A View From The Weston Homes Community Stadium...

I made a last minute decision to head to Colchester on Saturday: my withdrawal symptoms for a game of football overcome my concerns about a possible wasted journey against a club in Colchester who have become somewhat of a bogey-team of late. The Weston Homes Community Stadium is just 35 mins away from my front door - making it closer than The Valley - and given that I was heavily involved in the internal fit-out of the stadium when it was built in 2008, it is always nice to go back there. The spontaneous nature of my day out made the whole experience enjoyable, despite a feeling of frustration that we could, and perhaps should, have capitalised on playing ten men for the majority of the game to come away with three points.

The official website referred to the game as 'thrilling', but despite the scoreline, this was no classic. There was a decent away following, considering it being New Years Day (although my iPhone seemed to be quite insistent it was the 1st of February despite my persistence in telling it otherwise) but despite this, the mood was strangely subdued. Perhaps talk of the take-over had taken precedence over matters on the pitch. Charlton stuttered their way through the game, lacking in consistency and that inspirational spark that we so desperately need going forward. For every good moment there was two or three bad ones. For every successful pass there was three or four misplaced ones (Francis, in particular, would have come away from this game with a truly awful ratio of successfully completed passes and Parky must begin to recognise this fact). It may well be fair comment to suggest that we showed great character to come from behind three times, but the greater concern is how we conceded in the first place. But despite the concerns, we may well have won the game. Benson's late equaliser was worth the entry fee alone and he should have been celebrating the winner moments later. I've not had the chance to see the goal again, but as the ball crossed the line my only thought was 'goal'. Such is my nature, if I'd have sensed any hint that it may be contentious, I'd have glanced straight at the referee and held my celebration until he signalled a goal. On this occasion I felt no need to. I don't need to see Benson's sending off again to know that that decision was an absolute joke and summed up the sort of day the referee had. Without question, that red card was about levelling up the balance of poor decisions over the 90+ mins.

I must praise Jackson for once again stepping up and successfully taking two high-pressure peno's. It certainly appears that Jackson acquired the role of penalty taker by virtue of the fact nobody else was brave enough to do so: perhaps a reluctant hero in this regard. Credit to him for that. He may not exude the sort of confidence of a Clive Mendonca or Darren Bent, but his technical ability with a dead ball is as good as we have at the club so he's well qualified. Although I may be critical at times of some of the predictability of our forward play, the penalties-given statistics speak for themselves and on that bases, Jackson may well face the immense pressure of a one-on-one with the opposition goalie a few more time this season. Having reluctantly acquired a similar role for a season when I played football (albeit at Sunday League standard), I confess I couldn't wait to give the job up. I took 7 peno's that season, including a successful conversion in a league cup final, missing one (does it sound better to say the keeper saved it?). My problem was not the mental pressure (that was perhaps my strongest asset), it was the fact I was not technically very good at striking a dead ball. Penalties are not as easy as they look.

So on to Swindon, and the memories of that truly awful dark night back in May come flooding back. With Charlton perilously close to slipping back to mid-table (just 3 points separate us with Colchester in 10th), a big performance is required...and, to be fair, long overdue.