Wednesday 29 February 2012

Tuesday Night Horror Show...

With my missus out of the house for the evening I decided to sit down and watch a subtitled indie-Swedish film of which I'd read good reports but unsurprisingly had passed the mainstream by when it first came out back in 2008. No, it was not that type of Swedish film, it was a dark but strangely beautifuly romantic vampire movie called 'Let The Right One In' (great ending, by the way). My missus just doesn't have the patience for subtitled films, and either way, she's not into the horror genre at all.

The thing is, I just can't listen to Charlton on the radio. It always seems like we lose when I do. I was confident we should be too strong for Chesterfield, but I needed to keep my mind off the game a little and watching a film seemed the best option. Fat chance! I lasted just 20 mins before checking the score, and then my eyes would rapidly shift nervously from TV to iPhone for the remainder of the film / match. Question was, would my night of horror extend to matters at the B2net Stadium?

Thankfully not. Just as the young-but-likable, blood thirsty vampire was ripping apart her victims, the mighty Addicks were tearing apart the Chesterfield defence. Quite how many goals will be credited to BWP in the end is irrelevant in my book (it could be a hatrick, or possibly just one). The fact is he's getting in the right positions to give himself a chance to score and I am chuffed to bits his (and our) patience has proved fruitful. Once again, top marks to the clubs Twitter feed, which is an invaluable an instant link to proceedings if you're not fortunate enough to be there in person and don't have the stomach for the radio coverage. Top marks to the 710 Addicks who were there: they were well rewarded.

Charlton continue to power forward relentlessly in their quest to return to the Championship and asides from promotion, winning the league must now be a real possibility. I continue to pinch myself.

The prospect of nightmares wiped away by the dreams of promotion!

Monday 27 February 2012

Edging Closer...

The floating faces flocked to SE7: a visual throw-back to the glorious Premiership days. How nice it was to jostle for a parking space on Anchor & Hope Lane and enjoy the company of fellow Addicks on the 10 minute stroll to The Valley. So often in recent years I’ve got to within a stone’s throw of Floyd Road before you’d even realise there was a game on. Inside the Valley the atmosphere was building well in advance of the kick-off with the excellent opera singer and Charlton fan, Victoria Stanyon, once again lifting the crowd with her rousing rendition of Valley Floyd Road. By kick-off, 25,000 Charlton fans filled the home areas and took up half of the Jimmy Seed in the process. An impressive turnout for a match in football’s third-tier. Well done to the club for a well executed initiative: all the players had to do was keep their side of the bargain.

Thankfully, as so often has proved the case in the past on these types of promotional days, Charlton avoided the banana skin and beat a determined if not toothless Stevenage. I had heard great reports about Stevenage (the written press seem to love them at the moment) and expected far more than I saw. They may well be full of spirit but their playing style is about as attractive as the concrete new town from where they come. If Charlton are to be promoted, it will be sides like this that I will not miss.

Charlton have built their success this season on the back four, which was once again outstanding on Saturday. It is to their credit that any one of Solly, Taylor, Morrison or Wiggins could take the Player of the Year award this season. As things stand, I will struggle to give my vote to anyone other than young Chris Solly. His return to the side was reassuring and gave us the balance we so desperately missed on Tuesday. I did enjoy the summary of one particular passage of play including the ‘terrier-like’ Solly as summed up by Deepest Darkest in his post-match blog on Saturday. Well worth a read and spot on. Solly simply doesn’t accept he can’t win the ball.

And so it was another 3 points. 3 massive points. Charlton extend their lead at the top and it really looks like all my prayers are coming true at last. BWP missed chance after chance and claimed a dubious looking goal for his own (don’t be surprised if that’s taken off him), but he deserves a break for his efforts and the Charlton faithful continue to stick with him. Morrison’s strike was up there with Stephens goal against Bury. A wonderful strike and a magic moment! With Wednesday beating their Steel City rivals yesterday, Charlton’s position took another favourable stride forward and those with a better handle of numbers (than me) will be working out the possible dates that promotion can be clinched if the current form continues. What a day that will be and how I hope it lives up to how I've played it out in my head time after time in recent years.

Wyn’s 'Addick's Third Division Diary' alerted us to an excellent interview with Chris Powell in the Mail on Sunday yesterday. It seems to me that Charlton are unlikely to ever find a manager who is more connected with the fans than Sir Chris. I cannot have more respect for the man and the way he carries himself. In particular, the last few sentences made my eyes glaze over somewhat. Powell said “Never forget that it’s a beautiful game. Never, ever, give less than everything you’ve got, and never let go of your dreams. Because there will be ups and downs, and it’ll be tough, but it will pay you back for the effort. And when it does, it’s fantastic.”

And when asked what he would do if a ‘big’ club came calling, he answered “They did. I manage them. And I want to take them back to where they used to be”.

I’ve always lived by the mantra that hope always dies last, and being an Addick, I have had to call on those words too often in the last few years. Better days ahead, for sure.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…

Charlton were back in action last night and the big question was whether the team would be rusty or refreshed after an enforced break due to the freezing weather conditions and cancelled games. Those present may have left the Valley still wondering the same question following another Jekyll and Hyde performance. The preverbal game of two halves yet again, but victory none the less.

Valentine’s Day pretty much ensured another disappointing gate. Thankfully, I have the best wife in the world and she would not even waste her effort in trying to drag me to a restaurant when the Addicks are at home. Bless her, she even signed off her card to me with the words ‘your second love’. Walking to the ground a fellow Addick turned to me and joked ‘you got a pass tonight, mate, I see’, before lamenting how 5 of his mates couldn’t attend under orders from their girlfriends. I felt like putting my arm around him…the poor lad looked lost.

I may not agree with how MK Dons came about, but they attempt play football the right way, and that has to be admired. Charlton played some decent football themselves in spells throughout the first half, but with the game in the balance it was with some relief that we received one of the most ridiculous penalties I can recall at the Valley. I could only confess to catching the final throws of the tussle between the Dons defender MacKenzie and Yann the Man, but full credit to the pint-sized ref as despite the ball being cleared from the Dons penalty area and heading air-bound up-field, he clearly saw the whole incident and ran back to produced a straight red to the defender. Such was the confusion and surprise of the incident, it took some time for the crowd to realise a penalty had been awarded. The ever reliable Jackson dispatched the kick well enough to beat Martin in the Dons goal despite the Keeper getting a hand to it.

A couple of minutes later Jackson was felled in the penalty area and stepped up once again to drill home another spot kick. This time, no chance for Martin. A fine captain leading by example.

My personal view on the second half is that the rather abject performance was tactical, although executed badly. Perhaps Powell had instructed the players to retain possession and take the sting out of the game (anticipating an onslaught from the Dons, who had nothing to lose), rather than go for the 3rd goal that would have undoubtedly killed the game. Given the amount of games coming up, perhaps Powell felt we could afford to take our foot off the peddle and ease our way through the second 45. If true, the sentiment could be fairly debated, but the application never worked at all and Charlton were poor. To many loose passes and a lack of drive meant it was an unnecessarily uncomfortable second half. I left the Valley happy, none the less. On another day we may have come unstuck. But we didn’t and the over-achieving Addicks march on. Another sizable hurdle overcome, another game out of the way.

I just can’t see how it could be possible to slip up now, but that’s what worries me! The season’s end can’t come quick enough.

Friday 3 February 2012


I got my first chance to have another look at Dale’s wonder-strike last night and it was every bit as brilliant as I remember it on the night. Funny how I still held my breath as it flew through the air. Although it may well be a bit too fresh in the memory to be compared alongside ‘classic’ strikes that have stood the test of time, it did make me drift off into one of those self-indulgent moments when I reminisced about those goals I could never get bored of watching. In this respect, it’s a bit like music, for me. There are songs I absolutely love at the moment, but will I still feel the same in 10 or 15 years time. No matter how many times I hear Rapper’s Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang, it always brings a smile to my face.

Anyway, I guess the real test for these sort of daydreaming moments is that the memories should instantly surface without a great deal of prompting (and certainly not research). In chronological order, as best I can remember, I thought I’d share some of my own personal favorite goals and the very different reasons they have resonated inside of me for so long.

First up is Tardelli’s goal for the Italians in the World Cup Final v’s West Germany in 1982. I’ve written about this goal before when I wrote my ‘World Cup Memories’ series back in 2010. It was the first time I can recall being blown away by the impact of a goal that bore no relevance to me personally in terms of a being a supporter. The importance of the strike and the wonderful and passionate celebration that followed came together in a ‘perfect storm’ to create one of those moments that still raises the hair on the back of my neck when I see it.

Next up is another goal that I’ve wrote about before and it’s likely to be controversial: Maradona’s second goal against England. I’m going to take the lazy route on this one and quote what I wrote back in 2010, mainly as it never will change..…“But for all the criticism that came with the first goal, even the hardiest of England fan could not have done anything other than admire the second. For me, it remains the best goal ever scored (I take in to account the occasion and stage). Maradona’s run was far beyond genius: beyond imagination. I had never seen such genius with the football. You could have put the entire English nation in front of Shilton that day and the world’s greatest footballer would have gone through us all. He was unplayable and unstoppable. Above all else, I wanted with all my twelve year old heart for England to win, but the truth was that day belonged to someone else…El Diego!

You’ll have to help me on this, dear reader, but I’m guessing it was around 1996-7 when a late Mark Kinsella strike from 35 yards out flew into the top corner of Norwich’s net to hand the Addicks their first away win of the season at Carrow Road. It was special for me as it was my first ever away game with Charlton and I’d made the decision to up my support and go to the match as we was struggling for form in the league, and in particular, away from home. Looking back I can still picture quite clearly the ball travelling towards the goal and me shouting ‘that’s going in…it’s going in’. It did, and I shall always remember that moment when the net bulged.

And now on to the greatest game of football I have ever been to, or ever will: the Play-Off Final at the old Wembley in 98. In particular, Mendonca’s 2nd goal will always remain special to me for there is one single and overriding memory I have of that day that for reasons known only to my grey matter, has resonated far deeper than any other. With Charlton 1-2 down, Keith Jones loops the ball forward and Super Clive takes a heavy first touch (around 5:06 on the link below). Despite this, the ball bounces favourably away from the Sunderland defenders and Super Clive breaks free. As if it happened yesterday, I remember rising on my seat from behind that goal and thinking, ‘if he gets the second touch right we’ve scored’. It seemed to take an absolute eternity for the ball to drop, almost enough time for the entire Sunderland defense to build a block wall in front of the goal. My heart had stopped and the world had stopped spinning. But he did get the touch right and he did score. Little did I know that the drama of that day had barely begun and one day I will make sense of it all and write a piece about my experiences of the day.

Matty Holland’s goal v’s Chelsea on Boxing Day 2003. We’d go on to win 4-2 that day, but my emotions were all over the place as my little girl had been born just months before. That goal released every ounce of emotion inside of me and I went off like a volcano! John, who sits next to me in the East Stand, grabbed hold of me, and if he hadn’t, I’d have reached the moon.
Finally, as everything since (like Kyle Reid in the last minute at Southend, for example, or LLera’s equaliser against Swindon) is too recent, I will stop this self-indulgence at Sir Chris’s last appearance for the Addicks back in 2008. The goal – the fourth in a 4-1 home win - was meaningless in every respect other than it was scored by Chris Powell, and how the Valley celebrated. Relegation took a back seat as one of the most popular players ever to have pulled on a Charlton shirt scored only his 3rd goal for the club, and the script could not have been written better by even the most imaginative mind from Hollywood. Magic moment indeed and one I cherish deeply.

How Dale’s strike will sit with the above only time will tell. But if come the end of the season we scrape over the line by a point, it will forever be my favorite!

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Even Stephens...

If points were awarded for persistence then Charlton would be home and dry as far as promotion is concerned. What was lacking tonight in quality was made up for in a stubborn desire to avoid defeat when it seemed all-ends-up like we was heading for 'one of those nights'.

The cultured Stephens played the Addicks 'get out of jail free' card in such glorious fashion and so late on that some fans may have already headed for the exit, but few could rightfully argue we didn't deserved something from the game. 

Bury stuck to their task and actually showed some desire to get forward on occasions, although any credit for this is negated in part by the keeper's incessant time wasting. Perhaps only marginally less frustrating than the referee D'Urso's refusal to deal with it.

The introduction of Haynes for the ineffective Clarke with just 15 mins to go changed the balance of Charlton's forward play enormously and left me wondering why Powell had chosen the later over the former to start the game. Moreover, I don't really see what was gained from resting BWP, and I can't imagine BWP was particularly pleased about it either if he was fit to play. Numerous balls fizzed across the Bury goalmouth throughout the game, begging for a Charlton boot to send it goalwards. BWP would have had a field day!

Above everything, one real disappointment for me was the gate; just 13,264 to be exact. It would appear there are still a good few fans that are not committed enough to turn out on a freezing night despite the Addicks being top of the league by a margin nobody could have predicted last August. 

So we settle for a point that feels like a victory in the manor it came about. Come the season end it could well prove to be a vital point and a very special goal that will live long in the memory. It's those sort of bright moments that make braving the freezing cold worthwhile, and I'm proud to say I was there, as I always will be.