Thursday 27 September 2012

The Long Road Ahead...

As if life isn't hard enough, I've only gone and got myself a place in the London Marathon next April! It would appear I'm one of the lucky 1 in 5 who have secured a ballot place for the gruelling 26.3m 'race'. The news could not have been more of a surprise and I don't think I gave it a second thought since I rather half-heartedly applied all those months back, expecting nothing in the process.
At the moment I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. There's no doubting it's something I've always wanted to do and as I'm 40 next July it would be a really memorable year to take part, but I feel a genuine sense of guilt that I'm a tad underwhelmed about the whole thing at present, especially whilst a couple of my friends who were desperate to take part are gutted to have been rejected. This could take a few days to sink in...
I'm not fazed by the time-consuming training regime I will need to undertake (and that's not saying I think it will be anything other than very hard work, by the way) as I'm no stranger to running. I started doing regular jogs to get in shape for my wedding over 10 years ago and like Forest Gump I've not stopped. I do around 16 miles a week and run 4.2m in around 31 mins which is a pace I'm more than happy with. I love running. It's always been a great time for me to grab a small piece of solitude and think things through. I will train alone for the marathon as I've always run alone. My MP3 player will be my only companion: there is nothing better than falling deep inside the music whilst pounding the streets in all weathers.
There's so many things to consider, not least of all what charity I will run for. Of course, by getting a place via the ballot I can chose things like this rather than 'buying' a place for a charity that no matter it's worthiness, may not be dear to my heart.
Over the next 7 months I will use this blog to occasionally update my marathon preparations as, purely from a selfish point of view, its the closest thing I have to a diary and it will be good to look back on in years to come.
One things for sure, I'm already looking forward to the prospect of running past The valley! 

Saturday 22 September 2012

A View From The Cobbold Stand...

There could not have been a more contrasting view of two managers after the final whistle at Portman Road today. Our much-loved Sir Chris waved to his adoring travelling Addicks wearing his typical toothy grin whilst Paul Jewell trudged off to boo's knowing he was on very, very thin ice.
Charlton played for their manager throughout and got the result. Ipswich need a new manager quick or they're in big trouble.
After a very busy few weeks at work this long awaited (and long overdue) away day came at a very good time for me. The journey driving up to Suffolk went like a dream, I had a raft of new music to listen to en-route and I even had a chance to have a cheeky pre-match beer on the waterfront which was shimmering gloriously in the sunshine (below). I felt really confident. We may have lost three on the spin, but I just couldn't see us loosing today.
The team was set up to be more attacking with Jackson moving in to the middle and Kerkar starting out on the left. Fuller was the natural replacement for Kermorgant, who it would appear has picked up an injury in training. Charlton created a number of good chances first half and could, maybe should, have gone in at half time in front. Ipswich offered nothing.  
I enjoyed the second half in the company of Marco and some of his Rose of Denmark crowd, which made for a very welcome change to my normal lonely existence as an Addick! Within 10 mins we'd scored two goals via our Skipper, Jackson and the tricky Fuller. We should stand together more often!
Ipswich got lucky with a deflected goal midway through the 2nd half, but never really looked like equalising. Not that it made the 5 mins of added time any easier. If you want a match report, it can be found here.
Walking back to the car I couldn't help but think of how cross this chap must have been (left) who was pacing up and down Portman Road prior to kick off with a megaphone chanting his displeasure at Town's poor form. I got a few tweets from Town fans who suggest he's at it most home games.
I got home to the smell of home made chilli con carne wafting throughout the house and a couple of beers already chilling in the fridge. What more could a man ask for?
Only downside was my missus was a little frosty after reading that I'd dedicated my 1000th 'tweet' to proclaim my love, not her or the kids...but Sir Chris!
What did she expect?

Wednesday 12 September 2012

15th of April, 1989...

On the 15th of April 1989 I stood, packed like a sardine, on the North Bank at Highbury alongside my mates. I say stood, but as anyone of a certain age would know if they watched football matches from open terraces, you never really stood, you swayed gently back and forth, then violently so when a moment of excitement came around. I was just 15 years old and loved football and the atmosphere, but only now do I realise just how vulnerable I was.
If a goal went in the pressure of the crowd movement would carry you many meters away in a flash and there was nothing whatsoever you could do about it. I recall blokes holding young kids up in the air before their fathers would reclaim them from some distance away. Looking back, it was a very vulnerable time to be a football fan. Safety was clearly not the priority and who exactly was responsible anyway: the club, the police, local authorities, the government? Football fans were well and truly treated like second class citizens.
I recall that date so clearly because in South Yorkshire a disaster was unfolding that would change football stadia forever. Hillsborough. Without the social media and mobile phones we take for granted today news spread relatively slowly. I recall a small announcement over the tannoy at half-time that the Liverpool match had been called off after an 'incident', but as news of the disaster headed south, so did the rumours.
Somewhere in London, Kelvin MacKenzie, the then-Editor of the Sun, was sharpening his knife and his newspaper would dig it firmly in the heart of those who had suffered so badly. Sadly, he was not alone. From the outset, Liverpool fans were blamed for the disaster. But clearly those trying to cover the truth were wrong.
I recall a hideous full centre page spread in the Sun, similar to those they'd happily produce for Grand National Day or similar, a few days after the event showing a panoramic image of the crushed, dead bodies alongside those clinging desperately to their lives; faces as recognisable as if it was a picture of your own child on your own mantelpiece. Heartless Bastards!
Hang your head in shame, MacKenzie.
Today, thanks to the determined efforts of those who refused to give up the fight, 96 Liverpool fans who died as a result of Hillsborough finally have justice. The Hillsborough papers have finally been released and the truth is out there for all to read. It makes me feel sick to think so many could have been saved.
You'll Never Walk Alone!

Monday 10 September 2012


The Mist Rolling In...
On Thursday I return to the Lake District for another hotly anticipated weekend of fell walking and wild camping. Along with five mates we are planning a 3 day route out of Grasmere that will see us 'bag' around 9 of Wainwright's fells including the 2nd highest mountain in England, Hellvelyn, which stands at 3,117ft. I've come to greatly value these annual jaunts into the wilderness and I can't wait.

But on the downside, all this means I'll be missing Palace at The Valley on Friday night and as the game gets closer and the anticipation builds, I have to admit I'm absolutely gutted to be doing so. It's a real bittersweet feeling, if I'm honest.

It will be the second home game I've missed this season; the first being Orient in the cup when I was on the Costa Blanca, and only the 8th home game in over 18 years. Of course, there's little you can do when life needs to be planned in advance of new seasons fixtures, but I remember thinking that in organising our return to Lakeland I risked missing a Charlton home game. Fingers firmly crossed then...but to no avail! 

But of all the games? Of all the matches I could have missed it had to be against our fiercest rivals! All in all, over the years I've been so lucky with planning holidays and social events that my luck had to turn some time. Not that it makes me feel any better at this point!

To make matters worse I very much doubt my Mum will be able to keep me up to date with the action as phone signals don't travel too well in the Lakeland wilderness. Actually, perhaps that's not a bad thing if there's any bad news!

When the game kicks off I'll probably be setting up my tent and preparing my dinner at Grisedale Tarn (pictured below). It will be a glorious location to sit and shoot the breeze with my mates whilst enjoying the odd sip of dark rum from my hip flask. My heart will be in SE7 for a couple of hours at least. It is likely to be Sunday afternoon before I find out the score!

To make me feel better about my appalling lack of support I've taken out a second mortgage and got a ticket for Ipswich away on the 22nd. I realise I've not been to Portman Road since 1998 when, if memory serves me correct, I seem to recall going 3 times in one season as we met them in the league, league cup and that all-important play-off semi final. I seem to remember we done quite well that year!!!
Oh well, I won't be missed but I will certainly miss taking up my usual seat on the night. Let's hope the atmosphere is everything it was the last time we met at The Valley back in 2009 when Matt Spring fired home that glorious match winning volley to send The Valley into ecstasy (pic left). Nights like that are too few and far in between.
With the game on a Friday night and in front of the Sky cameras I'm sure it will be an electric atmosphere. What a great way to show Charlton are back on the up.
Enjoy the game. Get behind the lads. Come on you Addicks!

Monday 3 September 2012

Facing Up To Defeat...

It seemed like I spent the whole of last week fearful of an update from Charlton informing us that one of our prize possessions was leaving the club. Defender, Chris Solly, was 'apparently' targeted by both West Ham and Bolton and promising midfielder, Dale Stephens, was the subject of a pretty substantial bid from Aston Villa. In the end, neither left the club and the Addickted breathed out an almighty sigh of relief. I like Dale a lot, but 2m for a player who has yet to prove his worth in the Championship is bizarre to say the least. Lets hope his head is right following the speculation. 
Perhaps equally as significant was that by Charlton turning down that offer for Stephens, rumours of the club being on it's knees financially looked far less credible. The doom and gloom stories of impending administration and financial meltdown was not something I enjoyed reading about over the summer and I'll welcome any sign that the speculation is some way off the truth (which was always my gut reaction anyway).  
But in the cold light of day, Charlton's failure to bring new faces into the club will need to be addressed, albeit via the loan market or those footballer currently unattached (but not Emile Heskey!). Powell will be well aware of this, of course, and I suspect a couple of signings before the week is out. On Saturday Charlton never lacked heart but looked very much second best to an impressive Nottingham Forest side who perhaps should have made the 2-1 scoreline look more convincing. From the outset we were chasing shadows and only the late introduction of Fuller appeared to give us some sort of cutting edge. There's little doubt the overall squad lacks the depth required to get a foothold in this division and despite initially being pleased we never lost anyone last week, we may need to accept that sacrifices may need to be made to shake things up a little. 
For me, an experienced central midfielder is a must and it pains me to say it, but perhaps there are question marks over Skipper Jackson's ability to step up to the Championship. His form has been indifferent this season and he's looked slow. Perhaps in League One his unquestionable quality on the ball overcome his lack of pace on the left, but that asset may hold less weight in this higher division.  
I wasn't at the match but I did get to watch it on a very dodgy internet link from Al Jazeera, complete with a very passionate commentator who sounded like he was delivering a highly-charged religious tirade. Despite me not understanding his Arabic tongue it was worth listening to for the occasional mention in good, plain English of 'Christopher Powell'.
No great drama to the loss although it's always very frustrating to hear some Charlton fans immediately criticising the team and the Board. There really are some idiots out there with very short memories and I very much doubt one of them was amongst the 1000 or so travelling Addicks at the City Ground. Our opening fixtures have been really tough and 5 points from 4 games is 3 more points than I predicted at this stage! Anyone who has set their sights on back-to-back promotion is kidding themselves.
It says something that I couldn't recall after the game the last time I faced up to a Saturday night after a Charlton loss. 
No game now for the Addicks until Palace at The Valley on the 14th as England kick off their World Cup campaign this Friday night. Of course, if we was still in League One we may well have had a disheartening Johnstone Paint trophy game Tuesday night as well as a league game on Saturday. Personally I'm happy we haven't!