Sunday 30 December 2012

Tough Decisions...

It seemed the big talking point amongst the Addickted post-match yesterday was not so much whether it was a penalty conceded by Charlton, but whether Morrison should have been on the pitch to make the costly challenge in the first place. In doing so, Morrison received his second yellow of the game and an early bath. After a first half yellow and numerous fouls later, Morrison was on very thin ice and the common consensus was that he should have been substituted in favour of Dervite; some feeling as early as half time. In fairness, Powell couldn't win on this point. Should he have removed the talismanic defender early and we had gone on to concede a couple of silly goals he would have been hammered for that as well. None the less, more question marks surface about Powell's tactical nouse or the ability to make tough decisions at the right time.   
Either way, the penalty effectively cost Charlton a much needed victory and although the run of defeats have been halted, the Addicks are still without a win since the end of November, 7 games ago. In all fairness, Derby controlled long spells of the game with some very neat passing, but after Danny Haynes wonderful solo effort and Hamer's man-of-the-match performance between the sticks, Charlton never really deserved to loose. A point was probably about right. 
Those present at the Valley would have witnessed an improved performance from the defeat to Ipswich a few days earlier. Out went the under performers and loan players and in came the trusty Champions of League One! Whether that group of players will be enough to consolidate in the Championship only time will tell, but one thing's for sure, they have desire and spirit in abundance, and none more so than the effervescent Bradley Pritchard, who was immense all over the park. That lad is fast becoming my favourite Addick.
And before there's a chance to digest the league table, another game comes around: Watford on New Years Day. I'll be there for what is sadly an all-too-rare away day and I'm very much looking forward to it. Bizarrely, despite living in Hertfordshire I've never been to Vicarage Road. Watford are on a good run of form so it won't be easy, but then what game is?
All that's left is to thank anyone who has taken the time to read anything I've written this year. And what a year it's been? Charlton Athletic crowned Champions and holding their own in the Championship. Have a great New Year, fellow Addicks! 

Thursday 27 December 2012

Maybe Next Time...

Sometimes there are more important things than the result of a football match and yesterday was a rare occasion in which everything I hoped for never directly involved 3 points for the Addicks. Of course, a Charlton win would have been nice, but that alone would not have guaranteed the success or failure of the day for me. I took my young 6 year old son, Thomas, for only his second ever Charlton game and what I wanted more than anything was for my boy to enjoy his day out at the football. Regular readers of this blog may recall from a previous post that his first visit to the Valley, back in September last year, never went entirely as I'd hoped, although, ironically, Charlton won that day.
Back then the general culture shock of a big and noisy crowd was too much for the young lad and it's taken me over a year to gently persuade the boy that he needs to give it another go. To his credit, he's slowly come round as his love of the game has grown slowly and naturally.
I am a real sentimentalist and the small things matter to me. I can pinpoint and recall so many small milestones in my evolution as a football fan and I'd love my boy to appreciate those moments too. I made a point of stopping with the lad by the entrance to Ransom Walk, pointing out when the Valley first comes into view through the trees just beyond the railway arches. A big grin ran across his face. I encouraged him to smell the air to take in the eclectic aromas that are synonymous with football stadiums; hot dogs, burgers, cigarettes and the smell of the print in the matchday programme!
We walked together through the crowd, weaving in and out of fellow Addicks on-route to the East Stand.
I took the time to introduce the boy to all the blokes who sit around me in Block E: many of whom I've celebrated good times and been through so many dark days with over the years. The new generation shaking hands with the old... 
He watched the game like a hawk, even turning down a bag of sweets midway through the second half. Haynes was confirmed as his new favourite player. I constantly encouraged the lad to 'keep on hoping'. God knows he'll need that if he becomes an Addick!
With a few moments left I looked down at him and saw the first sad face of the day. "We're not going to win are we, Dad?" he said. "No...not today, son" I replied. "Maybe next time". 
On the way home I told him how lonely some of these journeys have been for me down the years and how I'd hoped he'll be with me more often. "Yeah, when can I come again?" he answered cheerfully.
A sense of victory ran through me...

Sunday 23 December 2012

Managing Expectations...

I left Charlton off my betting coupon yesterday. I just couldn't see any other result than a defeat and no matter the possible rewards, I will never bet on Charlton to loose. As it was, the £14 I did win (I know, but every little helps) was scant consolation for a disappointing Saturday of football.
By all accounts, we were unlucky to have a first half goal chalked off for offside and a stonewall penalty turned down. But as disheartening as it is, these things happen and it is pointless to dwell on them. The result has been and gone and Charlton head off into the busy Christmas period on the back of two defeats. Perhaps more worryingly, we are struggling to find the net; we've only scored 2 goals in the last 4 games.
And all the while, Sir Chris continues to tinker with the starting line-up, but, ironically, remains consistent in making late and often ineffective substitutions, much to the frustration of the Addickted.
Ipswich at home on Boxing Day looks like another potential banana skin. For me, that's got a low scoring draw written all over it. Knowing Charlton, we'll score first, squander numerous chances and then concede a late equaliser. I was at Portman Road earlier this season when we grabbed a decent victory courtesy of the tricky skills of Fuller. Ipswich were very poor that day but I expect them to be a different side on Wednesday under new Manager, Mick McCarthy.
Earlier in the week I picked up on a good few Addicks who clearly thought Sheff Wed and Ipswich would be easy meat, so if my prediction for Boxing Day comes true, there will be a lot of doom and gloom around late next week. One point from a possible six is not ideal, of course, but I know football well enough to know that there will be peaks and troughs in a tough and unpredictable league. Remaining 100% behind the manager and the team is hugely important.   
With Derby visiting SE7 next Saturday and then Watford away on New Year's Day, personally I'd settle for 5 points from the next 3 games. That should keep us in mid-table, where I expect us to be come May. I'm keeping my expectations realistic. For me, success this season will be to consolidate in this league.
Seasons greetings to one and all. See you at The Valley on Wednesday...     

Sunday 9 December 2012

20 Years on...

With the draw a fair result yesterday, perhaps the only disappointment from an emotional afternoon in SE7 was the absence of Alan Curbishley from the pre-match celebrations as Charlton marked 20 years since the club returned to the Valley.
In his programme notes, Chris Powell urged us to "take a moment to look around this afternoon", before stating our return was an 'amazing story'. He is quite correct, of course. The good thing about Charlton fans is they make no attempts to forget the dark days. In life you have to experience the lows to appreciate the highs and surviving through tough times does make you stronger. Charlton fans will never forget those who fought so hard against all odds for us to go home. 
How nice it was to hear Richard Murray address the Valley faithful. What a man. 
Last weekend I had began to circulate via twitter the idea of fans standing to applaud at 3:07pm, which was the time of Colin Walsh's goal in the first game back at the Valley 20 years ago. Before the week was out the idea had gathered momentum to such an extent that the club had taken up the idea and even Sir Chris himself pledged to join in from his dugout! You'll have to excuse me if this seems a little self indulgent, but I was totally blown away when Walsh's image appeared on the big screen and 19,000 fans on all 4 sides of the Valley stood in unison to cheer a goal scored two decades earlier. Soon enough, the Covered End started a rousing rendition of 'Valley Floyd Road' to top off the moment. On Saturday morning I had received numerous messages from Brighton fans promising they would join in, and to a man, they did. Full credit to them. My idea was a simple one, and I am certain someone would have came up with it soon enough, but to all those who sent me messages of support whilst the idea built, thank you. I greatly appreciate it.  
And whilst we're on supporting ideas, I noticed a tweet from Louis Mendez just before the game stating that 'The words "The Covered End" should be written on the front of the stand, like the Jimmy Seed End'. That is an idea that needs to happen...
As far as the game goes, I don't really do match reports. Sorry. If you want that, go here.
What I will say is that there was some considerable criticism around me yesterday of the performance of referee, D. Sheldrake. He wasn't great (but then what ref is?), but I still remember him fondly for that amazing decision he made a couple of years back verses Colchester. Remember this?  

Monday 3 December 2012

Heaven & The Valley...

Wednesday will mark the 20 anniversary since the club came back from the dead, reemerged from exile and returned to it's spiritual home, The Valley. The club will be marking the occasion when Brighton visit SE7 this coming Saturday. The opponents couldn't be more appropriate, having themselves faced a couple of desperate years of exile towards the late 90's before finally settling back in the city and then winning the right to build a much-needed new stadium. Empathising with their plight, Charlton fans offered support to the Seagulls in those dark days and that support has never been forgotten from our friends on the south coast.  
It is a great personal disappointment that I never attended the 'old' Valley, especially when I consider the irony that it was that crumbling, neglected old stadium that I fell in love with as a very young lad that ultimately lead to me becoming an Addick. Falling for a club that was on it's knees and heading for an agonising death is something that I've never quite been able to explain but I wouldn't change a single thing. I wasn't at The Valley on the day Charlton returned home, but I can remember the excitement leading up to the occasion. I was a teenager working for an electrical wholesalers at the time and had deliveries around Plumstead and Erith in the week before the game. Charlton fans were instantly recognisable as they were walking a foot taller than anyone else! I was so jealous of those privileged few who had a ticket.

Below is an extract from Garry Nelson's 'Left Foot Forward' that describes the moment Colin Walsh scored that first goal back at The Valley on the 5th of December 1992 that ultimately proved to be the winner. Of course, Garry actually got the time of the goal wrong (it was 3:07pm), but he can easily be forgiven for that as he played his part on the day. Reading it always brings a lump to my throat...

'Heaven and the Valley were one and the same place'. Wonderful words.
I had a thought that I've been trying to promote via Twitter. Wouldn't it be nice if Charlton fans stood and cheered Walsh's goal at 3:07pm against Brighton? Steven Mummery (aka @CAFC_Toilet) took the idea a stage further and suggested we then roll into a rousing rendition of 'Valley Floyd Road'. I just feel it would be a fitting way to mark the occasion.