Tuesday 25 February 2014

Dare To Dream...

Well this all feels rather odd, doesn't it? Charlton are still in the greatest domestic cup competition on this planet and it is edging rapidly towards March. This doesn't happen to us. This is not very 'Charlton'. A winnable quarter-final trip to Sheffield United now stands between us and a trip to Wembley Stadium and for the first time since 2006 Charlton have a decent shot at the semi-final of the FA Cup. How good does that sound?

A busy work schedule meant as much as I'd have loved to have been at Hillsborough last night it was not going to happen for me so I watched the victory nervously on a surprisingly steady internet feed from Fox Soccer Plus and it felt like I had got one over our dreaded TV curse by doing so. When this game was due to be played a week or so back we'd have taken close to 2,000 fans but those committed souls who made the journey to South Yorkshire last night for the rearranged tie well and truly made up for those that couldn't. The volume from the away end came through perfectly.

Out on the pitch Charlton put in a determined and professional performance full of real heart. That is all we can ask for. I hope Mr. Duchatelet realises where this drive and passion originates from and rewards the inspiration for performances like that with a new contract. Powell epitomises the real Charlton spirit and his desire is infectious. At the end of the game he swung like a child off the crossbar, grinning from ear to ear, to the delight of the travelling Addicks. There is something about the FA Cup that brings out the kid in you.

How I'd love to see that man stood in a handsome suit on the touchline at Wembley.

With those Charlton players I rest my hopes and dreams and today I'm another step closer. Dare to dream? Well you won't stop me from doing so...

Sunday 23 February 2014

Heading to Heaven...

Cast your minds back to Wembley in '98 and that agonising extra time. Charlton are 4-3 down and Steve Brown puts in a well timed crunching challenge dead centre of the pitch about 25 yards out, winning the ball cleanly. That tackle played a hugely significant part in the build-up to Charlton's equaliser and Mendonca's hatrick goal. You might say it was the greatest ever Charlton tackle; one that has as much beauty as Mendonca's wonderful finish. If you wasn't luck enough to be at the Valley yesterday, then all you need to do is picture that challenge in your minds eye, then replace the man's man figure of Brown (he never let's you down) with the ladies man, Diego Poyet, and you will have a complete replica. And just like '98, yesterday's crunching challenge was perfect in it's execution and lead to glory! What a moment.

Breaking Goal News via the club's
Twitter feed...
If I could have a pound for every time someone has questioned how I still find the desire to go to watch Charlton after all these years and all those dark days and disappointments then I would be a rich man. In truth, I never attempt an answer. I don't need to for a start and by them even asking the question in the first place I know they wouldn't understand. Perhaps if they'd been at the Valley yesterday they'd begin to get it.

When absolutely everything inside of you wishes with all your heart for your team to get a break, get a goal, the moments when it happens is the best feeling ever. Nothing is better. Nothing. And for our winning goal to come deep in stoppage time, after a proper Charlton performance full of heart and passion, makes it even sweeter. QPR head back to West London having had nearly two thirds of possession but not a single shot on target.

Hard work and passion beat our super-rich neighbours. Love it!

Once again, Johnnie sent the Valley into total and utter delirium before launching himself head first into the Covered End. The man is a legend of the very highest order. Watch the goal here again...and again...and again! Johnnie's emotional embrace with Powell at the end of the game was enough to leave me glassy eyed, I don't mind admitting. Those two are Charlton men, through and through.

The dark days are taken on the chin for moments like that. You never know how long it will be until the next one comes around so I'll keep the smile on my face for as long as I possibly can. Joe from ValleyTalk summed it up perfectly when he said 'It was the best moment at the Valley since promotion'.

I was honestly still shaking when I got home an hour later.

And so hope has returned. It might not have had much impact on the league table, but based on yesterday's performance I think we could have enough to make our games in hand count. Poyet once again shone. Selling Stephens has been quickly forgotten. Wilson was superb down the right, particularly towards the end of the second half. We all need to be more patient and certainly more supportive of Thuram-Ulien. The ironic 'cheers' are not helping. He deserves a chance.

On to Sheffield on Monday night for a big cup game. Perhaps this wretched season may have a happy ending after all.

Friday 14 February 2014

A Different Sort of Incentive...

As anyone who has tried it would know, finding different and ingenious ways to motivate the average Sunday League footballer can be a real challenge. When I ran a side I always found it a lot easier to incentify players to go that extra mile and give everything they had if we had a good run in a cup. At my standard, winning the league was great but it was nothing more than a brief mention in the local rag, maybe a team picture if you was lucky, but everyone wanted that glory night in front of a few hundred people, friends and family in a decent stadium under floodlights.
Going on a cup run meant I could get players to turn up on time, put up the nets, warm up properly (as opposed to shaking each leg a few times and finishing off a fag) and best of all, even accept being on the bench. The club fees would all be paid up on time and finding volunteers to wash the kit was no effort. Nobody wanted to do anything to miss out on the chance for glory. It was a very different sort of incentive, but without the ability to offer a financial one, it was as good as it got.
No matter whatever level, more often than not a good cup run can lift confidence and improve the all-important league form.
Addicks everywhere will be hoping that tomorrows 5th Round FA Cup game can finally inject some spark in to what has been a truly awful season. Perhaps the incentive of glory in the cup will drive Chris Powell's men to the improved league form we are all hoping for before time runs out. A win Saturday and Charlton will be 90mins away from a trip to Wembley. As a player, it's hard to imagine what better incentive you would need. 
I believe close to 2,000 hardy Addicks will head up to Hillsborough to support the lads. There can be no question the fans are sticking with Powell and the team but we are long-overdue something to cheer about. With two home games coming up next, Charlton will be praying for an up-turn in form (and an improvement on the weather front, no doubt).
Sadly, as much as I'd like to, I won't be heading north; I'd planned to take the family away to Centre Parcs for the weekend some time back. For those who are going, enjoy your day out and keep the faith.
Come on you Addicks! 

Sunday 9 February 2014


By coincidence, a year ago today Charlton played Birmingham at the Valley. Kermorgant gave us the lead before Brum agonisingly equalised in the dying moments of stoppage time. As I commented at the time, it was an almighty kick in the teeth and was a draw that felt like a defeat. 12 months on and Birmingham inflict a defeat upon us that should have at least been a draw. Charlton had two thirds of the possession, almost twice as many shots on or off target and yet somehow we lost. Another defeat. When your luck is down you invariably loose. Simple logic, really.
I say 'somehow we lost' but of course the reason we done so was two moments in which we defended very badly. Simple logic, really. Our defense undone twice by a shockingly average Birmingham who offered nothing but left with 3 points. Fair play to them. We need to learn how to win ugly.
What a shame that the impressive Diego Poyet will remember his home league debut with a demoralising defeat. Of the new faces, Reza looked sharp and clever and Astrit showed some vision and silky touches, although he looks woefully short of pace. Hope then, even if it may be clutching at straws. The new faces will need to integrate quickly if they are to help us survive. Perhaps the result would have been different with Wiggins and Solly. In the case of the latter, I'm praying this persistent knee injury does not turn him into the new Kelly Youga!
I'll leave my thoughts about Thuram-Ulien to one side for now, whilst hoping Hamer is back very, very soon.   
Powell is under real pressure now. I can't love the man more but even I can't defend some of his tactic. Why was Sordell allowed to stay on the pitch for so long (moreover, I wouldn't even include him in our squad)? Why leave it so late to make changes? Why also compromise the encouraging progression of Cousins by forcing him out of position on the right?  
But you would be wrong if you blamed Powell entirely for yet another defeat. The problems run much deeper. Powell has been asked to manage new players he will have almost certainly had no say in bringing in and that can never be a good thing, whilst he has lost key players he could rely on. Include in this the uncertainty caused by the lack of contracts to key players and the manager and you can begin to understand where it is going so wrong. No question, Powell has been dealt a real bum deal from Mr. Duchatelet.
Charlton's fortunes are slipping fast. It's incredibly hard to scratch around for positives at the moment. When Mr. Duchatelet took control of our club he had a wonderful opportunity to give us a much needed shot in the arm. In my opinion, for now at least, we appear in a far weaker position on the pitch than when he arrived and our chances of staying up look very slim. There may be a long term strategy that will bear fruit, but I can't believe it involves accepting a return to League One. 
Worryingly only Blackpool's form is worse than ours now, and even they sit 10 points clear of us. 
Oh, and one last thing whilst I'm having a moan. Who's stupid idea was it to play the highlights of last weeks heartbreaking Wigan defeat on the big screen 10 mins before kick-off? Hardly inspirational stuff, was it? Even if, like me, you avoided watching, the unusually loud PA commentary ensured a distracting conversation with the blokes around you was impossible. If this is part of Duchatelet's 'new and improved matchday experience' then I can offer him some feedback he should listen to; it was shit.
I don't want to be reminded of failure, I want to be reminded of what it takes to be 'Charlton'. Give me Johnny Robinson wheeling away in delight after scoring against Man U any day.   

Wednesday 5 February 2014

The Grin...Part 2...

Chris shut the front door gently behind him and placed his 'Super Spurs' lunchbox on the wooden console table, pushing aside a pile of letters as he done so.

"Is that you, champ?", said Mrs. P lovingly before appearing from the kitchen. "I've made your favourite dinner; it'll be on the table in 15", she added. The comforting smell of sausage and mash in onion gravy followed her words across the hallway. Chris' nostrils flexed. "How's your day been, dear?", asked Mrs. P, hopeful as ever. Chris attempted a grin and shrugged his shoulders. He removed his jacket and flat cap, loosened his tie and undone the top button of his shirt, giving out a deep, long sigh as he done so. Turning to the mirror he cringed inwardly at the awkward contrast of his sharp, sartorial outer layers against his weathered super hero costume that lay beneath; worn and ragged. Tired and fading it may well be in appearance, but the power was still there, deep inside. 

"I've put the fire on for you in the front room", shouted Mrs. P. "Do you want peas in with your onion gravy?" she added enthusiastically. Chris never answered. Instead, he slumped in his leather armchair and propped his feet up on the poof. He stared intently at the TV screen.

"Aren't you going to turn it on?" said Mrs. P, as she handed Chris a warm cup of milk. "And how are the new boys settling in?", she asked whilst jabbing at the fire to make the coals rage. Chris began slowly turning his hot milk round and round on the arm of the chair.

"Polish Pete and...what are they calling the other one, Dave isn't it?" Mrs. P announced with a jovial tone in her voice. "That's funny".

Chris followed the dancing embers as they rose up past the fire place until by the mantelpiece they drew level with the framed picture of Big Yann wearing a beret with the League One trophy.

He lifted the hot milk to his mouth and took an heroic and defiant swig.

"Dinner's ready, dear", shouted Mrs. P.

If you're bored enough, part one of 'The Grin' can be found here.