Wednesday 30 April 2014


"My message to the fans tonight is clear. We need your support when the team is doing well, but even more so in the lower moments"

"We are coming from a difficult position because we are the only Championship team to have played as many matches as we have recently"

"We are also doing this with a lot of young players. They are learning, and sometimes they will make mistakes. That is when we must get behind them even more"

"The fans and the players this evening must have the same mindset. The sole focus can only be on Charlton and giving everything to the cause"

Those quotes would not have looked out of place attributed to our very own Sir Chris Powell, except in this case, they were from the mouth of Jose Riga. Ahead of last night's game Charlton's manager head coach gave a rousing rally call that was embraced by the Addickted in the same way he has so obviously embraced what it is to 'be Charlton'. Riga came into the club in the most difficult of circumstances - none of which of his own making - but despite this he has carried himself with perfect dignity throughout. It would appear his likable personality made an impression with the players and credit to him for recognising early on the fighting spirit and togetherness of the squad Powell left behind. Without the opportunity to add to it, he has continued to get the best out of a Charlton squad desperately in need of investment. Riga had a target to keep this club in the Championship, and last night on an emotional-charged evening at the Valley, Charlton finally clawed themselves over the finishing line. Well done Jose. Well done Sir Chris.

I've seen this club relegated three times and I can remember clearly the heartbreak of the moment it was confirmed on each of those occasions, no matter how prepared you think you are to cope with the event. I guess you don't forget things like that. There has been times this season when it felt all-ends-up like a relegation season; when I was convinced we would go down. It's only when it is no longer a threat do you realise how much it has been weighing on your mind, every single day, and most certainly more than it should with a wife and two young kids. When the ref blew for time I simply slumped back in my seat and stared out across the Valley, glassy eyed, completely unable to stand and cheer. I just needed a few moments to myself to let it all sink in.

Charlton are safe! No other results can change that now. I just can't describe the relief.

Job Done Jose!
Harriott started and ended the scoring in glorious fashion with two cracking goals. Riga stuck by the much-maligned young winger when many others questioned his inclusion, but was rewarded for his faith. Even when Frank Sidebottom Deeney scored a wonderful equaliser for the visitors on the hour I remained calm and hopeful. A draw would not have been disastrous, but it was not what we wanted. 

And how typical that it was Johnnie Jackson who powered into the box to latch on to a cross before scoring the goal that has kept his team up? We are so lucky to have him leading us on the pitch. Alongside him was a mixture of exciting young talent from Charlton's very own academy and some older, more experienced players, some of whom we expected to sweat blood for us despite them not knowing if they'd have contracts for next season. To a man, they fought for what we wanted.

After the game, Riga addressed the crowd and I sensed a man who was saying goodbye. Judge for yourself with the footage I took below. I know he's Duchatelet's man, and some will be skeptical of him for that, but if he does not continue beyond this season, then he leaves with my best wishes. 

While we're at it, here's Johnnie's speech post-match also...
I made the decision not to go to Blackpool a few weeks back, but I'm so pleased that those travelling Addicks who do head north can now enjoy the occasion without fear of major disappointment. Once the final game of the season is over we can all enjoy the break!

It is destined to be a very interesting period at Charlton this summer, when perhaps Duchatelet's intentions will become much clearer. But for now, in the short term, I'm not going to worry about that. I've worried enough.

But in life you need perspective, and a few rows back from me in the East Stand a gentleman collapsed a short while after Harriott's first goal with a suspected heart attack. At the time of writing this there has been no word on his condition beyond the fact he was rushed to hospital in a critical condition. God willing he pulls through in the same way his favourite team did last night.  

Monday 28 April 2014

A Big Week Ahead, Part 2...

A soon-to-be cherished and rare image
of Diego Poyet in a Charlton shirt
Another big night at the Valley beckons tomorrow as Charlton have another stab at securing their Championship status. Between now and then I will struggle to focus on much else. I never expected anything from last Saturday's game, but none the less, the defeat has set up an anxious few days ahead as this awful season finally draws to a close.
Watford will visit the Valley knowing they have nothing to play for, which could go one of two ways. Either they will be focused on their impending summer holidays or they may play without fear or pressure. Let's hope it's the former.
Hopefully we can replicate the atmosphere of that memorable night against Cardiff in November 2012. A win for Charlton and we're safe.  
Tomorrow night could not only be the last time we see Charlton play at home in the Championship for a while but it is inevitable that young Diego will move on to bigger and better things this summer, so it could well be his last game at the Valley in a Charlton shirt. That kid is destined for the very top of the game and I wish him well. Whatever he goes on to achieve, he was made in Charlton.
As I continue to clutch at straws, it is not inconceivable that Charlton could loose their last two games and still stay up if Doncaster come away from Leicester with anything less than a win this Saturday. Leicester sit tantalisingly on 99 points and I'm certain they will want to get their points tally into three figures to top a fantastic Championship-winning season. Doncaster will undoubtedly give everything they've got, but that looks a huge mountain to climb. In many respects, their home defeat last Saturday was more relevant than our own result in our attempts to stay up.
As I commented at the time, that abandoned game v's Doncaster last August could well prove to be Charlton's best result of the season. 
How sad that our survival may still come down to other teams results over our own, but it just wouldn't be Charlton if we done things the easy way. No, we all know this is far more likely to go to the wire. How I hope I am wrong, but I expect this nervy, twisted feeling inside my belly to last all week. A few days won't make much difference, it's been there most of the season anyway.
After the season we've had, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be in a position to pay little attention to Saturday's game and instead get my priorities right for once. The question is, will Charlton allow me to enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend with my family?

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Light At The End Of The Tunnel...

What a huge difference a week makes. The despair of that home defeat against Barnsley now forgotten following yesterday's unbelievable result at Hillsborough and Friday's credible draw against in-form Bolton. Four priceless points that have projected Charlton up to 18th and to within touching distance of safety. 
Yeovil cannot catch us now and Barnsley can only finish higher than us on goal difference, and even that relies on us loosing our remaining three fixtures and them winning both of theirs. Realistically it looks like it's come down to one from five for the remaining relegation place, and with us sat at the top of that mini-league, we are in pole position to retain our Championship status. Our destiny is in our own hands.
Doncaster look to have the toughest run-in with a home game against Reading followed by an away game at Champions-elect, Leicester City. It's hard to see them getting a win from either of those and even two draws may leave them nervously biting their nails as the season draws to a close. Our not-so-friendly neighbours face QPR away and Bournemouth at home but after a recent up-turn in form I think they will be safe. Birmingham face Leeds and Wigan at home then finish up at Bolton on the final day. Despite loosing their last three games, I think they'll claw their way across the finishing line.
Blackpool look doomed. Off the pitch the club is in turmoil and on it their season has got progressively worse. They have Wigan away next Saturday followed by our visit on the final day. We managed to capitalise on both Nottingham Forest and Leed's off-field problems and grab vital wins recently, but would it be pushing our luck to expect the same at Blackpool? Hopefully we will already be safe by then and then the travelling Addicks can enjoy a day out by the seaside.
For what it's worth, I think another win from our remaining three games and we will be safe. Given the pressure cooker stress levels from the Addickted this season, if we do survive then don't be surprised if we get that pitch invasion that we was cheated out of after winning League One!
This wretched season is nearly over. The light at the end of the tunnel is slowly getting brighter.  

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Missed Opportunity...

Despite the high-stakes I felt pretty confident yesterday leading up to the game. Based on nothing other than a gut feeling I just couldn't see Charlton messing up the opportunity to pull clear of the bottom three. I much prefer evening games at the Valley under floodlights; the intensity of the event seems magnified under the night sky and the atmosphere is much better. At the ground, unusually long queues at the ticket offices suggested many had made late decisions to attend. Perhaps they didn't want to miss out on one of those 'memorable nights at the Valley'. 
Then I saw Riga's starting 11.
It was as if you'd cut off my left foot and all my confidence was rapidly draining away. Within a matter of seconds, I just couldn't see how we'd win the game.
No Morrison or Wilson, presumably both rested. We'd waited over three months to see Solly and Wilson partner up on the right and the first chance we get Riga decides he knows best. No AA or Reza on a night when we'd need all of our creative nous to burst out of the blocks and try and grab that all-important early goal. Most concerning of all, for me, was the inclusion of Harriott. If ever there is a football player in desperate need to have a very long break out of the glare of the first team it is young Callum. I do not wish to kick a man whilst he is down, but Harriott is slipping backward fast and it is truly awful to watch.
There was a moment midway through the first half when I'm convinced Cousin's chose not to pass to Harriott despite the young winger being in a promising position. So instead of striding forward, Jordan passed backwards to Solly. Momentum gone.    
Barnsley were unbelievably bad throughout the game. No, that's not sour grapes, they were rubbish, especially in the first half. And yet, somehow, they managed to grab a potentially life-saving win. Fair play to them and their hugely impressive 900 or so fans who travelled down from South Yorkshire.
Charlton, on the other hand, weren't entirely rubbish, despite the predictable overreactions following the game. I'm as gutted as the next Addick, but lets have this right, there were spells where we actually passed the ball around quite nicely. Sadly, once in the final third we become clueless. It's hard for me to understand quite how bad Charlton are going forward.
Perhaps most worrying of all is that our steady defense has turned leaky and our goal difference is looking comparable to those around us where it was once worth another point. Just as we welcome back Solly we loose Wiggins for what looks like the remainder of the season with a broken bone in his foot after a late challenge.
Charlton finished the game with 10 men, but you could argue we started the game with the same number.   
Finding positives at this time is not easy, so I'll continue with the negatives. Worryingly, of those teams threatened with relegation, only Blackpool are lower than us in the form guide. We visit Bloomfield Road on the last day of the season and at this point I can only hope we still have something to play for then. If you're desperately scratching around for omens then I wouldn't dig too deep. Last time we went to Blackpool on the final game of a season was in 1972, when we got hammered 5-0 and relegated to...yes, you've guessed it...the third tier of English football.
But on a day when the footballing world was reminded of the most tragic of events 25 years earlier, perhaps it's not right to complain about the result of a football match, no matter the implications.  

Monday 14 April 2014

Big Week Ahead...

As games of football go, tomorrow night at the Valley will be as important as any cup final. Fellow relegation threatened Barnsley are the visitors in what will be a very tense and nervy affair. The stakes could barely be higher; a win for Charlton and safety is in sight, whilst a defeat could spell the end for Barnsley. A reverse of those results could seal another nail in our coffin. I'm so pleased this game is on a Tuesday night when, under the Valley floodlights, Charlton traditionally have a much better history of rising to these high-pressure occasions.
I'm trying very hard to focus on work and other things until I make my way to the Valley tomorrow evening, but it's not easy with this twisted feeling inside my belly constantly reminding me of my darkest fears...
Significantly, by the time Millwall play next, Charlton will have completed two fixtures (Bolton at home on Good Friday the other) and, God willing, could potentially be 7 points clear of trouble with just 4 games left. Of course, as an Addick I'm a little more realistic, especially as we've not managed to put back-to-back league wins together all season. I'd be over the moon with 4 points.  
I guess one of the major factors that cannot be underestimated since Riga replaced Powell is the tough schedule Charlton have faced in that time. With the relentless Saturday / Tuesday fixtures there can be very little time for Riga to get much done on the training ground, especially taking into account the all-important rest the players would need. It is little wonder that finding consistent form is not easy. Thankfully Charlton's fate remains in our own hands.  
I was down in Brighton with the family visiting friends over the weekend so I took the opportunity to visit the AMEX community stadium for the first time. Charlton's display was nothing short of woeful, whilst Brighton's new stadium could not have been more impressive. The home fans don't seem like the most vocal bunch (until the occasional seagull decides to swoop down into the stadium, only to be reminded of exactly what it is) but the acoustics inside the ground must be unbelievable on those big nights.
Less said about the game the better, then, but what did annoy me was a comment made by Riga post-match, in which he suggested he was 'less disappointed knowing his players are capable of more'. Hmmm, does that mean if we do go down he won't be as disappointed as he knows we were actually good enough to stay up? Perhaps I'm being picky. Maybe it was lost in translation, but some things don't need saying at all, especially when they are absolutely no consolation in defeat.
“I am disappointed with the result this afternoon, but I would be more disappointed if I didn’t know what my players are able to do compared to what they did today
“I am disappointed with the result this afternoon, but I would be more disappointed if I didn’t know what my players are able to do compared to what they did today
Thankfully, not for the first time this season, the disappointment of losing never spoilt a few good beers before and after the game. The Cow, near Brighton Station, is well worth a visit for food, well selected ales and bottled craft beers.
The end of this truly awful season is in sight. The fine lines between success and failure ensure a very nervy few weeks ahead. I can only hope my next blog post is euphoric! Come on you Addicks!

Wednesday 9 April 2014

He's Better Than Gus...

Pre-match my belly was twisted with nerves. It had been like that all day. With no disrespect intended to Yeovil in any way (and I genuinely mean that), it's a sad reflection on the fortunes of my club that this fixture was so important. It was a game with occasional moments of skill and at times it was woefully scrappy, but there was so much at stake. The proverbial 'six pointer'. Charlton's mental resolve appears in decent shape despite the relentless run of games and the players continue to display Powell's fighting spirit.
Sordell had perhaps his best game in a Charlton shirt, particularly in the second half, and deserved to toe-poke his goal home. Let's hope it ignites a fire in his belly for more. At the back, Dervite looked solid alongside Wood. Ajdarevic's excellent early goal was proof if ever you needed it that there is life in that famous old Curbishley quote after all.
And then there's Diego...
"He's better than Gus, He's better than Gus, Diego Poyet is better than Gus" 
Considering how quickly Riga has adopted the 'red and white army' chant it's about time the Covered End granted young Diego Poyet a song. The hugely impressive midfielder, celebrating his 19th birthday yesterday, once again showed us what we will miss next season if he fails to sign a new contract. Sadly, the harsh reality is this boy is destined for much bigger things than Charlton Athletic can offer him long-term.
It was great seeing the colossal Cort back in a Charlton shirt. Let's hope Solly will follow sooner rather than later. One thing Riga would have learnt from last night is, however willing, Morrison is not a right back and we will all be hoping Wilson's protective mask makers can put in the overtime ready for Saturday.
Talking of which, by virtue of a wonderful coincidence (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) we have made plans to visit our friends in Brighton this weekend. I'll distract treat 'er Indoors to a few quid so she can mooch around The Lanes for a few hours Saturday afternoon whilst I visit the AMEX stadium for the first time, albeit sat undercover in the home end on my mate's borrowed season ticket. Brighton took advantage of the heavy heads of Leicester last night and came away with a 4-1 victory, so I will go with low expectations. With this Charlton team, you just never know.
I've been very deliberately avoiding the Charlton hashtag lately for the good of my own sanity, but I did dip in briefly yesterday post-match. It's really disappointing to see that Addicks continue to bicker amongst themselves with the divide between those happy to 'move on' and those who are not appears deeper than ever. Both factions growing more stubborn and resilient as time goes on, it would appear. Mr. Duchatelet needs to understand that his new ownership has created this divide, whether intended or not, and he has total responsibility to resolve it. For the good of this football club, let's hope the future is made a little clearer sooner rather than later.
Oh, and please spare a thought for the poor chap I sit next to at the Valley. He had placed a bet on Astrit to score the first goal and Charlton to win 3-1. That meaningless Yeovil consolation cost him nearly £900 notes!!!! Fair play to him, he even said he'd have traded it for 3 points anyway.    

Thursday 3 April 2014

Same Again, But Less Pain (please)...

On the very day Chris Powell got sacked my season ticket renewal forms dropped through my letter box like an ill-timed and badly thought through punchline to a very, very sick joke. As if the blow of loosing Sir Chris and feeling like the heart and soul was being ripped out of my football club wasn't enough, there I was being chased for more money for the bloody privilege of 'enjoying' this sort of disappointment on an unreasonably regular bases.
It has been a truly wretched season - one I'll be very glad to see the back of - but already I'm being asked to turn my attention to next season.
I know, I do have a choice, I don't have to renew my season ticket. Except I do. I'm not going to kid myself; I simply wouldn't know what to do without Charlton or the Valley.
The true direction of my club at the hands of Mr. Duchatelet remains a hot topic for speculation, but for now, until proved otherwise, all we can do is hope he has intentions that will satisfy his quest to somehow make money whilst eventually giving us success on the pitch.
At the very least, I want to recognise the efforts of the players. I want to see that Charlton spirit that has got us out of more difficult situations than money and 'European models' ever will. I want to be able to back that team on the pitch come what may, not doubt their desire for my club. Tuesday night at Leeds, just as at Forest the week before, were proper Charlton performances. The signs are there that the spirit remains post-Powell. What a relief. Hope yet we might survive.
I don't want Mr. Duchatelet or Meire's desire for an all-new-and-improved 'matchday experience' to take anything away from what I love about going to the Valley. Granted I've heard good reports about the hot dogs on the East stand concourse, but you bring in goal music next season and that may well be a tipping point for me.  
Mr. Duchatelet, I respectfully urge you to understand what being a regular supporter of Charlton means to me and many, many others. It is because of that I parted with £520 notes yesterday for two prime location seats for me and my boy. I've sat in that same seat long before the glorious Premiership years and the dark days that have followed. My boy is new but he's the future of this club if he remains an Addick.

Hopefully this club will one day be his in the same way it is mine now.

Mr. Duchatelet, you have my benefit of the doubt for now, but please remember this will always be my club, not yours. I will not give it up when I get bored or realise it doesn't make a profit.

No, this is a lifetime 'hobby' as 'er Indoors sympathetically puts it in the very rare Charlton related text exchange we had the day Chris went. Forever Charlton.