Saturday, December 31, 2011

Festive travels

Boxing day and new year. Great days in the football calendar whoever you support. For the Addicks it was a couple of away games and the chance to improve on our already impressive record on the road.

Yeovil on Boxing day was always a blip in the fixture computer. The road was the only option for hardened travellers, but how they were rewarded. Twice coming from behind, Charlton stole the points in injury time thanks to the very deserving Danny Green.
I was spending Christmas in Tunbridge Wells with family in a house that has possibly the worst wi-fi I've ever used. For me even the twitter updates were few and far between.
Unavailable for that one, i knew the next fixture was one i would have to see from home on the bench, Leyton Orient new years eve. At least the start of 2012 would see me available for the first two outings of the year!

Before the trip to East London though, we had transfer rumours appearing from every source regarding Paul Benson. It would appear that in January he will be heading west to Swindon Town in a deal that sees Paulo Di Canio's best buddy Leon Clarke coming our way.
I wish Benno the world of luck at Swindon, he's a real 'heart on the sleeve' player who has done Charlton a great service. He is not though a championship striker and I'm guessing Chris Powell is thinking long term with his efforts to unload the former Dagger.
Leon Clarke is now famous for that bust up. He is experienced though and is certainly on form with his recent displays at Chesterfield, who are of course bottom of the league.
It's still a possibility that Bradley Wright-Phillips could be off to pastures new in January and the gaffer needs to bolster that area just in case, but i doubt many scouts will have the greatest review of our number 10 if based solely on recent outings!

Brisbane Road then and Leyton Orient. I've always had a little soft spot for the Orient going back to the days of John Chiedozie and the 'braces' kit. Living in the shadow of another East London side, I've always had the impression of a hard working club both on and off the pitch.

New years eve 2011 wasn't however going to be one Ben Hamer and Charlton Athletic will want to remember.
I thought with the Huddersfield win that the TV camera jinx was over but Sky had other ideas. I should have known better with so many former Charlton faces on display that someone was going to come back and haunt us! At least it wasn't Mooney!
Kevin Lisbie, Matthew Spring, (both of whom i have great respect for) and the very odd looking Dave Mooney (spit) all started against an addicks side that saw the welcomed return of skipper Johnnie Jackson.

I've poured the first of many beers for the night settled down comfortably and I'm ready for a display of quality football. Five minutes later and the night is in disarray.
Ben Hamer has come charging out his area and made contact with the ball on his chest. It was close to his arm, close enough for the ref to give him a straight red, but it seemed to me to be panic goalkeeping very early on. I expect us to start a little more assured than that.
So John Sullivan got 85 minutes more than he expected, and you had to feel for Scott Wagstaff who made way for him. A rare start nipped very much in the bud.
Sullivan didn't have the best of performances. it's got to be hard to come on after five as i would expect you're not mentally quite prepared for it. Even so, there were a couple of occasions where he seemed to flap a little.

Orient, it's fair to say, dominated the first half. In many respects we could think ourselves lucky to only be one goal behind at the break.
Matthew Spring scored it after a deflection from Matt Talyor leaving Sullivan, off his line, no chance.
The very impressive Jimmy Smith could have made it two later had his effort not be ruled off side. Very harsh, yes, but then so was the sending off!

And that was it really. For the last ten minutes Charlton looked like they may have been able to snatch something from the game but it never materialised. The twelve, sorry, eleven men of Leyton Orient were too much for the ten of Charlton. It's our second defeat of the season (both 0-1 away), and a boost for the Sheffield clubs who have us now back in their sights.

Monday however is another day (and another year) and Brentford at The Valley is the opportunity to send a message out to anyone thinking we've taken our foot off the gas.

Happy new year, come on you reds!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day Tripper

We all know how busy Christmas time is. A hectic twenty four days of planning, shopping and drinking before one day of total excess, not to mention a packed festive season of sport.

Like everybody else, my pre Christmas run-in is no different. A church carol service and nativity, three family birthday parties, a church group Christmas meal, whilst not forgetting the busiest time of year for delivering people's groceries. How i managed to book a day off amongst this for a real 'old school' booze cruise to Calais still baffles me, but book it (and enjoy it) i did.

The P&O ferry was a real bargain price, and surprise, costing only a pony (£25) for a return ticket for the car. Heidi's parents booked the trip and took us along with my sister in law. That's five pound a head, you don't need to buy much beer to save that!
As it turned out the beer was actually cheaper on the boat although wine, (and more importantly) port were stupidly cheap in the supermarkets.
I saved more than my fiver in one swoop with the lack of VAT on a bottle of perfume for the wife. At twenty percent nowadays, that's almost a tenner to put towards some liquid refreshment.

We didn't go just for the beer though. Arriving in France mid morning and not leaving until the evening, we did get to make a day of it, explore the town and enjoy the local cuisine.
By local cuisine, read French steak house chain. Buffalo Grill is as American as you can imagine in all but location and language, but man they serve a beautiful steak. They cater for your ears as well by playing both kinds of music inside. Country AND Western. For all i know, The Good 'Ol Boys may well be the house band!

I'd forgotten how much fun a booze cruise could be and didn't realize that, this day and age, it was still a financially worthwhile option. Looking in the fridge at some gorgeous cheeses and meats though, and I'd happily make this a regular festive event on our calendar.
I did suffer the following day with a stomach upset but i believe that bug was there beforehand and the details of which are not for describing here!

So now we are ready for Christmas. I finished work today, Heidi finished the present wrapping, and the coffee table is full of boxes of chocolate. The only thing missing is a boxing day football ticket.
In fairness, even if it wasn't Yeovil away, I'd still struggle to get away from a large family gathering to attend a game. For me it will have to be Brentford on the second followed by the trip to Craven Cottage.

In between this we do of course have that trip to Leyton Orient on New Years Eve. How wonderful would it be to have six more points on the board before the year ends, especially after the 'dissapointment' of two draws on the spin!
Oldham Athletic's visit to The Valley on the 17th coincided with my boss having the day off to attend one of his Christmas functions, resulting in me having to work all day and missing out on the Rose of Denmark and the CAFC twitter crowds Christmas drink. I'm reliably informed it had it's fair share of casualties!

The game itself won't be remembered for much. In short, the ref was once again awful, Darel Russell scored his first goal for the club and Yann Kermorgant cut his head and played with bandages wrapped around it.
The Frenchmans injury reminded me not of Terry Butcher, like most, but of Stuart Balmer. An almost iconic vision of 'Sweaty' wearing (what i have to admit to being one of my favourites), at Fratton Park, the white green and purple away shirt we wore whilst borrowing the colours of Wimbledon Lawn Tennis club. That was of course in the days before you had to change your shirt if you had the smallest drop of blood on it.

It just leaves me then to bid you all a very merry Christmas and to leave you with a question. Below is a Feyenoord sticker i spotted on the homeward leg in the loo of the ferry. Those decent chaps on twitter have translated it to 'bastions of censorship'. Does anybody know the relevance of this? I'm guessing the supporters feel the club have kept something quiet!

Have a very happy and peaceful Christmas! God bless.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

We'll saddle for a draw

If any of you had seen my tweets from this morning concerning events happening outside my place of work, you'll understand that today was never going to be a straight forward day.
In fact it had been quite a couple of days really.

After my previous post about Gary Speed, we were privileged enough to read in The Daily Mail (if we waited long enough there had to be something worth reading in there) an article by former Addick Leon McKenzie on his battles with depression. A very brave piece by another true Gentleman of the game.
McKenzie is currently with Kettering Town of the Conference Premier division and is about to retire. I believe next Saturday is his last game of football. May i wish him all the best for the future.

Another highlight of the past couple of days has been the double honours picked up by the club. The gaffer, Chris Powell was awarded the nPower league one manager of the month award for November whilst our awesome (and i don't use that word freely) centre half, Michael Morrison, received the players equivalent. Both very justifiable and both very much deserved. Such a shame the former comes with it's attached stigma. Some would say curse.

On then to an away day that, in the current light, many would have expected to win. Walsall (that's in the West Midlands not Poland by the way) and the Bescot stadium isn't however the simplest of places to go when the home side are desperate for points. And believe me, they are always desperate for points.
Last season we faced them on our final away day of the season and had a certain Julian Gray to contend with!

Back to a strong side after the exploits of the FA cup last weekend, the travelling Addicks faithful were in great voice at kick off and were anticipating another goal fest. Tuning in on CAFC player, we were led to believe that there were over two thousand Charlton supporters in the ground. This did truthfully turn into a far more conservative 1065 but that is still fantastic support for two weeks before Christmas, especially considering the current financial climate we live in.

Last season the ageing Jon Macken (ageing, like i can talk...) caused our defense all kinds of problems and it was to be the experienced striker who opened the scoring today. In fairness it came against the run of play. After an initial shot  from a corner hit one of their own, Macken was there to slot the ball home. Charlton weren't happy but the goal stood. Like i say, some would call it a curse.

Walsall weren't going into the break ahead though. Yann Kermorgant headed home from a cross from loanee Hogan Ephraim just before the interval. On the radio they jested about Chris Powell's ferocious half time team talks and how the players were scared of them. I think the Frenchman proved these BBC commentators right.

With the radio mics left on during the interval, us listeners were treated to the directions to the toilets and how these masters of football commentary all took their coffee. Make a cup of tea yourself and you risked missing a genius piece of broadcasting!

The second half saw goal line clearances, the woodwork hit and a good penalty claim dismissed by the referee. Another day could have seen plenty more goals for both sides but it ended 1-1. And a fair result it was too, even if the Saddlers did finish the game with only ten men.
A point away from home is always a point gained in my book and although Sheffield Wednesday won and closed the gap slightly, we are still five points clear at the top. I can think of twenty three teams in our division who would swap places with us.

It was a good winning streak, six in the league and eight in all competitions, but it had to come to an end at some point. Perhaps we can start another winning run next Saturday when we entertain Oldham.

Come on you reds!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cup fever

If one of our South London rivals can win at Old Trafford, there is no reason why a team that plays far more attractive flowing football (most of the time) can't have a little cup run themselves.

An opportunity to treat a young family member to a rare trip to SE7 also gave rise to my own chance of a little FA cup action yesterday which earlier in the week i didn't think was going to happen.

Carlisle United was one of the least attractive cup ties i can remember in recent years, but after a four nil drubbing in the league back in October, at least goals were on the cards and my young companions 100% Charlton record wasn't in danger.
Even at half time i was still confident of both of these facts.

Little Harry, who will be nine in a couple of weeks time, was introduced to some of the crew in the Rose Of Denmark prior to kick off. Here he was dutifully fed plenty of E numbers opening many a opportunist door for showing off and the chance to behave like a right little geezer. Just like i did at the football at his age!
The quickest of trips into the club shop, just to tantalize him before his birthday, ensued and the conformation that it's the red home shirt (luckily as it's already bought and screen printed) that's top of the birthday present list.

We bought tickets for the west stand as the upper north was closed. In all the years I've been going to Charlton, i don't think I've ever been in the west before, and i admit it was one of the deciding factors. It's now just the north west corner that hasn't hosted my matchday experience, as Harry's last visit saw us in the family stand. Never again.
It is every kids right of passage to experience the atmosphere of a packed upper north in full voice. Next time Harry i promise.

A first half of very little note did nothing to dampen our spirits. For Harry everything was big and colourful, and an almost silent seven thousand odd crowd is still huge if you know no better. I say odd, mainly due to the bloke in front of me who didn't think December warranted long trousers. I was of course tempted to offer him an ice cream, if only you could buy such a thing.

The second half picked up and we got that chance to go crazy when Michael Morrison (i really like this lad) netted at the second attempt after Leon Cort's initial header.
Substitute Jason Euell cemented the win with a very popular goal in stoppage time meaning the number 64 ball in the hat had our name, and our name alone on it.

As far as the team went, Chris Powell picked a stronger side than most sat around me had expected. Cedric Evina and Bradley Pritchard grabbed the chance of a start and showed that we already have the makings of a championship squad with plenty of talent further down the pecking order.

The Carlisle players, staff and fans had a long journey home but the supporters we met were in good spirits on the train back to London Bridge. Early December for a second round cup tie you're expected to lose, and i think four hundred is great support for Carlisle, even if they didn't have any songs to sing!
Whilst we're on the subject of the visitors, they wore yellow for the second time at The Valley this season. Obviously blue clashes with red in these modern days of colour film.

Harry and I returned to the outback here in Surrey in time for a visit to the Laser Hub in honour of his sisters birthday. I gallantly played the part of Carlisle and lost.

Fulham away then in the third round. It's a couple of days before my birthday, so with a little bit of luck I'll be able to get my grubby hands on a ticket and make a day of it.
I feel it's a great draw and the perfect opportunity to see just how far Chris Powell's red and white army have come. A winnable game and an away day London derby. Heaven.

The only downer of the weekend was Sutton United losing at home to Notts County. Again! A decent crowd and the TV cameras of ESPN meant some well deserved cash coming in and from what I've read, Sutton certainly deserved to be on the same pitch as their more illustrious visitors.
The third round draw produced it's normal amount of gems today and once Christmas is out of the way we get to do it all over again.

The FA cup, i love it. Que sera sera............

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ten years on

I wasn't sure if I'd write about this, and very nearly didn't. Until, that is, today when a turn of events convinced me to do it. The subject? Gary Speed MBE.

Now the dust has settled a little and everyone has had their say, i thought I'd have mine.
Firstly, my condolences to Louise and the family, their loss is everybody's loss. A true gentleman of the game gone forever.
I mentioned in my last post how the minutes applause before Monday nights game was the most important part of the evening on every scale and, to be truthful, i was going to leave it there.

Today at work in the staff canteen i overheard a conversation that really prompted me to say a little more though. Two 'colleagues' (the politest term i can think of) were having a right old moan about the former Welsh manager and all others who take their lives, not to mention those that battle with depression. Selfish, stupid, and pathetic were just some of the terms I'm prepared to type, believe me, there were far worse!
Everybody is entitled to their opinion granted, but sometimes keep it to yourself.

I heard a preach once at church about idol gossip and how someone is always on the receiving end of it, you just never know who's going to get hurt. These two may well have thought it was their private conversation, yet refused to keep their voices low and i was sat at the same table.
Now i know they would never have personally verbally abused me, but that's what they did without realizing. My first wife died in exactly the same way as Gary Speed, it will be ten years ago in January, and these two clowns inadvertently disrespected my late wife within my earshot.
If you've nothing good to say, say nothing. You can't insult or upset anyone then!

Yes time is a good healer, more so for the partner than the children. I have a new wonderful wife whom i love dearly, the memory and love of the first hasn't gone of course, she's not a replacement! It has helped make it a lot easier though, whereas children only have the one Mother and Father. I know the pain burns deep inside my late wife's children, they learn to live with it, that's as good as it gets.

At no time during our marriage would i ever have called her pathetic or selfish, if anything i was the selfish one in the relationship. I had bad days and felt down, don't we all? Hers were just a lot worse and she needed medication to keep going. Not really that much different to a diabetic really.

The Speed's do of course have the press to contend with and i pray they are left alone to mourn in private. We only had the local paper, although it did make the front page! That was our fifteen minutes of fame used up. I laugh now, i didn't when everyone at work had a copy.

Moan over, i remember my late wife for all the great things we shared, i hope these idiots come to remember Gary Speed for the great things he achieved on the football field and for the exemplary gentleman that he was.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Charlton who?

The national papers don't like us. The BBC don't like us, ITV even less. And as for Sky..................
Dare i say it, but i almost feel a Millwall chant coming on.

We had been playing second fiddle to Huddersfield Town wherever you looked in the build up to League One's 'clash of the titans', not to mention the obvious omission of a certain Chris Powell as the press have run with this racism story of late. Apparently the game is still rife with that narrow minded hatred, hence the reason why black men never succeed as managers. Apart from in SE7 of course!

Personally i like hiding in obscurity, and in fact feel a little nervous when the worlds eyes are upon us. A selfish thought perhaps, I'm sure the gaffer, the squad, and the board welcome their moments under the spotlights. I didn't support Charlton to see them on football focus every week, to be able to read about the players private lives in the Sunday tabloids, or to buy the latest 5th choice kit somewhere in Asia.
I support Charlton because they're our team. They belong, albeit not on any official documents, to me, my friends, and of course you. We have that intimacy, that involvement and an unconditional love.

As i said before, i have a selfish thought or two, I'm like that, and i don't always want to share my Charlton with every Tom Dick and Harry. That's why, when the eyes of the world are on us, I'm quite happy to let Huddersfield, Halifax, or whoever it happens to be that week play the leading role. We'll all still be there long after the cameras have gone.

So, last night the eyes of the world did descend upon The Valley. Well all except mine. Good old Sky wanted my ticket for this match and as it panned out, no one had it. A Saturday fixture would have had me making my jolly way to my favourite London venue, but a Monday night reschedule meant work. Not even a glimpse of the stupid TV, perpetrator of this evil. I still haven't seen the goals.
No, for me it was good old BBC London radio in the cab of my Tesco dot com van. I could listen whilst driving then deliver to someones door just as we were putting the ball in the net!
As things went, I'd have settled for that.

I caught the beginning, and what in all fairness was probably the most important part of the whole broadcast, a minutes applause for the late Gary Speed. A win and seven points clear at the top of the table are great but pale into very little in comparison.

I heard the opening ten minutes and the Terriers early pressure then, as i was driving down the narrowest of roads in deepest darkest Dorking, BANG!
The back of the van clipped a parked car. Marvelous. In six years of evening deliveries for the supermarket I'd never hit anything and i was, i admit, quite proud of this.
The football commentary was still on but i wasn't hearing a word of it. For only the briefest of moments i thought about just driving on, but common decency prevailed and i pulled over. Good job too as the resident was already out of his house and looking at his damaged wing mirror as i approached him. Very little damage considering the noise of the impact but a knock is, at the end of the day, a knock and procedures have to be followed. And what procedures they are.
It was a good half hour before I'd finished filling out the paperwork in the van log book, logged the accident on Tesco's own incident line, apologized to the owner of the car and climbed (in by now, very damp clothes) back into the cab.
I will admit to being very tempted to asking whether we could go into his house to dot the i's and cross the t's and possibly drop into conversation whether he had Sky sports or not!

When the radio came back on it was half time, Charlton were two goals to the good courtesy of Yann Kermorgant and Hogan Ephraim, and i was very late for the rest of my round.
Even though i didn't have the distraction of the second half as i drifted further into the outback and lost all radio signal, i failed to make up time and returned to the store, and in turn, home at a stupidly late hour.

A bad night for me, a fantastic night for seventeen thousand Addicks at the game. What do i know of the actual match itself?  The two loanees, Ephraim and Darel Russell, came in for Andy Hughes and the injured Johnnie Jackson. I know Charlton got better as the game progressed and with each goal put a firmer stamp on the match. Not much else really. This certainly isn't the place to read a match report!

To sum up then, the media don't recognize us, i quite like that. I crashed the van and Charlton won a top of the table clash with a great performance that, if it hadn't been for Sky, I'd have witnessed first hand.
Gripping stuff eh readers?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

April 16th

After reading Marco's account of Saturday's game, i found myself reminiscing of times past and in particular some live music i used to enjoy as a teenager.
The reason for this was a picture of Humphrey Bogart on the blog, which i remember seeing in a wonderful little rock club in the centre of Cardiff twenty years ago. That club was named after our 'Umfrey, Bogiez. It's been knocked down since, but i'm glad to hear it's reopened in a new venue.

At the time we were still all enjoying that new wave of British heavy metal that so many of my friends grew up on. Remember bands like Tygers of Pan Tang, Saxon and of course Iron Maiden with the wonderful Paul Di'Anno?
April 16th were our local answer to this. A good traditional metal/rock band. Guitars, gruff vocals and plenty of denim and leather. As a young biker their music was heaven.

I knew two of the members really well. Chris Harris, guitarist, used to drink in our local, The Greyhound in Carshalton, whilst drummer John Fisher was also a biker and a member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association.

I always remember of their live sets, a big backdrop of the bands logo which looked like something done in a technical drawing lesson and at one concert at The Cartoon in Croydon, which used to be one the greatest music and biker bars in South London, a smoke machine which i accidently lent on during the lunchtime setting up. This resulted in us having to evacuate the pub for a short while waiting for the place to clear.

Other great venue's they regularly played were The Royal Standard at Walthmanstow and of course Bogiez in Wales.

Bogiez was an annual event and a proper 'jolly' in the true sense of the word. A coach would pick us up from a pub in Hackbridge, just round the corner from Chris Harris' house. By lunchtime we would be halfway to Wales and therefore pull off the M4 and find a pub. A midday skinful would then keep us going all the way to Cardiff where we would find a local pub or two.
I remember one year Wales had lost to England in the rugby that year and drunk Welshmen were everywhere, we even had to step over them on the pavements. Ordering beer in our cockney accents was a little unnerving!

Back at Bogiez, i recall a rather large chap in a white coat serving all kinds of greasy delicacies to a very hungry mob. This was downstairs along with plenty of pool tables. The bands played upstairs and never came on till late.

One year we took an old local gent from The Greyhound with us. Brian was a biker from old and allegedly brought the back patch club, Road Rats, into England from the USA. Rarely sober, we all kept an eye on him and late on in the evening we thought he'd wandered off. We needn't of panicked though. He was sitting at a table in a dark corner surrounded by young girls hanging on every word of his tales of biking and his time as a merchant seaman.

We would arrive back in Hackbridge around six on the Sunday morning and get on our bikes, which we left at the pub, and attempt to ride home in a straight line. Obviously i was young and stupid in those days and do not condone that kind of behaviour!

The band went on to record one album entitled Sleepwalking released on an independent label which, if memory serves, was French. I doubt i could ever replace that piece of vinyl these days, but have managed to find on line some mp3's of their songs.

They are of course, like many bands, long forgotten now but they will always remain special to me. I've lost touch with Chris and John, not to mention the friends i used to go with but this week listening to tracks like 'She's Mean' and 'Rattlesnake Shakedown', it's all come flooding back.

Those were the days............

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Don't worry, Bee happy.

I'm in a small minority. No, not for the reason you're thinking of but for my 100% record at Griffin Park. Yes, yesterday was my first ever visit to the home of the Bees and I've proven to be a lucky charm.
It's a ground and a fixture I'd always meant to get to but it had never quite happened, so this season it was a high priority match when the fixtures were announced.

Normally with away matches i like to find a public house a little further from the ground than most, as waiting four deep at a bar doesn't really appeal. Although saying that, with a boozer on each corner of the ground, i doubt the crowds in TW8 are large enough for it to be four deep at every bar!

After telling a few younger Addicks off on the train for their language in front of non football going ladies, i jumped ship (more about ships later) at Kew Bridge. My drinking companions for the day were just south of the river at The Coach and Horses in Kew green. A lovely little Youngs pub, it guaranteed a wonderful couple of pints of 'ordinary bitter' in a comfortable surrounding (in stark contrast to a little later) prior to kick off.

It was only a short walk really to the ground from there and we dutifully lined up to get in with all the other last minute arrivals. I did feel sorry for the residents of number 79 Brook Road South, next door to the away entrance. Every matchday they must have a mighty fine collection of beer glasses, bottles and cans lined up on the garden wall as the stewards stop supporters entering with them.
I'm guessing their binmen must think of them as raging alcoholics!

Once inside, and i had parted with £2.60's worth (i don't hold grudges, but i hadn't realised we were playing at the motorway services) of sausage roll, we tried to find somewhere to stand to get a view of the game.
The terracing was packed and, as always, people congregated at the entrance making it feel a lot more uncomfortable inside than it actually is. I lost my companions almost immediately so found a hole suitable for one which, with my height, gave me as best a view as you're going to get in there.

The first half was pretty dire from a Charlton perspective. Brentford had more than enough opportunity to not only take the lead, but also to put the game out of reach. Rattling an upright was, however, as close as they came.
If a goal had materialised for them though, i have a feeling it may have fallen to ex Addick, big Miguel Llera. Especially with the amount of stick he was getting from a group of Charlton supporters around me. I like big Mig and wish him all the best for the future, i think Brentford is a club well suited to his ability and i think it helps show how far we have come that he wouldn't have a chance of dislodging Taylor or Morrison nowadays.

Speaking of Michael Morrison, one of my favourite moments came when he (and remember he's a centre half) dribbled through a handful of Brentford players as if he was Ricky Villa! It was at that moment that all resemblances with Eddie Youds stopped for me. i love Eddie but he could never have done that. Punch them yes, dribble a football around them, I'm afraid not.

I moved a little closer for the second half and found a group of slightly (read very) inebriated friends who had travelled to the game on the 'HMS Rose of Denmark disco boat'.

I caught glimpse of them crossing Kew bridge as they were getting ready to dock. The noise from the boat could be heard for some distance, the smell of the alcohol a lot further.

Again we seemed to make hard work of it again in the second half. Brentford continued to do what a home side should and have the more possession. Charlton did however look dangerous on the attack and twenty minutes into the second half took the lead. Danny Greens cross was met by Wright-Phillips and the prolific striker slotted home.
The away end erupted and we all thought that maybe this really was the the time the elusive win was going to come.

Charlton being Charlton made us sweat though. A nasty Brentford injury prior to the goal when the Brentford keeper collided with his own defender, resulted not only in the stretcher being used but a lengthy period of stoppage time. This incident combined with our skipper, Johnnie Jackson, going off with a hamstring injury (giving loanee Hogan Ephraim his first piece of Addicks action) meant 10 minutes were shown on the board by the fourth official!
I don't think i can ever recall ten minutes stoppage time, and with most of that occurring at the end we were defending, we were begging for the whistle. It was still a long time in coming as a kerfuffle in our penalty area that i could not see clearly enough to know what had happened, left us with what felt like an extra fifteen minutes being played. We were singing 'we want to go home' to the ref in desperation!

The whistle did finally get blown and the relief was there for all to see. A lovely moment came as Chris Powell held the Charlton players back to applaud the travelling support and all leave the field together.
Last season we never would have got that win, this team really is up for the challenge. I hope Jackson isn't out for too long. Last season he got injured and we fell apart. That won't happen this time as the strength in depth and the morale and the team spirit is too high, but a leader does have to be on the pitch. Being a hamstring though, you know full well he's obviously not going to be back next week.

After the match i headed back to Kew with a couple of great friends and we found another wonderful pub, The Greyhound. A few more pints of Youngs finest rounded off my stay in west London a treat.
From there i headed up west to meet my wife who had been on a girls day out in town with her sister. We met in Soho and then wandered into China town for dinner. An all you can eat buffet at The Hong Kong buffet was a delight as i scoffed my first solids since that sausage roll. Great food, well priced and very friendly staff. If only i had realised it was cash only i could have saved myself a dash around Leicester Square looking for a cash machine before they released the girls! They obviously didn't really hold them hostage...........

That is what great football away days are all about. It really doesn't get any better than that. I am however left with just one question. Back page of the Brentford programme has the squad listings for the teams as you would expect. Brentfords number 15 simply says Topcat?...........

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Hiding Place

Yesterday i watched a film that i doubt many people have even heard of, yet alone watched. The Hiding Place is a film of the book by the same name written by Corrie ten Boom made in 1973, two years after the book.

For those who don't know, Corrie ten Boom was a daughter of a Dutch watchmaker in Haarlem. She along with her whole family were Christians and during the nazi occupation of their country, not only helped Jews escape the Netherlands but also took them into their home hiding them behind a false wall in her bedroom.

The family home was above the shop which is still exists, exactly the same today as it was seventy years ago and is now a museum, you really can go there and hide behind the wall!  For two years they harboured Jews, believing them to be God's chosen people.  "In this household, God's people are always welcome." Corrie once stated.
In February 1944 they were arrested by the nazi's with the help of a Dutch informant. The family were sent to a prison at Scheveningen, (where Corrie's father would die after only ten days) before being separated and sent to camps all over Germany.

Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were sent to a female nazi concentration camp in northern Germany, Ravensbruck. On entrance to the camp they managed to smuggle in a small bible and gave bible studies and readings in their flea ridden bunks to some of the other women.

With a real interest in the second world war, and a relatively recent visitor to Auschwitz, this story really hit a nerve. There are so many sad stories from these horrific times, it was very encouraging to watch a story that gave so much hope, albeit done on a very small budget!

Although, Betsie died in the camp, Corrie was set free at the end of December 1944 just as her sister had predicted. It was a clerical error that resulted in her release and just one week later, women of her age in the camp were put to death as they were deemed too old to be productive workers.

For most of her years after the war, Corrie helped holocaust survivors. She returned to her native Holland and set up rehabilitation centres to help former prisoners get back on their feet and deal with the mental traumas the camps left them with. This help and these centres obviously kept Jesus at the centre.

Corrie went on to travel the world as a public speaker and wrote in the region of twenty five books on her experiences and her faith.
She died on April 15th 1983 aged 91. This was, coincidentally, her birthday and in Jewish tradition, it's only the very blessed who actually die on their birthday!

There are many films covering the nazi's and their death camps, many of which are sadly compelling viewing, but none which carry the good news of Jesus throughout.
It's relatively easy for me to have faith in God living in the modern western world where I'm in very little danger of persecution for sharing my thoughts. It is a very different story in many other parts of the world even today.

Corrie ten Boom, and her whole family, showed great faith during some very difficult times yet never once thought God wasn't with them or had forgotten them.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23, verse 4.

In my own bizarre way, i like to visit some of these historic places so as to get my own picture of how it may have been. Haarlem and a certain watchmakers shop has become high up on my list of places to go now!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shocks in all the right places

As is always the way with these earlier rounds, i hate the term 'proper', of the FA cup sponsored by that dreadful American (with German roots) lager, there were plenty of shocks and more than a headline or two to embarrass the professional players in today's papers.

I was fortunate enough to see two games from the first round, one in person and one on the TV, both of which had favourable results and both turned out to be good games of cup football.

Gander Green Lane, Sutton, was first on the agenda Saturday afternoon. The U's are enjoying a fantastic first season back in the conference south (or bet square or whatever) and although they went into the game against Kettering Town from the conference premier division as underdogs, there were in fact only a handful of league places between the two sides.

It was lovely to see the ground looking so busy again, a crowd of over 1500 turned up. That's about twice the size of a regular Saturday down the lane.
I say 'again' as it brought back many a happy memory for me. I've seen that ground both empty and crammed full over the years, not to mention everything in between, and yesterday we had a wonderful atmosphere reminiscent of some great days in the clubs history.

I did most my growing up in Sutton and during my teenage years spent a lot more time at GGL than i did at Selhurst Park to watch the Addicks. It was a lot cheaper than league football which, for a YTS lad, was much kinder on the pocket.
I saw their first conference game against Telford, i was there for the big ones against Middlesborough and Coventry plus getting the coach to Norwich and the Boro replay. These were great times but i was also there for the Surrey senior cup matches in the rain midweek. I hardly missed a match in the late eightees. I was a big Sutton fan and i do feel sometimes that i don't get there anywhere near as much as i should, and perhaps I've in some way let the club down as we've drifted away from each other. There are however different seasons in our lives and Sutton United were definitely at the centre of that one of mine.

So this cup match was far too good an opportunity to miss. I took Heidi, my wife, as she had never witnessed non league football before. I doubt very much she'll be witnessing it again though. What i would call a buzzing atmosphere she would call intimidating, what i think of as a vital part of Saturday entertainment she's finds a chore.
She was most definitely in the minority as Sutton held their own against a physically strong Kettering side. The first period may have been a little slow but the crowd had value for money in the second forty five. On more than one occasion the poppies (most apt nickname of the weekend award) threatened the Sutton goal forcing Kevin Scriven to make a couple of first class saves.
Sutton aways looked threatening on the break however and got the goal we were hoping for with a tidy finish from Craig Watkins just after the hour. There could have been more for the hosts had the finishing had been a little better, but the boys in yellow were going to make us all sweat right up to the final whistle as Kettering continued to put the pressure on.
There were wonderful scenes of delight once the ref had blown for full time. This was a football match that meant so much to the fans and one in which the players showed bags of character. There wasn't the slightest chance that a certain friendly international afterwards was going to have anywhere near as much heart and soul as was on display here.

As M&S would say, FA cup success, priceless. And of course, with a good cup run,  it is all money in the bank.

Today saw my first love, Charlton, play (unlike Sutton) their first game in this years competition.
The ITV cameras rolled into Halifax hoping to see the conference north side take a major scalp, in the same way as Northwich Victoria did a couple of years ago, and give the baying mob of armchair supporters what they want.

Chris Powell's Charlton are a different side to that which fell before them and they left that particular version of the script at home.
Yes it was a tough game of football, it was never going to be anything else, but the addicks were professional about it and at no point looked nervous.

Matt Taylor's first goal for the club was a peach of a header before the interval and should have settled things down a little. Halifax were however unlucky not to go in level when they hit the top of bar just afterwards. This meant they were still feeling upbeat and came out for the second half looking very bright.
A couple more chances plus the introduction of a young lad, St Juste, on the left hand side and it was most definitely still game on.

With Euell and Hayes starting up front and neither looking like having the greatest of afternoons, it fell to skipper Johnnie Jackson to seal things for the Londoners. A neat little piece of footwork teamed with a low shot resulted in a deflation in the voices of the commentators. From that point on, you felt that ITV hated us more and more, almost like we'd gone back on some kind of unwritten agreement.
As Hollands and then Pritchard (after great work on the right from debutant Michael Smith) put away numbers three and four, the independent terrestrial channel of the year must have felt we were rubbing their noses in it. Shame.

I have tremendous amounts of respect for the supporters who got up at the crack of dawn to be there for a half twelve kick off, and also for the club laying on free transport. I'm proud of the players for a quality performance in front of all and sundry including those I'll see at work tomorrow, so i don't have to undergo a tirade of ribbing from smug armchair fans.
Andy Townsend however, and how i so wish he read this blog, i am neither proud of you or do i have respect for you. I speak for all of us addicks there I'm sure.

As for the second round draw, well for a moment i was getting a little worried. Balls 25, Charlton, and 26, Sutton, were both still in the hat and most had already been called. I could not imagine the two coming out together, not so much who to support but I imagined being in the covered end hearing the ones i love signing things about the ones i love. I may well have stayed away.

I need not have worried though. Sutton entertain Notts County once again, just as they did three years ago. This will be the third meeting between the two, and God willing, perhaps third time lucky. This could of course give ITV the opportunity to use some of that old Coventry footage again and bring their outside broadcast team to Surrey. I could yet get the chance to tell Mr Townsend of my feelings towards him.

Charlton got a much less glamourous tie at home to Carlisle. This is in all honesty the perfect tie from the clubs point of view, and may well set us up with a windfall third round gem in January. We shall see.

Next weekend it's back to league action and my first ever trip to Griffin Park. Excited doesn't even begin to describe it.
Come on you reds!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Five and two

Charlton five, Preston North End two. I doubt anyone correctly predicted this score before kick off, despite the fact we had scored ten in the previous three outings.
As long suffering Charlton fans, we are still pinching ourselves that we've already hit that magic safety points target of forty. And in the first week of November as well. Goals and points galore make blogging that little bit harder as we're so used to finding new ways of expressing our disappointment and frustration, yet very out of practice at complimenting and celebrating. Rest assured though that we shall all rise to the challenge all the time Chrissy Powell's red and white army keep marching on.

Twice recently we had seen the Addicks score four in a game but not in a single half, let alone the opening 38 minutes.
Captain Johnnie Jackson was first on the score sheet finding the back of the net latching on to the rebound after the Preston keeper had denied Danny Green following great work from the reds midfielder. This was a beautiful goal. Green took on all who came his way after picking the ball up in his own half before unleashing a powerful shot. Jackson's outstretched leg guided the ball around the last defender and the keeper with wonderful accuracy .

The second came from centre half (and fast becoming a firm favourite of mine) Michael Morrison. A corner came in high on the goal line which the keeper failed to claim. The ball fell to Bradley Wright-Phillips which he fired directly at a defender and Morrison was there to guide home the rebound for his first goal for the club.

Then we had a talking point. Jackson hit his second and Charlton's third from the spot after Yann Kermorgant was brought down by the keeper. A long ball was fired high up to him, his nearest defender slipped up and let the Frenchman through on goal. Out rushed the keeper who literally upended him!
Yes a sure fire penalty, and a booking at the very least. The ref however showed no card, only he knows why. Fortunately the way the result turned out, not too much should be made of this. I understand as a human, nobody's perfect. I love the fact we don't have goal line technology or whatever and we still allow room for human error. I'd be interested to hear the officials reasons for his decision for sure, but i do get wound up when the press and sometimes the clubs go on a witch hunt after these kind of events. I appreciate events can change games, seasons or even careers but it is sport at the end of the day and in my book that requires sporting gestures.

Wright-Phillips was next up to get his name on the score sheet. A floating free kick came in from the left which found a Charlton head, that in turn found the striker who had slipped behind two Preston defenders into loads of space to nod home.

Danny Hollands made it five halfway through the second half with a diving header from a  stunning run and cross from the impressive Rhoys Wiggins. 5-0 and this really is new territory, dreamland.

Preston did pull two back at the end, their second a very impressive goal that would, under different circumstances, have got a lot more plaudits.

With Huddersfield dropping two points at home to Walsall, it  meant the 17,000 Addicks at The Valley saw Charlton go five points clear at the top of the table as we go into the FA cup break. Not only are we now safe but we're looking good for promotion back to somewhere much nearer where we belong!

My choice evening of celebration was to join thousands of others at Brockham bonfire for their traditional fireworks spectacular. Myself and Heidi had promised to take friends children to the event by way of babysitting, these events are far more enjoyable with little people oohing and aahing whilst sat on your shoulders.

Remember the numbers five and two? Well, there were £50,000 worth of fireworks set off last night whilst the huge Guy (eight feet tall at a guess) was stuffed with £2000 worth of firecrackers.
Somewhere in the region of five hundred torch bearers light what is thought to be one of the biggest bonfires in the country, an amazing sight as they march up the road.
The heat off the fire was almost too much to bear at times and we hastily made a retreat. The fireworks were once again up to the standard you'd expect for that kind of layout, paid mainly by a list of sponsors.

With no entry fee, the village rely on donations and purchases at the official catering pitches to provide the money for the charity donations that the event is all about. Last year around £20,000 was raised and i doubt yesterday it would have been any less.

It's a wonderful traditional affair with most the residents of the village participating in the build up to the night over the previous weeks. Young men involved in the building of the bonfire are following in their fathers, and in some cases, grandfathers footsteps. It may be the countryside (a city boys little joke) but it's another little tradition and way of life that's ever so English. And that is worth saluting.

And as if i needed any further encouragement to go, one of the pubs on the green had a makeshift outside bar selling a lovely pint of London Pride and very hot mulled wine for the ladies!

So like i said before it's the FA cup first round next weekend. I'll be rushing out the door at church next Sunday to get home for the kick off at Halifax on ITV. I wish the travelling support the best of luck with the early start and praise the players and the board for putting their hands in their pockets to lay on some free coaches for the hardened away day traveller.

I also will get the chance to see some cup action first hand as I'll be at Gander Green Lane to see Sutton United host Kettering Town. Romantic football for sure! This is the FA cup and i love it.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Monkey business

A brace from Bradley Wright-Phillips plus one apiece from Danny Hollands and Scott Wagstaff secured a very comfortable 4-0 away win in the north east at Hartlepool United. That monkey wasn't just hung, but skinned and eaten for dinner to boot.

Yesterday for me was a shining example of the difference between this squad and that of last season. After the midweek win at Wycombe, and the soaking up of pressure at the end, the Addicks travelled north full of confidence. A long trip to a mid table side would have caused us a mountain of problems previously but not any more. Again we took control early on and Hartlepool never really recovered.

Chris Powell kept faith with the side that beat the chairboys, Andy Hughes keeping his place in the centre of the park. It's a good situation to have when the early season starlet, Dale Stephens, is going to struggle to regain a starting eleven place.

Rhoys Wiggins who only a couple of months ago was getting a little bit of flack from the Valley faithful has started to show why the gaffer was so keen to buy him. He races forward and poses a threat with each venture, how he must thrive in having a left back as his boss.
With the front two starting to sing from the same songsheet, and a midfield more than willing to pitch in with the goalscoring duties, this Charlton side has not only taken shape but gelled into a well oiled machine.

Stronger tests than a poor Hartlepool side will come but with confidence sky high, we have the ability to play any side in this division off the park. We had our first set back up at Stevenage and now we have seen exactly what this team is made of with nine points out of nine, ten goals and two clean sheets. Yes, i still have to pinch myself.

A little distraction came today with the draw for the first round proper of the FA cup. Cups and Charlton really haven't gone together in recent times and I'd absolutely love a little cup run and a chance to do battle with a glamour club. The thought of seeing The Valley full in a third or fourth round tie is a wonderful image, and no side in the country would relish that task the way we're playing at the moment

First however we have the small matter of FC Halifax Town of the Blue Square North at The Shay.
We had to endure tough battles against non league opposition in the past, who could forget Dagenham drawing at our place or the trip to Northwich (not for the want of trying). Just last season Luton, who i still find it hard to think of as non league, gave us a scare and took us to a replay.

It's not the nicest of draws but at least The Shay is one of the best grounds outside the league and won't feel too different an environment than some of the League One grounds we've become far too accustomed too.

On the subject of the FA cup, Sutton United's name was still in the hat today. One time FA cup giant killers, the reward if they can overcome local rivals Leatherhead is a home tie to Kettering Town, a side i last saw down Gander Green Lane back in the GM Vauxhall Conference days.
Like i say though, there's the small matter of dispatching Leatherhead first. The Tanners who are bottom of the Ryman League Premier division gave a battling performance on Saturday to earn a surprise 3-3 draw.

Although it wasn't in our favour i do still love the FA cup and these sort of performances. When the first round proper does kick off next month you can guarantee there will be an upset or two.
Lets just hope it's in Sutton and not Halifax!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wy combe away with the points

All through my childhood and teens, Wycombe Wanderers were great rivals of my non league heroes, Sutton United. It stems back to the Chairboys time in the Isthmian League, we were two of the big fish fish in that smallish pond.

Wycombe of course have outgrown the non league pyramid and, along with Yeovil Town, have become one of the real success stories of automatic promotion between the old fourth division and the Gola league. Or GM Vauxhall Conference as it was known when Wycombe won it.

They have become in the past few years a little bit like a lower league West Bromwich Albion, a yo-yo side. True to form, this season is already looking like it's going to be an uphill battle for them to hold on to their League One status. All the makings of a banana skin for the addicks then!

Charlton however took the lead after only six minutes when Yann Kermorgant's spectacular overhead effort bounced back off the upright for Bradley Wright-Phillips to latch on to. No better way to steady the nerves than an early goal.
The striker, who is far superior than his brother if you speak to anyone from SE7, then reached double figures for the season when he found the bottom corner after receiving the perfect pass from Danny Hollands just before the interval.

Charlton wouldn't be Charlton if we didn't make things a tad nervy as the second forty five progressed. Wycombe pulled a goal back just pass the hour when Stuart Beavon netted after Ben Hamer had denied the home side twice in quick succession.

The final whistle was music to the ears of the travelling support as there were a few worrying moments in the latter stages of the game but the Londoners held on to take a very valuable three points on the road. Another tough trip follows on Saturday when we visit the monkey hangers of Hartlepool. Tonight is a great platform to mount that challenge on.

Huddersfield dropped a couple of points at Scunthorpe meaning Charlton are now three points clear at the top and five clear of the blue half of Sheffield in third.
A clear bit of daylight which is very welcome looking at the fixtures we have in November!

Chris Powell has certainly built a team that has bonded well and gelled on the field. I expect the board at Leicester are ruing the day they let him leave, now they've axed Sven Goran Eriksson.

As the twitter hashtag goes.................................#chrissypowellsredandwhitearmy

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Four better for worse.

This weekend i dusted down the whistle and made the trip oop north for a wedding. I do enjoy a good wedding and the opportunity to put the best threads on and this was certainly no exception.

Tim, the groom is a childhood friend of Heidi's and yesterday it was his turn to jump the broomstick.
After leaving school he headed north for further education and never came back, much like his brothers before him. Heidi was always going to be there for the big day and although we headed up there a little worried only knowing a half dozen people between us, we left knowing a fair few more as is always the way.

We stayed at the hotel which was to host the reception, The Marriott Victoria & Albert, a five star place just up the road from Old Trafford. We drove up on the Friday so spent two nights, all paid for with Tesco clubcard vouchers. What a great feeling that was handing over these vouchers when faced with a three hundred quid bill!

Once we had found the room and unpacked, i decided a boozer and a curry house were on the agenda. Manchester's curry mile is world famous and my lamb bhuna certainly lived up to all expectations as did some of the local ale.
Manchester is a beautiful friendly city from my experience, yet according to Heidi this didn't deter me from entering full cockney mode. It seems that when I'm far from home i have a safety blanket that comes out! The London accent gets stronger and my use of rhyming slang is far more evident.
Well, you need to let these Mancunians know who's boss don't you!

Saturday and the day of the wedding. After pigging out on the complimentary fry up and having far more than i needed we sat in the bar for a quick pint before the off. We had to set the sat nav and the bar seemed by far the most sensible place to do it! Plus a little taster just to get us in the swing of the day ahead you understand. We then departed to Bury, home town of the bride.
The first thing i noticed was Gigg Lane, not quite as impressive as Old Trafford! We saw the ground driving around Bury whilst the sat nav refused to admit it was lost. The normally polite lady seemed to change her tone as i refused to take the third exit off a non existent roundabout. She also seemed insistent i drove through a pedestrianised part of the town centre!

We did eventually find the small church, parking in a cobbled side road. This was a real Coronation Street type experience which made me chuckle and helped make my trip up north complete.

I was on best behaviour throughout the weekend. The biggest achievement was not getting drunk, just a little merry, whilst nearly as impressive as that was my restraint in the church. Not once did i look at my phone to check the score during the service.

On return to the hotel we were all ushered in the bar for a glass of wine whilst some photos took place by the grand entrance. The bar just so happened to have a large screen showing sky sports news. Myself and another lad stopped dead in our tracks to check how our respective sides were doing as the second half was underway by now. I was by far and away the happier of the two as we were four up and his Barnsley side were on the receiving end of a hammering.

If Charlton are going to put four past a team (and save a penalty) you can guarantee I'm not going to be anywhere near the ground. I've been racking my brains all day and I'm sure Southampton opening day all those years ago is the last time I've seen us put a hatful past a side.

As the beers went down Barnsley cheered up a bit and turned out (along with his fiancee) to be great company, another side's results to keep half an eye out for. We agreed about many footballing issues but agreed to disagree on a certain Neil Redfearn!

The wedding reception went well and gave me many a laugh. The father of the bride speech went on and on, drifting totally off subject at one point as he started complaining about his energy bills. These northern folk can't half talk. It's just such a shame the best man couldn't. He sobbed and stumbled his way through a handful of words before giving up. We were so sympathetic on the outside yet hysterical inside. I was reminded of James Corden's character Smithy and his best man speech in Gavin & Stacey.

As if this wasn't a good enough memory to cling to from the day, the food came out and our lamb and vegetables lay on a bed of mushy peas. As a Sarf Landan boy, i felt very privileged to be treated to this delicacy and scoffed it down.

We had the traditional wedding band playing all the old favourites, but they got better and more adventurous as the evening progressed and did a wonderful cover of Pulp's Common People. The singer/bassist seemed in my slightly inebriated condition to be far too good to be playing these type of gigs.
The night was rounded off a treat when trays of bacon sarnies came out. A lovely touch that went down a treat, something to soak the beer up before retiring for the evening. I'd lost track of Barnsley a few drinks before this. I think he'd already left so i had his as well. I'm sure he'd of approved.

Today we drove past Old Trafford on our way home an hour and a half before kick off of the Manchester derby. We had already seen a fair few United supporters in the hotel who had flown in the day before for the big match all of whom had a big smile on their face. How the whole place seemed to be buzzing! I felt a little disappointed i wasn't going what with being so close, but drive past we did. On arrival home i couldn't believe my eyes as i looked up the score. How i would have liked to have seen those same faces this evening.

A good weekend then both for myself, the happy couple and all those with a love of Charlton Athletic. A great response to the defeat at Stevenage, i personally am glad to see young Chris Solly back in the starting eleven. I've only seen a handful of minutes highlights but it sounds like he had a great game as did our other full back Rhoys Wiggins. Add to that two goals for Yann the man, a beautiful finish from BWP and some comical keeping to help Danny Hollands shot from distance find the net. Hamer's penalty stop and a hard working performance from Andy Hughes in the middle in the park and it's of no surprise that every Addick woke up with a smile from ear to ear this morning.

Things are really looking good, so ladies and gentlemen would you please raise your glasses.................

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Half full

I'm not really one for letting my emotions known. Events that come my way, no matter how small or large they appear, are always covered up by my 'i'm good as gold' smile.
In fact i can only think of a couple of funerals where I've shed a tear. Although someone did mention recently (i can't remember if it was in person, on twitter, or a bloke on the telly so apologies for not crediting it) that if I put a sad film on with made up characters and made up situations and I'll bawl like a baby. Perhaps it's my way of letting go.

It's not often I'm angry either. Moody sometimes granted (just ask Heidi) but rarely angry. The past couple of weeks things have been brewing up and at the weekend it came to pass that that pressure cooker boiled over.

A set of circumstances at both work and home (neither of which are important to the story, or fair to those involved) culminated in a distinctly black mood and a lot of stomping and door slamming.

Saturday, Charlton made the relatively short trip to Stevenage. I kind of fancied this one and i knew a lot of friends were going so i was a little disappointed when i couldn't get the time off work. I did however manage to get out just before kick off. This of course meant i could listen on-line to the commentary. Except i couldn't because people needed the computer for other more important uses. In the great scheme of it's a small small thing but at the time it was the perfect catalyst.

I decided a fast motorcycle ride to a far off pub the best medicine for a comforting glass of ale. So whilst the Addicks were being taught a little lesson in Hertfordshire, i was sticking like glue to the speed limits of the country lanes of Surrey. Well, cheap glue.
And it helped a little. Heidi came with me and to be honest, just to get a chance to talk to her outside the flat and it's distractions helped a lot more.

So i came home, feeling a tad happier, to the news Charlton had been beaten for the first time this season but it really didn't matter. You see, we came home to other news as well.
A friend of ours is finally pregnant after a few miscarriages. There is however a 'but'. At thirty three weeks they have discovered there are problems with the baby and offered her a termination.
Now accepting this was never on the cards for them both. It appears that two of the chromosomes aren't formed correctly (or something like this) and the baby is disabled in some way. Mentally not physically.
Our prayers are obviously with this couple and no matter how this baby is when he/she is born, they are going to be loved beyond measure.

With such a sobering thought on my mind, i went into prepping for Sunday school kids ministry for the following morning. I got out the rota and the topic, thankfulness! (Numbers 11 4-35 in case you are interested)
The kids always make me laugh and smile no matter how I'm feeling and this Sunday was no exception. We chatted about what we have, what we want and what we need. They are sometimes a lot more compassionate and thoughtful than me. I'm sure they teach me a lot more than i teach them!

Last night, being Tuesday, it was our church home group meeting. An evening with wonderful friends guaranteed, the discussion was based around 2 Corinthians chapter 4. A constant everyday battle with what are small matters in the bigger picture. I don't choose the subjects honest!
Somebody wants me to realise this for sure and are working on my case.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4,17.

There will be countless problems in the future, that is a given fact, and i will more than likely struggle again to make sense of them. I do however have scripture to keep close to hand and a delightful insight into something far greater than this.

So I've pulled myself together and realised these little problems are small and temporary. My glass is half full, not half empty. Actually that's not strictly true. My glass is full and overflowing!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

sign on sign on

He looks like such a nice lad doesn't he? And I'm sure Rochdale and Stockport fans will be quick to tell me that he is. Owain Fon Williams is now first choice goalkeeper for Tranmere Rovers and he 's fitting in a treat.
You see, even before yesterday's league fixture, the lads from the Wirral had a reputation for playing by stretching the rules a little and running the clock down. The young Welsh shot stopper has adapted to this 'style' of play like a fish to water.

After the great results on the road and the bumper crowd for the last home match, everything was lined up to continue this momentous start, the blip in the paint cup aside of course.
We were back to picking our strongest side and Chris Powell made two changes to his regular starting eleven. No, it wasn't Doherty and Alonso but Green and Kermorgant in for Waggy and Paul Hayes.
I don't think anyone was surprised to see the Frenchman get a start after his superb substitute performances of late.

With so much promise beforehand, it was a little surprising to me that The Valley was as flat as a witch's you-know-what in the first half. 15,000 fans had very little to cheer as Tranmere stopped us playing the neat passing game we are coming to expect. If their game had been a little better you could have been forgiven for thinking Brentford were back in town. I remember tweeting in the opening half that we looked like Chris Powell had actually won that dreaded manager of the month award!

It was therefore no surprise that Tranmere opened the scoring, although in fairness our defensive play wasn't as shocking as it was midweek. A little bit of luck with a deflection off Chris Solly and Tranmere's Adam McGurk shot home. The deflection left Hamer, in the Charlton goal, no chance and although fortunate for the visitors, it had in fairness been coming for a while. We had failed to put any authority on the match and had been duly punished. Half time and a goal down.

I'd met former club director Mick Gebbit outside the ground prior to kick off and he had told me how a good friend i hadn't seen in years, Mark Garvey, was at the game.
Mark was one of the original Charlton drummers in the old covered end and we had become close friends. He came to my first wife's funeral and even organized a collection in the north stand for flowers all those years ago.
So at half time i knew to get a quick pint in and then go searching for him. Fortune favoured me though and as i turned away from the bar i saw Mark grinning like a Cheshire cat two places behind me.
His resounding comment? Al i can't get over how normal you look! I suppose he's got a point, last time we met i had a peroxide mohican.
There is something wonderful about greeting a long lost friend and yesterday was no exception. We watched the second half together and no matter what the final outcome of the game was to be, my day had been well and truly made!

I guess there was no real surprise as to that outcome considering we drew one all twice last season. Johnnie Jackson levelled for us with just over ten left from the spot. Eventually.
Tranmere did everything they could to stop our skipper from concentrating on the spot kick.
After bickering around the area which seemed to last forever, our friendly sporting keeper removed the ball from the spot whilst the man in black looked the other way.
The ref did warn the young man for time wasting more than once during the afternoon but i fear if he'd seen that he may well have scribbled his name in the book.
Super cool Jackson fired the ball home to send the Valley faithful wild. Never has a penalty needed to be converted like that one did.

The sign of a quality side is one that can still come away with a point against opposition that is determined to stop you playing one way or another. On paper it's a game we should have won but I'm content with the draw under the circumstances, we are still top of the table and still unbeaten.

We'll have a lot more to offer when the front two gel a little better. Wright-Phillips took a real battering early on that we all felt and I'm not sure he was 100% afterwards.
Yann Kermorgant looks a quality act although it didn't look like others around him read the game in quite the same way. Once they're all on the same wavelength..........
The only criticism i have of the fondly nicknamed 'Kermit' is that he looks like he goes to ground a little too easily at times. But he is French i suppose.

Years ago when we faced any scousers we sang 'sign on sign on, with a pen in your hand, and you'll never get a job, you'll never get a job' to the tune of that Merseyside anthem.
If any future prospective bosses saw yesterday's behaviour, Tranmere's young goalkeeper may well discover this for himself.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stung in the old paint pot.

Whether it was the Sky cameras or Chris Powell being nominated for manager of the month, one things for sure, Charlton were totally outplayed tonight by Brentford.

Sky's arrival at The Valley helped keep the crowd down to just under three and a half thousand despite tickets at just a fiver once again. The always depressing sounding Garry Birtles struggled with the pronunciation of Evina as much as Charlton struggled with good quick passing football from the Bees.

The ginger Pele made a return to the defense tonight and looked shaky from the off. Another starter was Mikel Alonso. The Spaniard looks very off the pace, as you would have to expect a little.
A goal in the opening two minutes  to wake up those of us still getting comfortable followed by a penalty twenty minutes later gave the visitors a two goal lead well before the break. The above mentioned were both to blame for the goals.

Big Miguel Llera returned to SE7 as he's on loan to the west Londoners from Blackpool. He soon got his name in the book like the old days and gave Danny Green the chance to pull something back with a free kick on the edge of the box. A stunning shot forced the first save of the game from the Brentford keeper.

Paul Hayes had a chance after a rare defensive error shortly afterwards but his early shot was high and wide.
Then it was Alonso's turn. Johnnie Jackson's free kick was cleared out the area to the Spaniard who shot for goal. The ref quite rightly awarded a Brentford throw.

A very poor first half. The second forty five started slightly better with the introduction of Euell but it didn't last. Our performance soon deteriorated to the same level as the visiting fans conga in the Jimmy Seed stand.

On the hour the visitors wrapped it up. Always threatening, Diagouraga finally got his goal after plenty of confusion. The lino had flagged for offside but the ref overruled him quite correctly too as our own Waggy had had a touch the assistant didn't see.

After this it was too late even for Yann Kermorgant to salvage something. Scott Wagstaff tried his luck five minutes from time forcing the keeper to make, i believe,  his second save of the game but if that's the best effort i can find to praise it says it all.
Charlton fans were leaving ten minutes before the final whistle and no one could possibly blame them. We were all ready for the ref to blow a long long time before he did.

Chris Powell said before the game that we don't do well in cups. How right he is. Yes it's a weakened side but then so was Brentfords. Rules state we needed to field six regulars and the others that came in are first team squad members. An unwanted distraction or not, this was not a performance worthy of a Charlton XI.
It's disappointing, we want to win them all, and Wembley may just have to wait a little longer for us.
Back to the important stuff on Saturday then and put this firmly in the back of our minds.
On the bright side that could be our last ever showing in the paint pot cup!

Over land and sea. Well, canal.

Charlton haven't been the only ones spending a week on the road. I have taken in Milton Keynes, Somerset and Wiltshire by motorcycle, car and narrow boat.

It has been a perfect holiday. We've had a much needed time of relaxation from work, whilst Charlton have taken four points away from home to give them some distance from the chasing pack.

It started last Tuesday when i rode up to Milton Keynes for my first away game in ages. I arrived at their stadium around six o'clock and parked the bike, for free, spitting distance from the away ticket kiosk.
With the match ticket purchased, once the window finally opened, i headed to the Red Dot bar at the other side of the ground to meet up with friends. It was a nice little place and very hospitable to travelling supporters. Definitely more suitable for a pre match pint than the bar inside the turnstile on the concourse. The entrance to that, behind screens, looked more like the entrance to a sheep dip!
The padded seats and excellent matchday programme were of quite some standard and two very high points to an MK Dons away day experience.

Charlton took around 1200 fans who sang their hearts out. If we had only taken 120 I'm sure we would have made more noise than the home support. I think the upper tier had nearly as much atmosphere up their end and that is unfinished and closed!

The first half performance from the Addicks was very flat and it was no surprise really to go in a goal behind. The always impressive Dean Lewington won a penalty which Shaun Williams duly slotted away.
In the second period Charlton looked a lot more like their normal selves. Always searching for the equaliser, it eventually came, and to new boy Yann Kermorgant. After only being on the pitch for four minutes, he headed home from a superb ball from Danny Green to give us a point to take home. A point which over ninety minutes was, i thought, deserved.

A great night, good to catch up with Charlton faces old and new, a good sing song and another new ground visited. So i rode home happy even with the knowledge that i had an early start the following morning.

After all of five hours sleep we were on the road again. This time in a packed car heading down to the west country for a few days. Although very tired, i was still buzzing about the game the night before.

We drove to Bath to meet Heidi's parents who were on a narrow boat for a week. We joined them for the last two days of their holiday, literally substituting Heidi's grandparents who started the week, and met them right in the centre of the city under the gaze of Bath Abbey.
From there we headed towards Bradford on Avon and our first of many locks.
Heidi had stumbled and sprained her ankle on arrival. This had not only swollen and badly bruised but also excused her from the hard manual work of lock operation. Under normal circumstances, the locks are effort enough. We of course had picked the hottest week of year, or so it felt, and by the sixth straight lock in a row i was in dire need of cold beer.

Considering i was only on the boat for forty eight hours, beer was certainly not in short supply. If you are ever on that stretch of water, The Brewery Inn in Seend, Melksham, is a pub known by all which serves good beer, fantastic food and a cider called Wacky which looked a little like Irn Bru in colour. Of particular interest in there, other than the steak and ale pie, were the cricket trophies hanging on the wall made out of old outhouse doors.
I've decided canal boat holidays make a good short break (especially when paid for by clubcard vouchers). I'd certainly do it again but i can imagine it's similar to caravaning. Fun in the sun yet as boring as it comes in the pouring rain.

On Friday we made our way to my brothers in Taunton. This was just a shortish drive from Bradford on Avon. As the boat was given back at nine that morning and my brother not getting home from work until five, we had a day to kill.
A final pub lunch by the canal after visiting the town museum rounded our stay off perfectly. We chose Glastonbury as a stop off point mid afternoon.
A wander around the festival town and it's shops ended in disappointment. It's a town that attracts a different kind of person to towns at home and i know I'm going to sound judgemental and i apologise now to anybody I'm going to offend but it didn't look like anyone there had ever done a days work between them.
Even the atmosphere in the town seemed a little odd, maybe even a little dark. It wasn't the place for us. It was a short stay and time to move on.

So we arrived in Taunton and had a very relaxing weekend at my brothers. I got the chance to play with his new shiny gadgets. An iPad 2, my first ever attempt at Gran Turismo 5 on the PS3, and a chance to experience 3D television!
Saturday morning i watched the Merseyside derby wearing special Sony glasses. As clever as it is (and impressive) I don't think i could cope with too much of it and actually preferred watching in good old fashioned two dimensional when we switched back.

To keep Heidi happy we strolled around the very good shopping centre in the town in the afternoon. It wasn't until about half past four that we returned to his house and i looked to see what was occurring at Bramall Lane against promotion rivals Sheffield United.

I think i may well have jumped in the air with sheer delight when i saw the score. Our very own David Fairclough, supersub Kermorgant popped up again to score seconds after coming on. This was followed by a goal, albeit with a little good fortune, from Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Four points on the road against two of the main competition is a fantastic achievement. We sit comfortably at the top of the table with real daylight between us and second place.
Now we have the little distraction of the paint cup and Brentford Wednesday night. I'm sure Yann the man will get a start in a much changed starting eleven. I know Chris Powell isn't overly concerned about the competition but i, like many others, would love a day at Wembley.

We returned home Sunday evening, with our new television set (my brothers old 42" flat screen (yes i know I'm blessed)) and the reality of going back to work. It's harder than normal after such a relaxing time but at least I've got the thought of a trip to The Valley on Saturday to get me through the week.

Come on you reds!