Sunday, January 29, 2012

It's Green in Devon

828 Charlton fans saw the Addicks win in Exeter yesterday. That brings the total number of living Addicks to see a Charlton side win there to 828. It's been that long, 83 years in fact.

There was a time not so long ago when 4-0 was the typical Charlton scoreline. We seem now to becoming masters in slugging out our victories in a 1-0 fashion.
It was always going to be tough at Exeter, they have a great home record and typify the sort of side that can bring Chris Powell's high flying team back down to earth with a bump. With the home side playing five across the back we knew we were in for a tough afternoon.

Matt Taylor made a fond return to a club he made nearly 150 appearances for, as did Addicks keeper Ben Hamer who was in the same part of Devon this time last year on a loan deal.
Bradley Wright-Phillips returned to the west country to a tirade of boos from the home support. How he would dearly love to have ended his goal drought ( i think it's ten games now) against the Grecians and quieten down those boo boys.
He'll still have to wait though as Exeter's rugged defending gave the front man very little opportunity.
I for one can't wait to see his goal celebration when it does come. I feel their is a lot of frustration building up inside the lad and when he scores he's going to go off like a firecracker on bonfire night!

It wasn't just Wright-Phillips who found the going hard, Exeter didn't allow us many chances to play the flowing football we've become accustomed to.
A goal did come, but even that was fortunate. 'Lucky' Charlton strike again. Danny Green (how Exeter love green!) crossed from the right only for the home keeper to fumble the ball across the line with his hands and the use of the post. That was the first goal conceded by Exeter in five hours of football.
Harsh on Exeter who had a game plan and stuck to it, in fact they had a chance or two near the end as Hamer had his now customary five minutes of flapping, although the keeper did make a great save from a powerful close distance shot from Spanish striker Guillem Bauza.

Dale Stephens was one of the substitutes to get a run out for the last ten minutes. Bradley Pritchard has done well of late as Danny Hollands latest partner, Stephens will be keen to get back to full match fitness and get that spot back. A great time of the season to have such healthy competition in the middle of the park. Normally by now we're looking at suspensions and injuries!

With both Sheffield sides in cup action, we have gone to nine points clear of second, Huddersfield, with a game in hand on them. The steel city sides have played as many as us and occupy third and fourth. Both are ten points behind.
Home games this week against Bury on Tuesday and Rochdale on Saturday are ideal opportunities to build on the points tally.

Twitter was full of excitement, as was the BBC radio show 606, later Saturday night as club captain was on the train home with many Charlton fans and putting his hand in his pocket to buy drinks.
A future member of the Charlton Athletic 'hall of fame' this boy for sure!
Just another example of what a great football club this is.

Come on you reds!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


This was a major top of the table contest. A duel fit, on paper, to grace any Hollywood blockbuster. The finest swordsman of London clashing with their counterparts from Sheffield.
As it turned out, our one sword was more than a match for the two cutlasses in their crest. A sword however is a minor weapon in your artillery when you have Johnnie Jackson and his (now famed)deadly free kick.

Last week up at Hillsborough the skipper produced a sublime free kick worthy, many said, of deciding a Premier League game. Working to that basis, yesterday's was worthy of winning an international, and one of some importance as well!

A crowd of nearly 21,000, only beaten outside the Premier League by Cardiff, Leeds, and West Ham, packed into The Valley to see the top two battle it out in this much anticipated encounter.

Most would agree Sheffield United have been the best side to come to SE7 this season. Others have come and taken a point, the Blades however played good creative football yet took nothing home due to a lack of finishing.
It took twenty minutes for Charlton to break the deadlock. Another wondrous strike from the captain into the top corner was powerful as well as accurate, a better free kick you will not see.
Lightning does strike twice!

Sheffield United did have a chance themselves with a free kick a little later but a stretching Hamer turned it around the post at ground level.
Yann Kermorgant nearly made it two with an acrobatic overhead kick but the ball went over the bar. I'm always impressed with the athleticism required to do that. Even twenty years ago i could not physically attempt that kind of manoeuvre, getting my foot waist height was an achievement.

Before the interval the ball did end up in the Charlton net. Hamer seemed to get the ball from the United corner and palm it into the net whilst falling in the process. There was a yellow shirt behind him and I'm guessing he had a tug at our keeper. I'll have to watch it again to be sure though.

Danny Green had a couple of chances in the second half but fired them both at the opposing keeper. Up the other end, the Blades had a few chances themselves as Hamer struggled more than once with balls being crossed into his box. Deadlier finishing would have seen the visitors get some reward for their efforts.

Green made way for Darel Russell with a quarter of an hour to go. Russell could not have guessed what an impact he would have on the game.
A strong challenge, the type the game was full of in the golden days of football, in which he won the ball was adjudged by the referee to warrant a straight red. This is a referee who came into the game with a reputation for being 'card happy'.
What followed was plenty of push and shove from both sides, Yann Kermorgant had a good handful of yellow shirt before being mugged by Blades substitute James Beattie. Bettie got the Frenchman around the neck and proceeded to try and strangle the forward.
You don't need me to tell you that you can't do that on a football field, another straight red and it was ten versus ten for the remainder.

Charlton hung on though and as many people tweeted, it was Johnnie Jackson 2 Sheffield 0. Two weeks ago most would have bitten your hand off for four points from these games, some happy with two. I'll be honest, not in my wildest dreams did i think we'd get all six.
Six it is however and Charlton now sit proudly on top, seven points clear and with a game in hand.

I need to book a trip to Cyprus to visit my mum this spring. I think i can safely book it for the week the play offs are happening now.

It's possible, just possible, that the twitter hashtag may just happen, #championscomemay.

Come on you reds!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wheels of Steel

After a defeat in West London last Saturday, it was important Charlton roared into the steel city firing on all cylinders for this top of the table clash. The distraction of the cup behind us, it was back to what matters and the first of two really big tests.
A chance to shout our dominance to any pretenders thinking they have a claim to the title, while puncturing the wheels of Wednesday's challenge in the process.

It was a return to Hillsborough for Michael Morrison, an opportunity to show the blue supporters of Sheffield what a giant of a player he is developing into in SE7. Another former Owl, Leon Clarke, was on the bench. The old boys club was evident the other way round as well though, with former player of the year Jose Semedo starting, and the enigma that is Nicky Weaver between the sticks. New addition Miguel Llera began the afternoon in the dugout with the prospect of facing us for a second club this season.

Morrison and Clarke may have made it to Hillsborough, but plenty of travelling addicks didn't. Troubles on the trains meant many had only made it as far as Leicester by kick off, some were further down the line. I've seen on twitter that the fortunate of these fans made it for the second half, I'm guessing plenty didn't even witness that.

As much as I'd have loved to gone, i had to work the morning and settle for listening in on CAFC player, as it turned out better than being stuck on a train and missing it all. Unless of course you're going to listen to the Palace Leeds game, then perhaps the train is quite enticing!
Fortunately the match coverage was quickly fixed by those in the know and we settled down as we often do, our nerves on edge. Due to work i often have to listen in on games this way, i never enjoy it!

The commentators were quick to say how Charlton were looking the better of the two sides, but with the noise of the crowd behind them, every Wednesday attack had me on edge.
Just before the half hour Charlton marked the bosses first year in charge with a delightful free kick from skipper, Johnnie Jackson. Worthy of gracing any Premier League game they said, upon seeing it I'd have to agree. As pleasing to watch was the celebration, as Jackson ran into the arms of the coaching staff on the sidelines. The desire and passion was there for all to see. We were going home with all the points, we just didn't know it then!
Powell loved the attentions of his captain after the goal went in, the attentions of opposition manager Gary Megson however were not so welcomed. On more than one occasion words were exchanged and Sir Chris had to wave Megson away.

Half time came and in true rock and roll style i departed to the kitchen to wash up the lunch things. Minutes later a phone call from the motorcycle shop downstairs, my sink full of water had ended up on their floor. I cleaned everything out of the cupboard under the sink, repaired the broken pipework then mopped up the puddles all at supersonic speed. I only missed the first five minutes of the second half. Still better than plenty of those on trains!

The second half saw Wednesday (and Semedo in particular) throwing the tackles in, and the age old tactics of lumping the ball forward. All very Megson-esque! As the second half wore on, the hosts had five playing up front.
This nearly paid off as Rhoys Wiggins turned hero, not for the first time this season, clearing the ball off the line as Wednesday piled on the pressure.
Darel Russell had a chance to put the game to bed right at the death when he was put clear through, but Weaver foiled his plans as he had done to Wright-Phillips amongst others before him.

After an agonisingly long four minutes stoppage time, the ref finally blew his whistle and Wednesday's unbeaten home record fell, leaving just those mighty addicks in League One that can claim that impressive stat.
Four points clear of Sheffield United in second, with a game in hand, and seven clear of third. This was without doubt a big big result, made all the better by hearing Millwall had lost 6-0 at home!

Megson was heard to say afterwards that the race was now on for second as it would take an exceptional team to finish ahead of Charlton. I think that message we set out to impose on the competition has been well and truly heard. Sheffield United won't be relishing the thought of a trip to The Valley next Saturday.

One final note, Jason Euell made his debut for AFC Wimbledon at Port Vale. He came off injured just before the break, but did help inspire them to a much needed three points. The Euell effect.

Football, don't you just love it!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The revolving door never stops.

Saturday was one of those days you were proud to support Charlton Athletic. Yesterday was one of those days you are proud to have a soft spot for AFC Wimbledon in your heart. Everybody's favourite second team (except possibly Sutton and Crawley fans) have, as Chicago Addick said so wonderfully, their own Thierry Henry moment.

Jason Euell has signed on loan with the south London club for five weeks and is expected to be in the squad to face Port Vale on Saturday.
Unlike the supporters of everybody's least favourite neutral club up in Buckinghamshire, these fans will remember seeing him turn out for the Dons first time around.  How lovely would it be to see him do what the Frenchman did on Monday night and wear his scoring boots to mark his homecoming.
It's fair to say those die hard Wimbledon supporters will see a different footballer than they did last time he wore the blue shirt. He is a shadow of his former self in match day performance although he still has a fantastic footballing brain. Similar in some ways to the great John Barnes during his stint in SE7.

As the season progresses for Wimbledon it has become obvious to us all that their honeymoon period has finished. Financially worse off than many of their opponents, it is this gritty part of the season where his experience will benefit the young players in the dressing room and give their fans a renewed sense of hope. With the rich kids down the road in West Sussex blossoming it would be an absolute delight to see their poorer compatriots doing the same.

Speaking of AFC Wimbledon a local paper, the Wimbledon Guardian, is running an on-line petition to get Milton Keynes to drop the 'Dons' from their name. Whether any good will come from it i don't know, but it's got my support. Football heritage is important and hard earned. The real Dons work harder than most!

We've seen the Paul Benson, Leon Clarke deal go through recently, today it was announced Leon Cort had signed permanently.
With six appearances for the addicks so far this season on loan, the defender has made it permanent after being let go by Burnley earlier in the week.
Cort has proved he is great cover at the heart of the defense, especially in Charlton's last outing at The Valley against Brentford and is a welcomed addition by all except perhaps the ginger Pele, Gary Doherty!

Charlton's official twitter page stated today that there hadn't been any breaking news for a while. Of course with transfer windows these days players all seem to move at once but the backroom staff keep that door spinning all year round. Look at Tony Jimenez.
I think we could see more 'breaking' news this week if the rumours are to be believed.  Jeffrey Schlupp's name has once again been on people's lips as it was pre season but it's Danny Haynes that seems the more likely.
Haynes is currently with Barnsley and word is the Yorkshire club have agreed a fee with Charlton. Others were interested in the former Ipswich striker including Millwall, but they just wanted the player on a short term loan deal.
Nothing is cemented until the club announce it and these days we've all read it on twitter and the like a long time before it's 'official', but it shows Chris Powell is still keen to add to his forward options during this window.
Onwards and upwards, I'm not sure but i think he'll be number twenty four?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The magic of the third round

The FA cup. It's always special whether you're watching a combined counties league side in the preliminary round or the worlds finest at Wembley in the competitions showcase.

The third round is probably the most special round of all. The non league survivors get their chance of national limelight whilst the big boys are worried of humiliation. The fact that the third round always falls on the weekend closest to my birthday adds to the magic as well.

The greatest third round memory has to be Sutton's defeat of Coventry City at Gander Green Lane, three days before my eighteenth birthday. That however is a story for another day, but yesterdays experience is definitely going to be a cup memory which will stand out for years to come.

With over 7000 addicks descending upon SW6, all of whom in party mode, this London derby match was always going to have an electric atmosphere in the Putney end stand.
I arrived in Putney early as for once i didn't have to work the morning. I was making the most of this and was determined to have a good day on the beer.
Walking down Putney High Street at half eleven i was struck by the number of Charlton fans already there. It seemed that i wasn't the only one making a day of it.
Another reason it was special for me was Putney being an old stomping ground from my twenties. I saw many a band in The Half Moon amongst other pubs, myself and my friend Jim reminisced on how you used to get stuck to the carpet in there. Many a good pair of shoes ruined! One such old haunt was The Dukes Head, a Youngs pub by the river. This was my first stop yesterday but we moved on to The Bricklayers Arms which is a highly awarded real ale pub, well loved by large men with beards who like to chew their beer. We were spoilt for choice and tried many different ales although i was partial to the Pressed Rat & Warthog!
Myself and Marco were a little concerned for our mate Jim who ordered a pint of some lethal draught cider just before we left, but I'm glad to say he survived it and went back for more afterwards!

So we crossed the river and went for a stroll through the park en route to Craven Cottage. Last time i went we had terracing to stand on, this time a new stand which had a very temporary feel to it, especially when 7000 addicks started bouncing.
Charlton were in great voice and no matter how Fulham tried to drown us out with their music over the tannoy, we could still clearly be heard. Unlike the Fulham support. I can't honestly recall hearing one song come from the home areas. I appreciate they must get a lot of rich upper class fans in Fulham, but there must be a section of them from the Roehampton council estates. I expected a little more from them, very poor support.
One thing i will say about our fans is the content of the songs. At a time when racism is raising it's ugly head again and reports of a SMALL section of Charlton fans singing racist songs to Kevin Lisbie at Orient, i can honestly say i heard nothing like that at Fulham. Valley Floyd Road was awesome, the others songs good natured. Obviously Danny Murphy got booed but nothing untoward.

Fulhams performance on the pitch was a lot better than their performance in the stands. In the middle of the park they showed some of the quality you expect to see in top flight football but for all their moments of flair, Charlton equalled it with grit and determination.
Bradley Pritchard, who only a year ago was playing non league football, looked well worthy of his starting place and Chris Solly was immense again winning balls full backs from a higher level would have struggled to win.

4-0 definitely flattered Fulham. Two goals which took deflections and a penalty that was very dubious meant Fulham and Clint Dempsey had their stroke of luck. At half time at only one goal down, i really felt we still had a good shout on the game. For twenty minutes at the start of the second period we really threw everything at them and on another day Bradley Wright-Phillips would have done a lot better than he did with his finish when he was through on their keeper. If we had clawed it back to 1-1 i think we could have gone on to get another but it wasn't to be. Fulham got their second though and after that it was really all over. It's a shame that in years to come people will see the stats and forget how well Charlton actually played.

The support was fantastic at Fulham, if those travelling to Sheffield Wednesday next Saturday can get behind the team to within a small percentage of what we did yesterday, we will once again have the twelfth man and have to raise our chances. It was definitely a proud day to be Charlton.

Another point of interest for all addicks was Paul Benson scoring the winner, and his first goal, for Swindon in their giant killing at the hands of Wigan. We all wished this well loved addick the best of luck at Swindon and that is a great way to start his account there.

Back to the Bricklayers for a few post match beers rounded off the day nicely. The result didn't really matter, the performance was what counted and everybody had a great day out. It will stay in the minds of fans and players alike. The magic of the third round!

It's the Sheffield sides now. This is a big big test for Charlton and the promotion push. Hopefully Sheffield Wednesday won't have come back down to earth after their cup win over West Ham. Far more important than the FA cup, thank goodness we didn't get a draw at Fulham and have to have a replay in between them!

Come on you reds!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The good, the bad, and the ugly (and that's just us!)

Today was no ordinary Valley matchday experience. Bank holiday's are notorious for disruption, but in all honesty i only expected it on the trains.

The trains certainly lived up to expectation with an extra change required both ways compared to a regular Saturday service, and i gave myself plenty of time with the added bonus of not having to work a few hours beforehand.
It transpired that every connection was as smooth as a Danny Hollands pass and i actually walked into the Rose of Denmark in record time. Even the journey home was very acceptable.

A pleasant couple of hours in the rub-a-dub catching up on Christmas and new year tales with plenty of the twitter crew was a perfect prelude to Charlton's first match of 2012. Many thanks to the miserable ol' git you know why matey!

Queuing at the turnstiles and still nothing out of the ordinary when, out of the corner of my eye, i saw a flapping steward. Seconds later every turnstile to the upper north was shut. No announcement, just puzzled faces. There were only five people in front of me at the time, i was that close. Five minutes later there was a queue down the road, police everywhere and still no one any the wiser.
Eventually an explanation. A power cut in the whole of the upper north stand and we are told are tickets will be valid in the west. Oh how i momentarily felt for the stewards!
What followed was literally a stampede around the corner to the west stand turnstiles. Kick off had been delayed by fifteen minutes but it didn't appear any supporters were taking a chance and rushed to get inside for kick off.
I plumped for the upper stand on the basis that there were probably less season ticket holders and less chance of having to keep moving out of people's seats.

The teams came out and Brentford, the visitors, were resplendent in black and yellow stripes living up to their 'bees' nickname.
The home side saw a couple of changes with Leon Cort partnering Michael Morrison at the heart of the defense, the very deserving Bradley Pritchard getting a start in the middle of the park with Danny Green recalled out wide.

I wish for many reasons that the game itself could have been the main talking point here but unfortunately, for my matchday experience, it wasn't.
There was nothing wrong with the game other than it being quite obvious it was at the end of a hectic period. Charlton took the lead on the half hour with Morrison heading it past the keeper after the ball seemed to hang around the six yard box for an age.
Brentford could feel hard done by a little as they had defended well up to that point. Charlton's defense was just as good though with the new partnership looking strong and Solly and Wiggins both on form.
A second goal however was always needed as Brentford sensed there was an opportunity to claw something back.

The temperature rose in the second half with Yann Kermorgant hitting the post and, much to the disgust of Chris Powell, Rhoys Wiggins getting booked for time wasting whilst waiting to take a free kick.
Danny Green finally put the game beyond reach on ninety minutes when he came inside his man and slotted the ball home. As you'll read in a second, i was glad to see him get on the score sheet.
Another note was Leon Clarke getting a 10 minute run out for a debut, he got a better reception in real life than he did on the Charlton forums!

In the Rose of Denmark i saw the good side of our support. Great people with hearts of gold that I'm proud to call friends. Every single one of them would go out of their way to help another addick, no matter what their dress, accent or general mannerisms.
In the upper west i saw the bad and the ugly.
Behind me were a family of three, mother father and daughter. To give you a clearer picture, the daughter was older than me and the mother looked like she was chewing a wasp. Throughout the whole game they moaned. Danny Green couldn't do a thing right in their eyes and i got the feeling this wasn't a one off with him being their regular recipient of disgust. During the whole game they never had a good word to say grumbling about every pass and every set play Charlton attempted. Not once did i hear them get behind the team!

Although irritating, i can put up with what i call 'bad' support. The ugly however is another matter.
One upper north vagrant chose to sit next to me second half. He came over on his own (not surprisingly) and used the foulest of language for forty five minutes. In the heat of the moment it's forgivable to let the odd word slip, it is of course a working class game. When it's constant it becomes quite offensive.
In front of me were a middle aged, middle class couple, real stereotypical west standers. These people pay their money and enjoy their football like we do. They may show it differently but they have every right to enjoy it in a comfortable atmosphere.
So when they asked this monkey to tone it down a little, the verbal assault they received was horrific. I tried to help and got a mouthful myself. I wanted to move but felt compelled to stand my ground in case this couple got more of the same and needed some support.

On leaving the stand, he started again at this poor couple giving them the impression they weren't worthy of being there. Pot kettle and black eh?
I personally don't believe in evolution, being a creationist, but if I'm wrong and evolution was the way, this character was left well behind. He wasn't even a kid either, this man was my age and definitely old enough to have learnt how to behave in public.
On my journey home i was wracking my brains to think of an occasion when I've been this embarrassed about a Charlton 'supporter'. I couldn't think of one, not to this extent.

Upon leaving the stand i caught up with this couple and had a chat with them. I felt the need to apologise for the monkey and explain how not all north stand supporters are this mentally disabled. I explained how the majority of fans who travel home and away are decent folk and full of respect for all football enthusiasts.
I should NOT have to stand on the steps of The Valley telling Charlton supporters that Charlton supporters are nice people. It was, for me, a sad day.

Hopefully that will all be water under the bridge (poor poor pun, sorry) as we look forward to a journey down the Thames and a break from the important stuff and enjoy a day out at Premier league Fulham in the FA cup on Saturday. With 7000 Charlton fans going it's going to have a real party atmosphere and a day out to remember.

Come on you reds!!!