Saturday, April 28, 2012

Add another nought

Was today's game at Deepdale the first time I've listened to Charlton on the radio without fretting? Probably. Normally in this situation I'm a mess, today i resembled a cucumber with my cool temperament.
When the second Charlton goal went in, from Dany N'Guessan, my sister in law who is staying for the weekend turned around from her knitting (or whatever she was doing) to see if i was jumping about. I just gave her a smug look, no need to punch the air or anything, we are after all deserving champions.
That smug look may have cost us the win I'm afraid.
Smugness is not a fruit of the spirit is it! The big man would've frowned at me for that one!

The last away day of the season has for many sets of supporters around the country become a day of fancy dress. Charlton kept up this tradition with a selection of bananas, cats, Toy Story characters and even Robocop amongst our ranks. Twitter was awash with photos of these characters making their way up north. A part of me wished the ref would have to go off, just so Robocop could put his boots on. That would guarantee no backchat!

After promotion followed by the championship, this weeks task was to achieve the magic 100 points. For a while we were on course for it. The beauty of the modern age is the current 'live' table. This of course showed for the majority of the match that we had indeed achieved the ton. We will have to wait until next week for this though, but it will be another aspect to the party that ensues at The Valley next Saturday instead.

The game itself saw Chris Powell make plenty of changes with the likes of Sullivan, Evina, Taylor, Cook, N'Guessan, and Haynes all getting a start. The gaffer had said beforehand he wanted to give squad members a run out to let everyone enjoy what we had achieved this season. Many said at half time that the Charlton reserves were winning. If that's was the case, they got stung in the second. Playing into a fierce wind, strong enough even to blow away all the commentators notes, Charlton faced a different proposition with Preston determined to give the home fans something to cheer. Nobody would have guessed they'd have a memory of a lifetime moment at the finish.
And the Charlton commentators wont leave home without a paperweight again!

Danny Haynes picked up the ball from a great Danny Green pass (who himself was to hit the post shortly after) and got of the mark for us after negotiating the ball pass the keeper and slotting home. Number two was from Dany N'guessan who got another goal to add to his Addicks tally just after the half hour when he seized on a defensive blunder and slid the ball into the back of the net.

Two up then at the interval and cruising to our sixth win on the spin. Like i said however, North End were not going to lie down and let us stroll it. They may well have had the sort of team talk our own Chris Powell is famous for giving.

A low shot from Nicky Hunt from twenty five yards out beat John Sullivan at the near post in the Charlton goal meaning under normal circumstances we'd have the nail biting finish we're so used to. Not today.
Even when the equaliser went in in stoppage time it was hard to be disappointed. Charlton fans around the world must have struggled with that one. Normally we'd all jump on the moaning bandwagon and stay there all weekend. To throw a win away and not care is simply awkward on so many levels!

As soon as Graham Alexander entered the fray with just six minutes left on the clock it was a given fact that he would have a 'Chris Powell' moment.
Forty years old, his 1000th and final appearance, the curtain was to come down on a twenty two year career with a goal. With the crowd baying him to shoot when the ball came near him, his own Powell moment finally happened from a free kick on the edge of the box.
Nobody else had a chance to take it and all 12,000 in the crowd, including the away supporters, were probably willing the ball into the net. Well if we weren't actually willing it in, we certainly didn't begrudge him it. What better way to lose two points.

On a day then when Preston had nothing to play for and we had the chance to make all the headlines Gary Alexander turned it all on his head and made the game memorable for totally different reasons.
Respect to him. It should have been about the number 100, he added a nought.

Competitive football isn't over for me this season though. Sutton United beat Farnborough today to seal a place in the Conference South play offs. They face Welling  United, the home leg at Gander Green lane is on Wednesday night. I'm looking forward to a real battle and some football with everything riding on it.

Come on you yellows!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

League of Blogs update

My home kit, Panini sticker style!

Chris and Rich at The Football Attic seem to have captured the imagination of quite a few football bloggers with their exceptional League of Blogs.

Further to my initial post on the subject, i thought I'd bring you all up to speed on the success of the project and how it grows in size almost weekly.

I'm not alone in blogging about my efforts to design a football kit representing the blog and highlighting our artistic tools of choice, in my case coloured pencils.
Glitter pens are by far and away the most juvenile (except perhaps for sticking lumps of play doh on your picture), yet brilliant of ideas. Spirit of Mirko has used this medium to its full potential, you really couldn't get a further extreme to the photoshop world of today and, in fact, further from the actual finished wallchart the kit appears on.
Another blog to write of their creation is Narrow The Angle who went for the wonderful idea of shirt sponsor, badge and even kit manufacturer logo. Some people have computer skills i can only dream of!

My wife turning my original colour drawings into 'computer compatible' pictures 

We are now also blessed with a little more Charlton content in the league as Marco, the Charlton Casual himself, has designed both a home and away kit. His boyhood hero Roy Race can certainly lay claim to having influenced this design!
Strength in numbers, well, we've dominated one league already this season!

As i said before, the league keeps expanding with there now being 92 spaces, one for each league club in effect. At the time of writing, i believe there are only fifteen spaces left. If, in reading this, you fancy a go you had better be quick!

Where does the league go from here? There is talk of the wallchart being available to buy in poster form as well as individual kits done as Panini stickers. An album to stick them in may be a little out of reach financially however, although if Panini themselves were to pick up on it who knows...........................

Mugs, t-shirts, baseball caps, school protractor kits in metal tins, the possibilities are endless and with the relaunch of Subbuteo we may all just meet up in the school holidays for an afternoon or two of football flicking shenanigans. That is of course if our mums haven't grounded us........

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Anyone seen the key to the trophy cabinet?

I may well be the last Charlton blogger to write about the Addicks becoming npower league one champions, but then i was probably the last Charlton supporter to know that we were.

My Saturday was not at The Valley but at my sister in laws 21st birthday bash. This event had been organized and planned for weeks in advance by Heidi, my wife, and to escape for a few hours in the middle of the day would have been to commit domestic suicide.
So instead of being part of Charlton's greatest day in over a decade, I was dressed as the Mad Hatter at an Alice in Wonderland inspired tea party.
Why was i so late in knowing of the Addicks great achievement? This tea party was held outside of the signal coverage from my network provider 3, and no matter how many march hares, cheshire cats or red queens i asked, no one had an interest in, let alone seen or heard, any football results.

Wycombe Wanderers were visitors and their need for the points was far greater than ours. From what I've seen in the extended highlights, that showed on the pitch.
Yann Kermorgant's first half free kick was delightful to put us in front although the Chairboys front man Stuart Beavon gave the visitors hope by leveling just before the break.
In Milton Keynes the franchise were a goal to the good against Sheffield United at this point. If it stayed like that and we scored.........

And that's just how it panned out. For the first time in my life i was glad to see a win for Buckinghamshire's other league club. After the controversy surrounding a certain Ched Evans, the Blades fans were having a torrid weekend, especially the six thousand they reportedly took away to the new town.
Substitute Dale Stephens scored his fourth of the season a quarter of an hour before the end to seal it for Charlton, and after the final whistle, with the players still on the pitch, news came through from the Stadium MK and this sparked some wonderful scenes of celebration.

Mark Ritson posted a superb video on you tube of the events after the final whistle, the highlight for all being Chris Powell jumping out the tunnel, just as we fondly remember him doing in his playing days. Watching this makes it hurt even more that i couldn't be there, although the gaffer has promised a huge party in SE7 on May 5th for the last game of the season against Hartlepool. Wild horses couldn't keep me away for that!

Promoted one week, champions the next. Wouldn't it be great if, at Preston next Saturday we could break the 100 points target. Surely then the BBC would have to give us some coverage? It was ironic that on the weekend we won the league, BBC's Late Kick Off programme got Dougie Freedman in the studio and turned it into a Palace special!

Speaking earlier of Ched Evans, there was more controversy as he was included in the PFA League One team of the year. I'm not going into the rights or the wrongs of that here, i just want to note that four Charlton players were also included. To the surprise of many, Chris Solly was not one of them.
Ben Hamer, Rhoys Wiggins, Johnnie Jackson and, my personal player of the year, Michael Morrison won this accolade.
Players regard this as the highest of achievements as it's voted for by fellow professionals, in many ways the most prestigious of honours so my heartfelt congratulations to each of them.

I've seen it said on twitter that Charlton themselves are the real league one team of the year. How true, we've been top since September, we've not really wobbled at all and in Chris Powell we once again have a hero at the helm that, it would appear, can do no wrong. This feels as good as it did for the play offs in 98 and as good as it did winning the 'second division' in 2000.
Our Charlton are back, oh how we've missed them.
And doesn't it just sound so perfect........

Charlton Athletic - Champions!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The 'magic' of the cup

It's fair to say that over recent years, many of the bigger sides in England have treated the FA cup as an also ran competition, one in which they can bleed new youngsters into the first team in front of half full stadiums. After all, it's not got the money in it that the Premier League has, or more importantly, the potential lucrative windfall that is Champions League football.

I can understand that, especially from a business point of view for club chairmen, and i can understand the lure and the possible furthering of careers for managers and players alike. In fact, everybody is quids in if you should be fortunate enough for a run in Europe's premier competition.

For the Football Association to belittle their own challenge cup competition however is another matter. A competition dripping with so much heritage and tradition, it is close to becoming a mockery. If I owned and ran the oldest knockout football competition in the world I'd keep to an age old formula and not bow down to peer pressure from Sky, ESPN, FOX 'soccer' channel, UEFA, FIFA or anybody else who fancies sticking their oar in. OK, so in real life it's probably a lot more complicated than that, but the FA once again appear to have no backbone let alone sense of dignity. Just look at the situation with our national teams managerial position. That job has been one of controversy since the Don Revie fiasco, and Cloughie proved they won't listen to anyone who knows, and speaks, his own mind.

I am of course a little put out by the late kick off of the final this season, but more of that in a bit. The semi finals beforehand produced their fair share of debate.
To have one at half twelve on the Saturday and the other, Sunday at six is bizarre enough. Add to this that the two sets of fans who have to travel miles get the early one is just crazy. Yes, i fully understand why Liverpool didn't want to play on the Hillsborough anniversary, but surely they could have kicked off at three on Saturday? Also, why so late for the two London sides on Sunday? That wasn't really an afternoon or evening kick off. There must be occasions, but I'm struggling to think of another game that's started at six. A little respect though for those who did come down from Liverpool, that game had a larger attendance than that of the local sides.

Apart from the awful scenes during the minutes 'silence' before Sunday's clash from some sections of supporters as ITV linked in the candlelit service from Anfield, every other travesty is surely the doing of the FA. This includes the fact that the semis were held at Wembley in the first place. Remember the bit about tradition?
Villa Park, Old Trafford, there are loads of grounds which are suitable for staging the seventh round of the cup. And plenty big enough they are too. If the Merseyside derby had been held in Manchester I'm sure every season ticket holding supporter, and other frequent visitors,  would have got in. Let's face it, these occasions are for the real paying fans who live and breathe their clubs, not the glory hunting arm chair supporters who come creeping out of the woodwork when they smell success.
I guess that it's all money spent elsewhere though and not going towards paying for our national stadium.
Get a big American stadium rock band to play a couple more gigs instead i say, and keep the things we love about this great old competition unadulterated.

May 5th does then see the grand final, the showcase of all that English club football stands for. Around the world millions of excited viewers will tune in, from luxury homes in Beverly Hills to villages gathered around one old television set in distant parts of Africa, all eager to watch the latest chapter in the history of football's most respected competition. Everyone that is except real football fans. The bread and butter fans that keep the FA's wonderful league structure of 92 professional clubs intact.
Yes, fans of League One and Two clubs will be watching their sides play their final game of the season. When Liverpool and Chelsea kick off on Wembley's hallowed turf, we will be boarding trains to make our journeys home.
Not to worry, at least i can watch Chelsea play Barcelona on the box tonight though, thank you all you rich large corporations that made this possible.

Except i don't really want to watch Chelsea play Barcelona. I want to watch an FA cup special of 'Question of Sport'. What i really want is to be able to know that the curtain is coming down on England's domestic season with the final game, the big one, the cup final. And i want this at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and when the final whistle went on every other game days beforehand.

As a kid i watched the television cup final morning from the minute the coverage started to the the moment it finished. Not only did i see the winners parading the trophy around the pitch in scarves and stupid hats, i saw them eating breakfast at their hotel hours earlier. Well not quite, but you know what i mean. I'd sit there with my Panini sticker albums spread out in front of me alongside the cup final special edition of Shoot! magazine. My Grandad would arrive later and sit in the armchair behind me grumbling about both the stupidly short shorts the modern footballers wore and their phobia of good old fashioned barber shops. It was an event that not only brought families together, but communities as well.
I could be wrong, but it would seem to me that Britain today could do with a bit more of that.

Hopefully I'll be celebrating Charlton's title win on that day, so will no doubt catch some of the match on the big screen of a local public house. It's very unlikely I'm going to watch much of it though. I can't watch it with my Grandad as he passed on many years ago and my Panini albums could be anywhere, they are now unfortunately just a distant memory, but me trying to turn the clock back misses the point. The FA turning the clock back doesn't.
This is the only FA cup game that should be played at Wembley, a prize reserved for the finalists, it should be at 3 o'clock, because that's when football kicks off, and all football fans should, if they choose, be at home to watch it.

Cloughie would agree.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

And now you're gonna believe us

Saturday April 14th, the day Charlton Athletic got promoted out of the third tier of English football.

It has been a long three years, we've seen the two sides we went down with, Norwich and Southampton, both have a real change of fortunes while we may have felt like we had been left behind.

Now though our day has come. Chris Powell has built his team, the new owners have backed him all the way and this season will be one that lives long in the memory. It has been a delight to watch the team play, and it's a few years since any Addick can say that.

It took a Bradley Wright-Phillips goal to see off Carlisle resulting in us sitting ten points clear of Sheffield Wednesday, (who only managed a draw at Colchester) in third with only nine points left to play for. That £240 i spent on next season's season ticket seems even better value for money now!

Three games of third division football left then to enjoy promotion, revel in the party atmosphere that will embrace these games and then go up eventually as champions.

Oh, and i can book a holiday for during the play offs.

I think a couple of beers are on the menu tonight.

And now you're gonna believe us, the reds ARE going up!


Remember when you bought magazines, fanzines and matchday programmes? Catching up on your club itself, or just the beautiful game in general, these were sacred pages full of the latest news and gossip. It was, at the time of going to press, up to date and correct.

You can of course, in this modern age read any amount of football related articles, both well written and factual, to complete nonsense online. We don't even need to sit at a computer any more. I could, if I chose, read a match report at five o'clock on a Saturday on my phone in the little boys room. I'd worry too much about dropping the thing down the pan to actually do it, but it is still an option open to us. Heck, a small handful of people even actually read these blog posts minutes after I've finished typing them.

There's no doubt it's great to glance at a website whilst walking around a supermarket (momentarily transporting you from the hell of the weekly food shop) to catch up on the latest scores, and there's no need anymore to struggle to hear a transistor radio on the terraces so you can start a Chinese whisper informing of your rivals current predicament.
I couldn't imagine however not having something to flick through at all though. I still buy a programme at a game, (I've boxes of them, all long since forgotten but readily available for reference if needed) and read it on the train home, beer goggles permitting of course!

There are very few feelings to match the postman dropping the latest issue of Backpass magazine through my letterbox. The newsagent shelves still have a selection of magazines to cater for the football fan, but other than When Saturday Comes, they struggle to muster up much excitement. An interview with the latest foreign superstar discussing the hamper contents of his latest Fortnum & Mason home delivery really isn't for me. I want to read about working class hero's, the local full back who missed the number 54 bus (due to next doors dog running off with his trousers or something) and arrived at the ground five minutes before kick off. Real stories for real supporters.

Backpass is full of this. Covering the 60's, 70's and 80's, this is a treasure chest of articles on players and clubs we both remember fondly and others who are now just distant memories. An example in the latest edition is Coventry City's Peter Bodak, there is even a picture of his Panini Football 82 sticker!
I didn't just assume he resided in the 'where are they now file', I'd forgotten the name and the face. Until, that is, Backpass brought him back to the forefront of my mind.

The magazine does stick to a formula, and it works. A past season is under the microscope in 'season in focus'. Here we see final tables and every fact you need to become a pub quiz legend if the category is 1967-68 or whatever.

The very talented John Devlin of True Colours has a two page spread displaying some fine artwork on a half dozen famous kits of the side in question. More of John's work at a later date though.......

There are book reviews, old team line up photos, even archives of that old mainstay of football journalism, The Football League Review.

It's full of well worded articles all enhanced by well researched photographs, images I'd never imagine were even still in existence. Where else would you find Super Mac, David McVay, and Ian Atkins work together as an ex-pro panel?
An obituary column at the back reminds us all how we're getting older. At least one per edition is a name i know, but it's wonderful to read that even lesser known footballers are considered worthy of gracing these pages. Every footballer wrote their own piece of history at the end of the day, all as important as each other.

My first Backpass magazine was the Spring 2009 edition. A large picture of the enigmatic Frank Worthington graced the cover, this alone was enough to entice me. Frank is up there with George Best and Robin Friday for seventies terrace hero's, let alone ladies men. I bought it in WH Smiths to take on honeymoon as a little pool side reading. I got through it in two days, much to the disgust of my wife of five days, and haven't missed one since.
It's tough to find on the shelves so I've subscribed and get it sent direct. It arrives in a plain brown envelope, just to protect my years from those at the sorting office I'm guessing.

If, like me, you are of a certain age and think footballers should be allowed to continue playing even when they have mud, or heaven forbid, blood on their shirts, then you really need to buy yourself a copy of the retro football magazine. You'll be hooked.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Message

The Easter message. There's the big one, we all know that. Then there's everybody else's message. Trenton Oldfield had one in the Thames at Hammersmith Bridge although nobody is quite sure exactly what that message really was, other than one of plain stupidity.
Steve Evans obviously had one leaving Crawley Town for Rotherham weeks before the end of the season. His was ( I could be wrong and have misjudged the man of course) the same as always, money over loyalty. This is a career that is always going to be one of controversy wherever he plies his trade.

Both of these messages are more self centered than the all important one, but are at the same time guaranteed far more publicity.
Then there's the message from Sheffield. Both clubs have won their last four and are finishing the season on fine form. One of them will go into the play offs all guns blazing. It is of little consequence to Charlton though how well, or by how many, the steel city sides obliterate their opponents. Not as long as we hold it together until the finishing tape.
Manchester City could do with taking note here. Roberto Mancini, if you want an Easter message just ask Chrissy Powell.

The message from south east London this Easter is one of hard work gets results, although at times it could of been translated as hard work to get results. Even that would suffice right now for the Italian and his team of highly paid superstars.

Two 1-0 victories in the space of three days is all that matters. I really don't care if we finish first with banners and fireworks, or if we finish first quietly without anybody even noticing. As long as we finish first. We've been top since early September, i want to see that trophy paraded on May 5th at the Hartlepool game.

Saturday's game at Oldham saw the Addicks once again do things the hard way finishing with nine men after, first Hollands, then Wagstaff enjoying the delights of an early warm bath in those perfectly British bank holiday weekend conditions.
An early second half goal for Yann Kermorgant was the winner, but it was the three red cards and the numerous amount of yellows that will stand in the memory. The referee, Trevor Kettle, the latest in a long line of officials this season to look, at best, incompetent once again writing himself into Charlton Athletic folklore.

Six hundred Addicks watched as Charlton dug deep and hung on for a very needy three points. This was admirable stuff but physically could go on to haunt us two days later against Walsall at The Valley.

And to large degrees it did. An unbalanced midfield without Danny Hollands at the heart, Charlton made hard work of keeping a spirited but rather poor Walsall side at bay. If they'd had a little more class up front we could have been punished.
The communication between Morrison and Hamer at the back, or more to the point the lack of it, gave rise to that horrid feeling of the old ticker skipping a beat or two.
Morrison had been one of my contenders for player of the season so I'm granting him an off day. I've said before how he reminds me a little of former favourite Eddie Youds, well, his current partner has a little touch of the Richard Rufus about him.
Leon Cort has looked a tower of strength after coming in for Matt Taylor recently. Again he had a wonderful ninety minutes yesterday. His achievements have been more than capable in the Championship before and i reckon he's definitely got another season in him at that level.

Dany N'Guessan scored the games only goal, his third for Charlton in five outings. His arrival does seem to give us another attacking dimension and his connection from Jackson's free kick was delightful, a real high in a game deprived of much excitement or flair.

Again the standard of refereeing was, and I'll try to be kind, a little rough round the edges. I really pray we'll see better as we move up a division. In retrospect, the football was rough round the edges too so I'll say no more on the subject.

Post match in The Kings Head at London Bridge we watched West Ham struggle to find form against Birmingham with a group of Southampton supporters. It dawned on me that they'll be joining Norwich in the top flight of the English game next season. The two sides we got relegated with into the dark depths of third division football. It really sank home how important getting promoted this season is!

In closing then we are still completely in control of our own destiny and now with only twelve points remaining. No matter what the others do, time to catch us is running out. I'll quite happily take four more rather boring one goal victories.

Come on you reds!

Monday, April 2, 2012

League of Blogs

Friends of this site, The Football Attic, recently posted an article on designing your own football kits. This brought back many memories for myself as i used to keep out of mischief as a child colouring in many fantasy designs for both real and imaginary sides.
Not only did i now know it wasn't just myself that had these obscure past times as a kid, but also that i wasn't the only one hankering after another go at it!

I'd been down memory lane myself recently with a post on subbuteo, so i was most definately in the right frame of mind for designing some footballing gems at this far more mature age.
The league of blogs is a little project The Football Attic have set up for bloggers to do just this. It's not by invite so feel free to try yourself. You simply colour in the blank table football man template!

Above is the home strip for God,Charlton and Punk Rock. The large white cross emphasises my Christian beliefs, although it is offset slightly for purely stylistic reasons. The upright of the cross carries on down the shorts as I've always been a fan of that feature. Coventry's Talbot kit, Orient's braces, Aberdeen's Admiral stripes were all fantastic. I thought it was a thing of the past but last season Wigan brought a welcome return to that particular 'look' with a broad white stripe going top to bottom. The red and white are obviously Charlton colours and the black shorts bring in the colours of the blog nicely.

The away kit mirrors the home design but just changes in colour. The mid to late 90's saw Charlton wear the colours of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club, as kit manufacturer Quaser made a couple of offerings in the green and purple. I was always a fan and even once had an official matching baseball jacket. Dreadful really, but i loved it at the time.

My technical abilities on the computer aren't really up to much so i printed the blank templates off, coloured them in with good old fashioned coloured pencils and then got Heidi, my wife, to photoshop it.
I'm sure she thinks I'm regressing a little but hey ho.

As Keith Barret used to say, it's only a bit of fun!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A tale of two evenings

Due to work commitments it's not often i get a weekend. Friday nights and Saturday mornings constitute part of my regular working hours, so this weekend i had booked these off with not just great delight, but also with great anticipation. My diary was looking extremely full and i was going to make the most of it.

Friday started with a trip to The Forum in Kentish Town to see ageing punk rockers Stiff Little Fingers on their 35th anniversary tour. I was accompanied by SLF concert veteran, and fellow Charlton supporter Marco notching up i believe his tenth SLF experience.

Leaving home early i made a quick pit stop at the Euston Tap for a pint of decent ale before continuing on to NW5. Another Charlton friend of mine, Jim, had recommended The Southampton Arms to me as a pre gig watering hole. All i can say is it's a good job i don't live in Kentish Town or I'd be in there every single night of the week. What a fantastic pub! Walking up towards the building i could see, painted in a neat square on the bricks, the words ale, cider, meat in a real olden day style.
Church pews served as seats, the wall behind the bar is tiled floor to ceiling and the atmosphere was as good as you can get in a public house. The beer was not only served in jugs, but pretty delicious as well!

On then to The Forum and the main event. Unbeknown to me, another of my favourites were on the bill as support act, Spear Of Destiny. Unfortunately we only caught the last two numbers but front man Kirk Brandon's vocals haven't changed a bit. Neither has his attitude! They ended with one of their most famous songs, Liberator. I never thought I'd ever get to hear that particular favourite live so was really excited by that wonderful surprise. And yes, it was as good and loud as i could have hoped for.

One thing that really stands out with this type of gig is the audience. Full of forty and fifty somethings, a mixture of men and women who had been listening to this genre of music for decades, it was obvious to me now that old punks are still out there, just fatter and balder than they used to be.
There were really very few young people getting in to this 'old man' music which is a shame, but i suppose is understandable. I got to see the new generation of  concert going youngsters on my way home who had been to see Black Veil Bride at Brixton. An odd looking bunch of teenagers, i did the all important and necessary old bloke speech telling them it's unlikely their band will still be playing in thirty five years time. They told me to go fetch my slippers, or something like that.

Stiff Little Fingers themselves failed to disappoint. All the old favourites were there, Tin Soldiers, Suspect Device, Gotta Getaway and a great rendition of Alternative Ulster to finish. All delivered with an energy and enthusiasm as if they were playing them for their first time. Even the most energetic of the middle aged up the front were behaving like they did back in their heyday with plastic beer glasses flying through the air. Jake Burns was good enough to remind them that these days beer is expensive and probably ought to be drunk rather than thrown.

A truly enjoyable gig, Burns promised they'd be back for more of the same next year. I'm sure, God willing, Marco and myself will be joining them.

When i got home at half twelve Friday night Heidi, my wife, was still baking. She'd run out of marzipan so we did a dash to Tesco enabling her to finish the cake, and i eventually got to bed around two. Once a punk always a punk.

These cakes were one of her final tasks in over two months of organizing a masked masquerade dinner dance at our church.
Her reasoning for this event was to celebrate Easter. We always party at Christmas but, as Christians, Jesus death on the cross and his resurrection are what give us the freedom and relationship with Him that we live in today. So a big party to celebrate this and a chance to raise a few quid for a worthy cause was on the agenda. And I've got to say, i was so proud of her.

Khuslen Education in Mongolia was where the profits were going. A chance to give deprived kids out there a decent schooling and stand more of a chance to really make something with their lives. If you can, check the link and look at some of the pictures. The kids are adorable.

We had a huge spread of food, a splendid band called The Moneypennies, some great raffle prizes, and most importantly some wonderful guests who all got into the spirit of it with fantastic and creative masks.

Now, many people (myself included) will look at an event that's hosted by a church and think it's going to be quite a stiff and boring event. You really couldn't have been further from the truth. This ball has done wonders to break that mould and would have been just as fitting to a social club, town hall or just about any venue. The church family pulled together and decorated the hall to a standard which many would have said to be professional. The band didn't make a penny and only charged us for their costs, and just about everyone got up and danced as they belted out classic after classic. I even kept my composure on the microphone to act as compere for the evening.

When you are charging £7.50 for a ticket, there is a real pressure to make sure people feel like they have had their money's worth. Everybody did last night. So many happy faces, even during the short obligatory gospel message from our pastor before he said grace!

God was last night, as always, very very good.

During a busy run around on Saturday afternoon with a last minute check list, i even got to listen to the Charlton commentary from their very important home game against Leyton Orient whilst ironing my shirt and trousers. A two nil victory keeps that important gap between us and the chasing pack and lessons the nerves slightly. Yet another candle on an already extravagant cake!

This weekend really has all been about God, Charlton and punk rock...........