Sunday, May 20, 2012

Serial Moaner

Some people just love to complain. I know, i work with one. He is famed throughout the town for both his grumpiness and his incessant moaning. There are times i worry I'm turning into him.
He however moans about matters such as the weather or the customers daily, out of either duty or just plain habit, not because he's really passionate about the subject.

John Robinson moaned and whined because he really cared about the cause. I like to think that's the kind of grumpy old man I'm becoming, a passionate and proud man steadfast in history and tradition. Unfortunately I fear I'm just a moaning old git though.

I had a good old grumble about four weeks ago here regarding the very much devalued FA cup. Since then we've had a new England manager, a UEFA 'showpiece' battle of the champions, the excitement of the play offs, oh, and Kenny Dalglish.

King Kenny failed to deliver the riches the Liverpool owners demanded despite lifting the Carling cup and reaching the final of the FA's tin pot trophy against Chelsea.
The all important league position and the lure of the lucrative holy grail that is the 'the top four' league are all that count in the upper echelon of the domestic game and with some of the worlds richest businessmen.
This day and age success has to come during the first season, and lets face it, even Chris Powell needed six months first to get to grips with what he'd inherited.
It's been said many times before but could you imagine if the managerial merry go round had always been this bloodthirsty?
Manchester United's recent history would have been so different had Sir Alex not been given time. He rescued a relegation threatened team and turned them into a mid table side but they were still a long way off from being champions of Europe.
The Liverpool job is probably the hardest in the domestic game due to the expectation of both the club and the supporters and, if it didn't pay so handsomely, wouldn't be fancied by many.
There will i fear never be another Bob Paisley which in turn means the kop will never be content.

The trophy all these owners want is the Champions League. Nothing is going to put pound notes back into their investment quicker or more effectively than this money spinner. My problem is that it's not a league of champions at all is it, otherwise there would only be one side per nation in it. If you or i deviated from the title so openly trade descriptions would be having kittens.
I kept up my record of not seeing a single game in the competition by avoiding the final, give me grass roots football any day. I can't be sure, and have probably got it wrong, but Liverpool's defeat of Roma on penalties in 1984 could be the last one i actually watched.

I couldn't possibly have missed out on hearing of John Terry's antics last night though. After not playing due to suspension he changed into his kit to celebrate with the players on the pitch and lift the cup.
I've read many amusing things on twitter regarding the Chelsea defender including the possibility of him donning his whites to join in the celebrations if England beat the West Indies at Lords later today.
One thing is for sure, that man will never do anything to enhance his reputation in any positive way.
I wonder what stories we'll have of him from the European Championships?

Unlike Rio Ferdinand, Terry has been included in Roy Hodgson's first England squad. After The Sun (who's favourite candidate remains at a disappointed Spurs) finished their ridiculing of his speech impediment, everyone started on his selection.
The biggest issue for me was the lack of firepower up front. Four forwards, one of whom is suspended for the first two matches, one who couldn't produce enough for King Kenny to keep his job, one an over rated starlet from Sir Alex's latest crop of youngsters, and one who is just plain greedy.
I'd have taken Peter Crouch. He's still doing a job for Stoke and always scores goals for his country.
We all pick our own squads, we all differ on opinions, and i know we've got midfielders who get goals, i just think against stronger opposition should we get through the first stage we''ll leak a goal or two and get caught lacking up front.

I'm glad it's an Englishman at the helm however. Just as it should always be, someone who'll want HIS country to win. It really should be stipulated by FIFA that you can't manage another nation in the same way that you can't play for one. Unless of course your cousin's dog's mother was conceived while flying through their air space.
Imagine if Tesco took over the national side. We'd have a team of Poles wearing the three lions on their shirts.

So to the Championship play off final at Wembley then. Surely, having witnessed one of these matches first hand before, i can't find anything to moan about here. Blackpool fans certainly could with the amount of missed chances they wasted. West Ham should have been dead and buried long before Vaz Te's winner three minutes from time.
Travelling on the tube Saturday afternoon, unaware of the outcome, i saw plenty of travelling supporters decked out in tangerine, not a single smile amongst them. I guessed they had lost but didn't wish to ask in case they thought i was extracting the Michael.
In the Barrowboy and Banker at London Bridge later i saw plenty of West Ham supporters too, none of whom gave the appearance of fans that had seen their side win promotion at Wembley. To give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they were as emotionally drained as i was leaving the great stadium in 98. Or perhaps more likely they were far too interested in watching Chelsea on the telly. Sad but true.

On the plus side at least they collected the trophy (by a player who took part in the game) up the steps in a manner far more fitting than a B&Q easy erect podium on the pitch, thus giving fans a chance to drape their scarves around their hero's necks as they climb the steps.

I'd never noticed before how all the npower trophies look the same. West Ham now own an identical, albeit inscribed differently, piece of silverware to ourselves. I'm guessing with three divisions there must be six of these cups, and if they were on a buy one get one free deal npower only had to purchase three. Good business sense, crap creativity. No future tradition or heritage will ever stem from that then!

I fly to Cyprus on Wednesday for a week, we're going on one of these budget airlines. I doubt i'll find anything to moan about there!

If i tell you i'm too hot though...........

Monday, May 7, 2012

He's only five foot three (and a bit)

Chris Solly, Charlton Athletic player of the year 2011-12. And young player of the year. And, while we're at it, the winner of the disabled supporters player of the year. A first career hat trick for the young full back.

As you would imagine, this was a much stiffer contest than it was last season when Jose Semedo walked away with the honour, interestingly enough just as he did this season at Sheffield Wednesday.

Yann Kermorgant was the runner up with Johnnie Jackson coming in third. I believe Solly picked up 53% of the vote to claim the prize. I'm not quite sure on the percentage Mikel Alonso got but I'm told on good authority he was way off a podium finish.

It's been a superb season for the youngster. Always solid and dependable he's been a rock and had the beating of some very experienced and capable wide men. He's even captured the eyes of a wider audience than just that in League One. Stuart Pearce did of course name him in his initial long list for the British Olympic team and although he didn't make the short list it is still an unbelievable achievement for a home grown lad that has waited patiently for the past three years to make the position his own. He's played understudy to a few different faces in that time.

The most recent was of course Carl Jenkinson. He was one of the big talking points of last season breaking into the team with mature and classy performances. How little we knew then when Arsenal swooped for him! You wonder if Arsene Wenger thinks he's now bought the wrong lad.

There have been some superb footballers for the club who have won this honour over the years, yet this very likable youngster doesn't look at all out of place amongst them.
If one player is going to shine in the Championship for Charlton next season you can bet it's a little full back who is, it has to be said, much better than a former English national captain.

I expect you could also trust young Chris with your girlfriend too!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The town is now painted Charlton red.

Champiooonee, champiooonee, ole ole ole. This song reared it's head plenty of times in The Shipwrights Arms at Tooley Street London Bridge during a football match on the big screen. It was of course nothing to do with the match the packed pub was watching, i think that was a cup game of some description, but instead a small group of about eight or ten blokes who had witnessed Charlton Athletic lift the npower League One trophy earlier in the afternoon.
We would of course give it our best efforts to drink the pub dry as the evening wore on, including more vocal delights in the form of Chas 'n' Dave's ain't no pleasing you, well these days don't come around that often do they?

There had been plenty of discussion as to what was planned for the day, opera singers were always going to feature, but it was the red devils that really got us going, parachuting in to deliver the match ball. Clouds of red smoke filled The Valley as one by one they landed on the pitch. The closer to the target they got, the bigger the cheer they received.
On any other day i think Colin Powell would have had kittens with what they did to the pitch, but this once i think even he would have kept calm and joined in the applause.

Our seats had coloured pieces of paper to hold aloft when prompted. Over twenty five thousand childish football fans were always going to take advantage of the chance to show off their paper plane techniques. The sides of the pitch was littered with them. One clever little so and so had obviously done origami at university, for he or she made what amounted to a little paper bird that flew out of the north stand, around the post and over the line to finish in the goal. These things happen when you're champions.

The red devils that landed on the pitch were wearing (not that you could see from the upper north) next seasons home shirt. It had been widely known for some time that the association with Macron had come to an end, and that Nike now had our business. Not only a new shirt but a possible re branding of the superstore, and at a later date another outlet could be on the cards, this is the kind of deal the so called 'big clubs' get. Another sign of these new times for Charlton. After the final whistle the shirt was put on display in the shop window, albeit with no shirt sponsor as it is assumed a new company will have their logo emblazoned across our chests in the Championship.

Curbs gave a half time speech, Chris Powell also gave one at the end, real Charlton moments, and we had all the razzmatazz the FA and npower expect and probably demand, but almost lost in amongst all this was a football match.
Game number forty six against Hartlepool United, just as it was last season. The monkey hangers really had nothing to play for other than pride while we still had the chance to reach the magic one hundred points. There is a good little article in the champions souvenir match day programme showing membership to this elite club. Only eight sides before us have achieved this. Of course there would be more if, in the days of our childhood, you didn't only get two points for a win, but nonetheless its a stunning achievement and one i really wanted to happen.

As a football match, it's a game that was always going to be forgettable. When Hartlepool took the lead most people didn't seem to care. Talk around me was of how pleasant it was to be behind and not to be upset. I was, I wanted those points. I did however enjoy seeing one hundred smurfs doing the 'poznan'. Some memories will last a lifetime.......

With only twenty minutes left on the clock, you would have been forgiven for thinking it would all fizzle out and the players were already licking their lips and thinking about the bottles of bubbly. Then Danny Hollands got an equalizer. His face told the story of the season, that goal was as important as any in the months preceding it. There was a game for the winning here, and this team are a team of champions. Champions seize these opportunities.

The very impressive Danny Haynes got number two and we knew it was mission accomplished. Again, the players faces told the story. Now we could relax and enjoy it for sure, maybe even try the unbelievable and give the fans a moment of pure genius. Step forward Yann Kermorgant. His goal had a touch of the Van Basten's about it. A long high ball went diagonally across the penalty area, the big frenchman stuck his leg out and got the ball in the net from the acutest of angles. Sublime.

Jason Euell came on for a cameo to see out his playing days as the curtain came down on his career and he hangs his boots up. A 'Chris Powell' moment would never happen though no matter how much we wanted it. A friend of mine who watches AFC Wimbledon said to me that he may bring a wealth of experience to the dressing room but on the pitch he resembles Ali Dia. I'm afraid i have to agree.

Hartlepool pulled one back but were never going to ruin the parade. We had finished the season in style with 101 points. Our greatest ever haul, and just one of many club records broken this year. Again check out the programme and be impressed!

One real highlight was hearing the covered end sing Hartlepool off the pitch. They have made so many friends in SE7, i know I'll always be looking for their results in the papers. There are only a handful of things I'll miss from League One and Hartlepool are one of them. Their travelling army of fans dressed as smurfs were top notch and admirably stayed for the presentation of the trophy. The very best photo taken by anybody of the day was of an escalator full of them as other passengers looked on.

We waited an age for the npower podium to be erected (at the furthest point to us) and the trophy to make an appearance. The playing staff were called out one by one and eventually the lads in the red shirts got their hands on it. As always with Charlton, there was no pitch invasion except for the wives and girlfriends who came on from the south west corner. It was always going to be a little disjointed, this was a moment for the kids to enjoy, us serious drinkers decided it was time to make our way to the pub to give it that coat of red paint.

Tonight sees the player of the year awards. Some lucky fans were able to get tickets for this and i suspect will see Chris Solly receive the accolade although i personally would like to see it go to Michael Morrison. A good way to continue this celebration, I'm hoping a bus parade is on the cards as well. I didn't get a ticket so i have used the day to book my holiday to Cyprus. We leave in two weeks time, i hope this hangover will finally be gone by then.

I think a beer and a sing song round the pool is on the cards.

Champiooonee, champiooonee, ole ole ole.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Balloons and Grey Skies

The balloons were out in force, the spirits in the clubhouse were high, there was no doubt Sutton United had embraced this play off match with both enthusiasm and belief. The grey skies weren't going to ruin the party, but could Welling?

Sutton have enjoyed their first season back in the Conference South division. After winning the Ryman (Isthmian) league last year, many were hoping to consolidate their standing at this higher level with a good mid table showing. Ideas of back to back promotions were just a romantic dream.

For those who don't know, Woking walked away with the league ensuring an immediate return to the premier division. A very strong looking Dartford side led the chasing pack with Welling, Sutton and Basingstoke Town filling the other play off spots in that order. Fourth spot was a wonderful achievement on it's own, but where would this season end?

Welling United brought great support to Gander Green Lane. I'm not particularly good at estimating numbers but I'd have to say at least 300 of the 1200 plus crowd had travelled from the London borough of Bexley. Considering both sides have averaged gates under 700 this season, and that the rain was  once again forecast for the evening, I'm sure you'll agree with me that supporters of both sides had been captivated by the prospect of promotion. It certainly helped give the atmosphere of a cup tie to the occasion.

After what seemed an age, we finally got under way, both sides looking nervy in the very forgettable early exchanges. Welling started to settle, passing the ball on the floor and pulling the home side out of position. When the visitors went ahead half way through the first half i felt, unfortunately, that it had been coming for a while. A nice cross from the right was met by the head of Lee Clarke which he guided past Sutton keeper Kevin Scriven. I would tell you about the last ten minutes of that first forty five and how Sutton tried to claw themselves back into it but, alas, i had made an early departure, with fellow Addick and Sutton fan Jim McGinty, to the bar to beat the rush.

In fact, being a Charlton fan, I'd had to endure a fair bit of stick during the day as many Addicks think of Welling as their second club. Forget that Manchester derby on Monday night, this really was a game to split families!

Sutton certainly took the game to the visitors in the second half as the match started to heat up. Sutton's ball into the final third had looked a little hopeful at best in the first period, but they took a more threatening stance in the second. The only trouble was Welling always looked capable on the counter. I was to be proved right.

A spell of pressure from the home team ended when Craig Watkins connected with a ball into the box, the Welling keeper looked to have it covered but could only help direct the ball into the net. The covered terracing behind the goal erupted as Sutton were deservedly level after continued hard work. You had to spare a thought for the visiting keeper who had made a couple of good saves prior to the goal.

The winner just minutes later was superb. Welling broke with the very pacy Loick Pires taking the ball almost half the length of the pitch before centering it for Joe Healy to tap in. It's well worth watching for yourself here. The referee did well to allow play to continue as before Pires had got the ball a Welling lad was pulled to the ground as the ball went over their heads.
Not the way I'd hoped it would pan out, but a great advert for non league football nonetheless.

A good platform for Welling to take into the second leg on Sunday. You'd expect the winners to meet Dartford who won their first leg game at Basingstoke 1-0. Sutton though have already taken a draw at Park View Road this season and are more than capable of going one better at the weekend.

Whatever the outcome, this has been a season to remember for the U's. A successful league campaign, a Surrey Senior cup final to look forward to on Tuesday against Woking, not to mention a great run in the FA Cup defeating Kettering Town to set up a televised second round tie down the lane against Notts County.

The sad and premature passing of former captain and manager John Rains earlier this year has been a dampener but you know the former Sutton legend would be proud of what the club has achieved during the 2011-12 campaign.

Come on you yellows!