Saturday, February 23, 2013

I can see for miles and miles

You'll notice the linesman today in front of the west stand didn't drop his flag once. Not only eagle eyes, he must have had gripping hands too.

Charlton today were undone by a much better footballing side led, at it's heart, by former Addick Andy Reid. The fact Yann Kermorgant got sent off didn't really change the outcome (albeit the event happening at 0-0), it just ruined the match as a spectacle.

Another former Addick, Greg Halford had a little 'ding-dong' with the French striker and it transpires our man kicked out therefore opening himself up to punishment. In my last post I commended Kermorgant on his professionalism, typical huh? Today he was riled and rash, much to his cost. Now if the referee, who had a good view, or for that matter the linesman on the same wing as the incident had decided a red card was in order then I believe we would have all accepted the decision. Kermorgant was pushed, he lashed out. He knew he was in trouble as he tried to explain to the linesman how he'd got himself into this predicament. After the initial incident the Forest players surrounded our frontman lashing out with their handbags, our lads came to Kermorgant's defense brandishing handbags of their own, bingo cards in the other hand. It really was a little like that, a lot of playground name calling and nothing sinister. From nowhere the other linesman, further away than yourself dear reader, proved to all and sundry why he will never blame the cheese sandwiches when he gets on a roller coaster. Through his binoculars he apparently clearly saw every detail and ran almost the width of the pitch to share the news. Oh how I wished he'd slipped up in the copious amount of mud on the pitch and landed on his backside as he returned to where he should be.

This all happened about five minutes before the interval, Charlton had been outplayed during the first half but were hanging on, the game was still very much alive. Chris Powell to his credit, I believe, didn't make a rash decision and hung on with the same ten until half time before readdressing his tactics and making a change.

His options on the bench were surprisingly large. Haynes and Fuller were the obvious but we also had new loan signing Jonathan Chiedozie Obika. The tall striker is with us from Tottenham for the rest of the season and according to Wikipedia (yes, I know) he is named after the former Orient and Notts County wide man. Chiedozie was a real favourite of mine and I really hope this is true. Powell plumped for Fuller in place of the ineffectual Stephens, to be honest he could have made any change and we still wouldn't have been at the races. Charlton would have had fared better in a sandcastle building competition on the awful pitch.

Forest, wearing the funkiest socks ever to grace The Valley (spirals), were a class above and should have battered us scoring a lot more than the two they did. I didn't catch the build up to the first so I cannot comment on Scott Wagstaff's contribution but their second was a tad fortunate. Dorian Dervite was the victim in a tough challenge warranting the referee to blow up, but the official let play continue only for Ben Hamer to fumble a shot allowing Forest to capitalize on the error and turn in the loose ball. Hamer lay motionless face down on the floor, the game was well and truly over and he knew that his was a poor mistake. After that Forest had a spell of hammering our goal but failed to hit the target again, their possession was controlled (the fans cheered every completed pass) albeit with numerical advantage, but they really did run us ragged. Whenever Charlton play against ten men we find it an almost impossible challenge, yet when we are down on numbers the words hot knife and butter spring to mind.

Once again against Forest we looked out of our depth, if we still find ourselves playing at this level next season (and I believe we will) we need to address this home form and get over whatever mental block we've developed. You can't just blame a lack of finance or an atrocious playing field, there is something deeper. You don't get two chances at this level, we've rode our luck this season at times, we won't be so fortunate again.

And as for Forest? It would be a travesty if they didn't make the play-off's this season. Without doubt one of the best footballing sides we've faced, and besides, Andy Reid deserves another final crack at the big time. I'm glad the Charlton supporters gave him great applause today as he left the pitch, it was the one and only moment I want to remember from today.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sine Wave

I know very little of mathematics, science, or engineering. My understanding of the word 'oscillation' is very limited, to me a sine wave represents one thing, supporting Charlton Athletic. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, but don't get too comfortable, fortunes change like the wind.

Going a month without a win and throwing away a winning position twice in as many weeks, Charlton had two away games in four days to try and get back on track. Against both Palace and Birmingham no-one could ever doubt our work rate, but the same old story of lapses in concentration and a failure to capitalize had left the Addicks feeling quite despondent.

This despondency carried on into the weekend as our trip to Hull proved fruitless. Again the team were credited with hard work and determination against one of the better sides in the division, yet it was a cruel moment of luck rather than skill that gave the home side all three points. Hamer came out determinedly to deal with a corner but missed the ball which landed in a posse of players and could have gone anywhere, Hull's Egyptian striker Mohamed Gedo turning the ball home. Fortune favours the brave,unless the brave come from SE7.

No time to dwell on events though, a Tuesday night fixture at another promotion candidate, Leicester City, could be the catalyst to get the season and the main priority of safety back on track.

One man who would not be heading to the King Power stadium (even the cheesiest bad guy in Hollywood or the WWE is named better) was Bradley Wright-Phillips. The out of favour striker, who may well have played his last game for the Addicks at Hull has moved across London to Brentford on loan to see out the end of the season. He was of course very close to signing for Swindon with Danny Green on the final day of the transfer window, but that fell through on a technicality. Bradley was Chris Powell's first signing as Charlton boss, he ended last season with twenty two goals and certainly became a fans favourite. Unfortunately he has found the step up a little harder than most but will, I suspect, bolster Brentford's own promotion campaign alongside another former Addick, Paul Hayes.

A Charlton striker most definitely not missing the trip to Leicester was Yann Kermorgant. The big Frenchman had a fair few boo-boys to silence and a gigantic ghost to lay to rest. He spearheaded the gaffers preferred 4-5-1 formation with countryman Dorian Dervite once again protecting the back four.

From the off the boos rang loudly around the stadium, how often had we done similar ourselves only to be silenced when Defoe and co have found the net triumphantly! Yann Kermorgant had read the script perfectly and duly obliged with a goal after twenty minutes. The resurgent Scott Wagstaff kept an almost lost cause in play, Pritchard won the ball and centered it for Yann to shoot home. Now you or I would have run to the home supporters to tell them in no uncertain terms who was having the last laugh but Kermorgant is far too level headed for that. Classy footballers let their game do all the talking. Some said we have our very own Eric Cantona but there was no post match speech on trawlers.

Very recent history has told us that this work ethic and endeavor doesn't necessarily produce results, remember the sine wave? Not only can that define our season, it's a pretty accurate match report in itself too. Almost on cue, with twenty minutes remaining Charlton's defense of a lead faltered. A quick, flowing, passing move culminated in New Zealand striker Chris Wood slotting home from the edge of the box. Chris Powell knew action needed to be taken, despite this setback the points were clearly there for the taking. Frequently abused for his use of substitutes (on here as much as anywhere else), he brought Danny Haynes on for Dervite. A minute later we were back in control.

If it wasn't for a cruel tragedy of injuries, Danny Haynes would I'm sure be plying his trade in the top flight by now. He has already produced a goal of true finesse this season against Derby County, last night he topped it. The ball came over his left shoulder, he let it bounce, gained his composure and volleyed it home from twenty five yards out. The celebration in front of the 650 away supporters told it all, passion and relief by the bucket load.

This time there was no mistake, no late drama. Charlton had won and done the double over much fancied Leicester City. That by anybody's standard is a sign of Championship quality and perfect form to take into Saturday's home clash with Nottingham Forest. It should be quite a game, Forest destroyed Huddersfield 6-1 last night.

No matter what your views are of Slater and Jimenez, the 'unknown' boardroom events going on behind the scenes, the rise in next season's ticket prices or any other controversial happening around the club, we do at least still have our Charlton. The clubs hearts beats strongly and it's still a huge part of and benefit to the local community. I'd much rather my identity and with it mid table obscurity than promotion to the 'promised land' and no soul whatsoever.

Cardiff City's re-branding did of course take the football world by storm. Supporters walked away from the club they supported all their lives and the campaign against modern football took another step forward gaining bountiful support. Yet plenty renewed their season tickets rather than voting with their feet, and for this they were 'rewarded' by the clubs Malaysian owners. Upon entry to the ground last night for their clash with Brighton and Hove Albion, each supporter was handed a free red scarf at the clubs expense. This isn't Germany, where football supporters cannot be bought, so many took the said item gladly and wore it proudly around their necks. I've even been told that supporters entering the away end were handed one too. I suppose the board feel Brighton is also a catchment area, well it works for Manchester United.

One supporter took his scarf and did exactly what any true lover of football would do. God bless him!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Yesterday's day out at the football harked back to times of past. I had the rarity of company on the train journey to SE7, my travelling companion was a Charlton lad I used to see regularly at my place of work ten years back, yet now, although living in the same distant outpost of a town as myself, a very infrequent but always enjoyable rendezvous.

Then there is the fanzine. Yes, Voice of The Valley is back in print! After an absence of over ten years, your pre match build up can consist of parting with a couple of quid to purchase the most successful of all the old Charlton fanzines. In today's modern era of football coverage, when goals and takeovers are re-tweeted by people on the other side of the planet seconds after the event and the internet is full of forums, message boards and nonsense like this blog, you could argue that there may not be a place for a printed voice of the fans, especially when it's most likely out of date by the time you read it. Voice though has a great format which Rick Everitt (editor and until very recently former club employee) has resisted in violating, the columns remain the same and the content (apart from some self congratulatory reminiscing) hard hitting, well written and very much heartfelt. As more and more people get disillusioned with the modern game and fanzines like Stand AMF gather more momentum and support you realise the need for a well constructed fanzine has never actually been more imperative.

As if these events before kick off weren't already rolling back the years, entry into the stands also revealed a football pitch with large areas of mud, the real stuff that stops a pacy football from rolling dead in it's tracks. We are conditioned now to expect football to be played on green carpets of perfect turf as they grace our TV screens almost daily, and in fairness over previous seasons gracing the centre stage of The Valley too. We are astonished to see what resembles a non league playing surface in the Championship, the Charlton players also as they had been bemoaning the fact for a while prior to the game. As with all these things it does affect both sides the same but if your assault on the opposition is based around a neat flowing passing game you are, to put it politely, buggered.

Chris Powell had reverted to playing two up front with Kermorgant returning to partner Fuller and Dale Stephens also back at the heart of the midfield. Stephens of course known to use 'deftly passing the ball' as his preferred weapon of choice. Needless to say they didn't all reach their intended target yesterday. The midfielder did get stuck in though, his number 8 shirt filthy and resembling something worn by Mark Kinsella in his heyday.

As games go, for eighty eight minutes it really wasn't much of a spectacle. A goalless game to forget looked to be on the cards, Birmingham seemed content to hold on for a point from the off and Charlton just looked frustrated, with both the pitch and each other. We had chances, more than I recall I suspect but they were either agonizingly close (the Birmingham keeper putting in a man of the match display) or totally squandered. That ball just wasn't going in the net today.

People were flocking out of the ground to beat the rush as Chris Solly floated a gorgeous ball into the box, Yann Kermorgant had a yard on his defender and made no mistake to nod home. It was a goal of pure merit and possibly far too good for the game it graced. Finally Charlton had snatched three points late on rather than the inexperienced collapse we were in danger of growing accustomed to.

The fourth official indicated four minutes of stoppage time, time to be professional and play the clock down. Birmingham had just had the wind knocked completely out of their sails hadn't they, sails that had at best barely got them moving previously.

We defended in numbers packing our area looking like Charlton always do, edgy. With so many red shirts in the box it's almost unbelievable that Wade Elliott had as much space as he did. Just a couple of yards out as a hopeful ball went through a crowd directly to his feet where from where I was sat he looked to give a cheeky back heel past Hamer. Again we were the perpetrators of our own undoing. The final whistle blew and the red shirted players were all motionless, trying somehow to take in what had just happened. I walked out of the ground feeling like we'd been beaten. I was so shell shocked that for a moment I actually believed we had been.

There are a good half dozen worse sides than us in this division, the trouble is they all seem to be picking points up at the moment. Hull beckons next week, a trip to a top four club. Not the easiest of places to turn our fortunes around but this is Charlton, expect the unexpected.

It's emotional being an Addick, yesterday was the latest proof of this, but all the time we've got a voice we've got a chance. Come on you reds!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Deja Vu

Same old, same old, said twitter, all afternoon and well into the evening. Charlton's reputation for throwing a perfectly good situation out with the bath water is common knowledge. To repeat the feat two weeks running almost replicating the fine detail is quite simply astonishing/disheartening, even for our normally tolerant faithful.

Sheffield Wednesday came along and mugged us last Saturday, Crystal Palace did the same yesterday. Tactical substitutions failed us one week and they ruined us the next. Ian Holloway may have been under fire of late from the Palace supporters but he certainly won a place in their affections with his half time team talk and change of formation. Powell was certainly the sharper dressed of the two (Holloway looking more suited to selling the Big Issue outside Sainsbury's) but the Eagles boss was a lot sharper tactically.

The first half was a showroom for Charlton's dominance, first to every ball whilst keeping the talents of wide men Zaha and Bolasie at bay. With Dervite playing a holding role in front of the back four as part of a five man midfield Charlton bossed the middle of the park, Solly and Wilson overlapping wonderfully on the right hand side causing all manner of mischief.

It was the lone front man, Ricardo Fuller, who broke the deadlock after a quarter of an hour. Typical fancy footwork from the striker (football's answer to Lionel Blair?) saw him dance his way in from the side of the box finishing with a low strike which rippled the net from an acute angle. Three thousand travelling spectators who were already in good voice erupted, revenge for September's undeserved defeat in the reverse fixture the ultimate goal.

As with the Wednesday game, Charlton failed to turn pressure and possession into anything more. The best opportunity to double the lead and perhaps kill the game off falling to Johnnie Jackson. Cedric Evina put a lovely cross in from the left picking out Lawrie Wilson who headed neatly into the path of the incoming skipper. Jackson, normally deadly with his head, this time guided it the wrong side of the post and the only thing rippling the net this time was the player himself.

At half time Powell was looking relatively happy, Holloway was trying to ignore the disapproval of many, vented his way. When they came back out fifteen minutes later Kevin Phillips was stripped and ready to join the action. After a spot of googling, it transpires the Palace debutant is somewhat surprisingly the youngest of the three of them.

Phillips linked well with decisive front man Glenn Murray up front as Palace ditched their 4-3-3 for a far more effectual 4-4-2. Phillips was the centre of everything looking a lot more dangerous than he did a month earlier for Blackpool at The Valley. A game of two halves is probably the most overused phrase in football but sometimes no other words will do. Crystal Palace were on top, the Addicks needed inspiration, cue the first of Chris Powell's changes a whole seventeen minutes before the end of the game. Positively premature compared to the previous week! Rhoys Wiggins, absent since that same game in September I mentioned previously, made his long awaited return. The left back replaced Scott Wagstaff, not what we expected. Two minutes later Palace were level.

The home side had chance after chance but were getting closer to an equalizer by the minute. Murray, in a clear yard or two of space, picked the ball up close to the penalty spot and a striker of that calibre just doesn't miss, with or without Leon Cort lunging at him. Marking him may have been more effective.

The Palace pressure continued immediately, Ben Hamer producing a fine stop when the ball came hurtling in from a very sweet thirty yard strike. The resulting corner led up to a goal to really break Charlton hearts. Murray controlled a long ball into the box (directly returning from a hopeful 'anywhere will do' clearance) with the outside of his right foot at knee height, bringing it down for a sublime strike with his left peg without breaking stride. Hurt as it may, there is no doubting the excellence of the finish.

A double change with Kermorgant and Haynes both trying to rescue something as Powell went for out and out attack/panic had little impact for the last ten minutes, Palace still doing their damnedest to give Kevin Phillips a debut goal.

With emotions running high, Charlton fans both at the game and around the country were miserable and angry. Throwing a lead away against Wednesday was one thing, throwing it away against South London rivals another. There are plenty of us that will have to face Palace supporters at work tomorrow, bragging rights aside, I think right now I'd rather be Peter Odemwingie facing a hostile return to training than meeting the two Palace regulars I endure on a Monday evening!

No matter how high the tension, how angry the reaction or how badly policed a football match may be, there is no excuse for mindless vandalism. If like minded supporters want to punch one another that's one thing, men fuelled on beer and emotion will always have this side to their character, but the need to take out your frustration on parked cars belonging to local residents is not only embarrassing but financially crippling for the injured party.

I live between a housing estate and the town centre pubs. Every Friday and Saturday night the local yobs and drunks shout and punch their way past our front door with absolutely no respect for any residents. I know I'm starting to sound like my parents rather than the anarchic punk rocker I used to be, but nigh on every Sunday i push the dents back out of the roof of our car after some hero has decided to walk across it. Over the past year there have been about four occasions where we have discovered the wing mirror hanging by it's wires. Believe me, it's a crushing feeling.

All in all it's best we forget this game moving onwards and hopefully upwards for the visit of Birmingham City next week. We may feel despondent at the moment but let's not forget that for the first half yesterday we played a top six side off the park. As Chris Powell said, “It’s tough to take because it’s quite easy to forget about how well we played in that first 60 minutes. It was a proper local derby and chances at both at both ends and its just a body blow for us that we didn’t come out on top.”

We have the ability, we just need to be a little more professional. With our finishing, our substitutions and our exiting a football ground.