It doesn't need to be the whole Vincent Tanesque make over of course, that is complete misuse of the word freedom and far more steps backwards than you can count. That's when you crave familiarity, a little like the times I'm in the shop who's name I borrowed for the title of this piece. My wife, like the vast majority of young women, can lose themselves in such an emporium for days on end ogling at the sparkling delights hanging in front of them (occasionally with me traipsing behind, knuckles dragging on the ground overladen with carrier bags, and a face that looks like it's just heard Crystal Palace have won the cup).
These bargain priced goodies may appear wonderful on first impression but once they've lost both shape and colour, not to mention a handful of sequins in the drum of our washing machine, they are reallocated to the 'indoor only' slouching pile as we head back into town to continue
As I saw last weekend, Sutton United didn't need the whole McCoy, even without a makeover I'd have always snogged them as opposed to have avoided them. A new covered terrace and dugouts aside, just the new perimeter fence on its own would have been enough to transform the place. How many of you travel on a train every day where one commuter could really do with a bath? Small steps and all that. Last season I found myself falling out of love with the professional game, but a facelift at Charlton has really captured my interest and hopefully my heart again.
The World Cup certainly played it's part and reinvigorated my passion in the higher end of the market, but a lack of pre season friendlies that were accessible to me means I've yet to witness first hand any of what I've read. One trip to Sutton United and two Horley Town friendlies meant I've picked up pretty much where I left off in May. In fact, three days after the World Cup final I found myself at Redhill witnessing Horley run out in the same kit they've worn since the first time I saw them, sponsors names long since worn off along with any pizazz these garments may have once possessed.
If Horley had a little of the Compo about them, I'm afraid to say Charlton had been resembling Jeremy Clarkson. Never fashionable in the first place, they were now almost reveling in their dishevelment. Despite the fact they still felt they were a class above everyone they met they were, in truth, just spouting bullshit. Clarkson to a tee. Snog Marry Avoid? For the first time in my life I was drifting dangerously close to avoiding them.
|Photo courtesy of Charlton Life|
Roland Duchâtelet thankfully appears to have done a 'Gok Wan' and stripped us back to our naked self before highlighting the areas that needed attention and dressing us appropriately both on and off the pitch. The pitch itself, for so long a laughing stock, has been ripped up, the damaged drainage systems rebuilt and a new playing surface grown that looks in the summer sunshine good enough to grace a palace gardens. If the Wimbledon fortnight hadn't already come and gone it would have been fit to host the gentleman's final.
Surrounding the pitch the faded red seats have been ripped out (including my broken one) and replaced with new, plus a lick of paint on the staircases too. Behind the stands the concourse has a new catering company to dish out the food and beverages on a match day, finally moving us out of the dark ages with what was in total honesty overpriced crap you wouldn't feed your dog. Even the six foot club badge next to Nike's superstore has finally been given a well received spruce up and the foot of grime running along the bottom of the wall below it cleaned off. Once again it looks like we have a stadium that belongs in the top flight.
Speaking of Nike (did I mention I read the excellent Admiral kit man book this summer?), the finishing touch in appearance is the chevron inspired new home kit from their catalogue. I have to say I'm not too sure about this, not because of the amount of white, or even because of the quantity of sponsorship logos, but because it looks far too much like a rugby design for me. If that wasn't enough to stomach, we've been treated to that awful Lucozade inspired Barcelona number for our third shirt. I realise we don't carry the clout for bespoke kits but did the club even get to see the full catalogue or just the page Nike wanted us to? But it wouldn't be my blog if I didn't find something to complain about, and as mantras go, 'it's not the shirt but those that wear it' is both well used and relevent. And this is where the new look moves into overdrive.
First team wise it started with Yoni Buyens. A 'box to box' midfielder with Europa League experience, he has arrived on a year long loan deal from his native Belgium. I'm guessing it wasn't new manager Bob Peeters but our Roland that sealed the deal considering Yoni's parent club is Standard Liege. A Belgium under 21 international, Buyens has close to one hundred appearances to his name at Liege and is supposedly both very highly regarded and sought after. Quite why he has moved to our corner of London for a year seems odd unless you presume it's to see how well he adapts before a later big money move to the English game.
|Tal Ben Haim|
|Johann Berg Gudmundsson|
The club may have had a huge makeover since you last walked down Floyd Road, but who can argue it needed it. I'm still not fully convinced about Roland Duchâtelet, and I still don't think being part of a network is the way to go unless you're the biggest fish in that pond, but I cannot deny I'm getting rather excited about the start of the season.
The World Cup was just an appetiser...