Monday, 30 December 2013

Where there’s muck there’s brass but be careful what you wish for Charlton Fans

Firstly seasons greetings to all Charlton Fans and real ale lovers. While it hasn’t been a great start to the season at the Valley I have made friends this year with some great and passionate fans of both the Addicks and a decent pint.

Secondly, my apologies for not writing for some time. The run up to Christmas saw me working seven days a week for some two months with a brief respite on Saturday afternoons to watch our home matches. So I’m taking the Christmas period to catch up with old friends and resume a bit of light blogging.

The Boxing Day game against Brighton was a much needed Christmas cheer for both the team and fans alike. I feel it brought renewed vigour to a number of players who deserved more for their tireless efforts in previous games. A big welcome back for Chris Solly allowed Laurie Wilson more freedom to break forward as he had threatened to do on a number of occasions at right back and he was justly rewarded with two goals. I only hope the North Stand faithful justly rewards him at some stage with a decent chant rather than the awful one they came up with at the game. Some say its only banter but I can’t help feel we should reward his match winning performance with better praise than “he’s doing alright”. The other chant at the game “You must be sh##e, we’re wining at home” is more like the self deprecating British humour that (with the exception of the rude words) is a hall mark of football banter.

While the game against Sheffield Wednesday was not the best by any standards, four points over two games has given us a brief respite from the scrap at the bottom of the table. With a virtually fully fit squad I hope that we’ll start to consolidate games in the New Year and maybe put on a bit of a cup run. That is if the pitch survives which I very much doubt. The ground will not get a respite as the FA Cup game at the weekend is shortly followed by a further home match the following week, so expect more bogged down passes and poorly timed fouls as the quagmire takes its toll.

The current owners have come under a lot of criticism from fans on social media and other outlets for the lack of investment on and off the pitch (my own relatively minor gripe is the disappearance of pies from the kiosks. How can you have a football game without pies?). However, it is the lack of interaction with the fans that is the biggest gripe. If there is one criticism it is the lack of communication coming from the top brass to the fans on the financial situation and various takeover rumours.

It is no wonder that we get upset when Tony Jiminez writes an article on running a football club for the Huffington Post (thanks to valleytalkblog.com for pointing it out) when he has had so little dialogue with his own club’s fans (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/tony-jimenez/football-club-owners_b_4412796.html) While this appears to be part of a regular blog post on their website I believe Jiminez or Slater would have won over a number of fans with these well thought out words on his experience running of the club if he had expressed some of these views to Charlton fans in the match day programme or on other CAFC related media.

We’re not asking for miracles just regular dialogue with the fans, to allow us to understand what the owners’ intentions and how they are running the club. Despite what is written on certain forums most fans are pretty level headed but a stone wall silence leads to silly rumours and people pouncing on the slightest nuance however absurd.

While communication with the fans is not the management’s strongest point they have effectively staved the club from almost certain bankruptcy and we should be grateful for this however much we complain about other matters. We have to remember that they did allow Chris Powell to invest heavily in almost an entire new squad for his first League One season with great success winning the league with a record number of points.

Two years into the Championship we are struggling but despite all the odds in what must be one of the most competitive divisions in the world we are doing remarkably well for the minimal resources available. We are also not the only team in the division that is struggling as past blog posts have explained.

This leads us on to the current takeover talks with Belgium Roland Duchatelet who also owns Standard Liege. It was good to see the management learning from fans’ gripes with a prompt message on the Charlton website acknowledging the discussions.

Many Charlton fans appear to be lapping this up and can’t wait for the old regime to leave without even having glanced at the credentials of the potential new owner. One only has to look at the events at Cardiff and Hull to see the face of the new breed of football club owners and their plans to commercialise their investments into profitable franchises (yes there I said it!) or at least be able to hold their head above water as stand alone investments.

A number of Standard Liege fans have taken to twitter to sympathise with the Addick faithful. They were not happy at the methods employed by him on taking their club over. It appears that this will not be a toy for a rich owner or a benevolent investment (and why should it?). If we are to take his current club as a model we can expect him to sweat the assets to recoup his investment first. At Liege this was done by selling top players and then building up the club from scratch with a relatively unknown manager. The club is currently top of their league but this has not tempered the ire of the Royal Standard fans.

I believe that Charlton is currently running at a deficit of approximately £500,000 a month, so the sale of a few top players from the existing squad is only going to fund the investment for six months at the most and go nowhere near returning the rumoured £14m price tag.

This brings us a previously mooted scheme which on the face of it looks like it might pay for itself but which may require an additional outlay to fund it. This involved the purchase of land on the Greenwich Peninsula where a brand new stadium and assorted retail outlets would be funded through the sale of residential property on the same land. Reports at the time suggested that this might be self funding with the icing on the cake (ie the profit) being the redevelopment of the Valley into further residential homes.

So applaud the takeover as much as you like but please don’t get too attached to the Valley. Happy New Year?

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Anguish for a Breton but better news about a Briton

I was pleased to see that our annual Football for a Fiver day at the valley was a virtual sellout.  I did my bit by bringing along a friend and her daughter who thoroughly enjoyed the day. They're Arsenal fans but I'm slowly winning them around to Charlton on the basis that you can actually get a ticket to watch the Addicks and for prices as low as £6 rather than with a few extra noughts on the end.

We missed the first ten minutes as all the buses in Greenwich decided that they were going to hide for 45 minutes and then turned up rammed to the hilt.  Thankful that the weather held up for an exciting although goalless match.  It was good to see Jackson and Kermorgant back on the team sheet, we sorely missed them, although it looks like our favourite Breton may be out for a little longer as his ankle injury played up again just before half time.

Revival of an Old Name
A 0-0 draw was seen by most Charlton fans as a fair result against Wigan who are no slouches and showed no signs of tiredness from their European campaign on Thursday night. We played well and dominated large portions of the game despite the inevitable last ten minute onslaught at our goal mouth (but it wouldn't be Charlton without that would it?). However, we are 12 games into the season and stuck on 11 points and really need to start turning on the goals to ensure safety, but I have faith in my team provided we can keep the injuries down as this is severely hampering our efforts.



The post match debrief was held in a new watering hole. I thought that I had found all the quality pubs in Greenwich but have to thank the excellent blog cafcandnothingelsematters.blogspot.co.uk
for pointing out a newly reopened pub in Greenwich.  Its called RLA’s at the Old Loyal Britons (the original pub on the site) and previously was the SE10 bistro (the signage hasn’t been changed yet).  It’s a couple of hundred yards down the residential side street next to Marks & Spencer, you can’t miss it.

The web link is http://ewbrewery.com/beers.html


I like what they are trying to do there and can see this becoming a regular post match haunt.  The offering is strictly beers from London breweries.  With around 80 of them there is plenty to choose from, and they've made the most of it.  At the weekend they had four ales and two lagers from the likes of By the Horns, Late Knights and Windsor & Eaton Brewery, all kept in top notch condition with some very modern kit tucked away in the cellar, as well as a small but excellent range of bottled boutique beers.  I understand that they will begin brewing their own beer on site once the cellar has been modernised and will look forward to that.

Excellent choice of ales

I had to walk out of a pub over the weekend as the sound system was so pumped up I couldn't hear a word my friend was saying so it was good to hear that RLA will not have music or TVs in the building, so we can keep up the fine art of conversation over a pint.  Its also run by Charlton fans so you’re assured a warm welcome and at £3 a pint its an awful lot cheaper than the offerings from nearby places serving their own locally produced beer.

It deserves a write up on its own but I’ll wait until they are fully up and running before I do. Meanwhile, if you're in the area why not forego your usual pint of mass produced lager and pop in to try some real beer, you never know, you just might like it !

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Oktober Fest in Millwall Park

The weekend of 4-8 of October saw a Munich style beer festival pop up in Millwall park. There was a fair amount of local controversy about the event being staged in the first place. Tower Hamlet council appear to have recently introduced a policy of allowing commercial events to take place in public parks in an apparent move to raise some revenue much to the chagrin of local residents who believe that they should be exclusively for public events and usage.

Millwall rugby club were particularly aggrieved in that the tented area was only a couple of metres away from their pitches where four games were due to be played that weekend. Despite the council allowing the event to go ahead I believe it only received its licence in the week running up to the event.

Impressive Venue




Anyway, I thought it would be worth investigating and so I dug out my authentic Austrian walking hat complete with feather (there are photos but they will remain with me).  My lederhosen remained firmly in the cupboard as I was thirteen the last time I managed to squeeze into them. It was the first night and only got about a third full but plenty of those who turned up, including a lively German expat crowd, determined to get into the spirit of things, with plenty of costumes and festival regalia on show.


Alcohol prices on the face of it were not cheap at £8.50 for a pint and a half Krug of their own unique German beer (apparently they are not allowed to sell it by the litre!), but you have to remember that entry was free and all the entertainment was laid on.  The health & safety brigade had also paid a visit so all the tankards were made out of polycarbonate glassware and even the wine bottles were decanted out into plastic jugs.  There was also a good selection of German food available to soak up the beer.  You could help yourself at the bar or there was service at the tables.

Fest Beer
The tent had a capacity of 3,000 and was set out in long rows of benches just like a traditional beer hall. The staff were all dressed in traditional costumes to add to the authenticity, dirndls for the ladies and lederhosen for the gents, although a black mark goes to the chap serving us who insisted on keeping his trousers on underneath his lederhosen!

 Traditional Costume







The German band was excellent with the right sort of music to get everyone standing on the benches singing and dancing (think Robbie Williams, Joan Jet and a splash of AC/DC). I was just a bit disappointed that apart from the obligatory "Ein Prosit der Gemuetlichkeit" drinking song which cropped up throughout the evening there was no traditional Bavarian"oompah" music.  The nearest they got to German music was Nina's 99 red balloons and not a hint of Falco all night!

Rocking Entertainment







Just as everyone was getting into the swing of things, at 9.30 sharp the band finished and the music was immediately turned down for the last half hour as what looked like a council environmental officer turned up with his microphone to test the noise levels. It felt like a bit of a let down being turfed out at ten pm, just when it felt like things were warming up but it was perhaps understandable given the location of the tent near to residential housing and on a school night.

Tower Hamlets Noise Abatement?

I haven't seen many reviews and comments of the evening but I hope they are allowed to come back again for what I thought was a most enjoyable evening.




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Monday, 14 October 2013

A Festival of IPAs at the Gun, Docklands

The International break has given me a little time to catch up on blogging about non-Charlton activities which seem to revolve around real ale.

I'd missed out on the Gun's previous ale festival in June and so when I heard about their latest event in September there was no way I wanted to miss this one even though it was raining cats and dogs.  With over 30 IPAs in Cask, keg and bottle format this was a truly unique occasion.

www.thegundocklands.com/index.php/calendar/ale-festival-sept/

Now the Gun is a Gastro pub with a good reputation so while there was no entry charge, the prices were somewhat commensurate with its status but I don't mind paying a bit over the odds for a one off and to sample many beers in one place that I would be unlikely to find in a regular pub.


However, it was good to see that they had prepared a handy booklet on the various beers on offer to give you an idea of what you could expect from each one.  Like any good festival there was also an option to buy just a third of a pint to allow you to sample more and they are to be commended for this sound practice. A separate sheet also showed the alcohol content and which beers were on that evening.

Beers well looked after
I started off with a middle of the road Hand Drawn Monkey IPA which I'd have been happy to drink all evening, but of course that would be rather against the point.  It was only after that I found the 2.8% 1/2 Mast from Siren Craft Brew.  As a rule the taste of the higher alcoholic beers tends to dull the taste buds of more subtle beers and so it is usually not worth going back to a lower gravity beer.  However, in this case I have to take my hat off to Siren as the hops still sang through.

It had been heavily pouring all day and there was no sign of a let up that evening.  However, the Gun was well prepared with a large canopy and decent outdoor heaters, so even though it was teaming with rain all concerned had a good time.

I had my first black IPA that evening, Hop Studio's Obsidian.  There was nothing wrong with the beer but like Porters and Milds it was just not to my taste. This was followed by Franklin's Citra IPA which cleared the palate nicely.
A sample of the evening's ales

We finished off with some of the heavyweights.  No IPA session is complete without a sample from the Kernel Brewery in Bermondsey and their Galaxy HBC291 did not disappoint, although with a name like that I think their creative branding department needs revitalising. I'd previously tried Weird Beard's Hit the Lights (a strong tasting IPA) and so was keen to sample the rest of their range and so a sample of their Holy Hoppin' Hell #2 seemed to be in order, but at 9.7% it was definitely going to be the last beer of the evening!



Friendly & Knowledgeable Staff
Rather a soggy evening in E14





Thursday, 3 October 2013

Hold the front page - No more doom & gloom at Charlton

I did have a review of a most enjoyable Pale Ale festival at the Gun in Docklands lined up for publication, and as Andy Reid's wizard of a free kick sailed into the top corner of Ben Hamer's goal in the third minute it seemed like that was going to be an obvious choice.  After all who wants to read about another disappointing defeat for Charlton?

Well thankfully that didn't happen so it will have to wait for another day as the Addicks in one of their best performances of the season held Nottingham Forest to a deserved 1-1 draw.


The talk on twitter during the day was for calm heads and full support and the fans gave it in spades despite the early set back from the former Charlton player.  With an injury ravished squad it wasn't difficult to select the team rather a case if who was fit to play but the selection still left some heads scratching on the formation with no natural right winger starting. The nearest the pre-match crowd in the Rose of Denmark could work out was some form of diamond formation with Harriott providing support to the two strikers, in any case the movement was so fluid it was difficult to follow during the game with many players

We sacrificed the greater possession seen in previous games in return for more shots on goal and it proved the right tactic as wave after wave of attacks reigned into the Forest goal mouth.  As a fan it was great to see the sparkle back from both the team and the crowd.  The most pleasing aspect was the support not settling for the draw and frantically heckling the forest keeper for time wasting in a game most were expecting them to win. 

Wood and Cousins justified their starting places with solid performances, and Laurie Wilson's display made up for what were judged poor performances by some fans in the previous two games.  I can see why Andy Hughes is retained by Powell, his enthusiasm  and vision during his brief spell on the pitch kept spirits high and heads cool. From his mad waving for a free kick to come his way as he slyly broke away from his marker, to choreographing some if the younger players into better positions he has an excellent spacial awareness

With a fully fit squad I can see a few potential selection headaches for the manager. One thing it certainly has done is forced his hand in using the youngsters in the books.  Whereas I think in the past he would have erred on the side if caution with more experienced hands but the likes of Cousins, Pigott and Harriot have shown Powell that they can step up to the mark.

It was also great to see some chivalry in football as Billy Davies congratulated the home team and admitted they were the better side on the night.  Lets hope we can keep up the momentum for the visit of Blackpool on Saturday which I hope to be combining with a visit to the Pelton Arms in Greenwich which has a beer festival this weekend.  Its also the Oktober Fest this weekend in Millwall park so it looks like we'll be back to a few beer related postings shortly.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Controversy as Charlton Fan has a Moan

I’m in a foul mood but not quite for the reasons you might expect. Yes, like all Charlton fans I’m still hurting from our drubbing at the hands of Burnley yesterday and nothing but time and good results will take that away. My head is already starting to throb as I write this so I really feel for the brave souls that trekked all the way north on Saturday. However, what makes it worse is that it doesn’t end there.

In the past, if your team lost, you’d have a moan to your fellow supporters as you left the ground, then you’d sound off to your mates down the pub or go and stew at home as you listened to the results on the radio. On Sunday you’d be reminded about the appalling game in the newspapers and you’d prepare for the stick your work colleagues were going to give you on a Monday morning but that was about it, onwards and upwards to the next game.

Now with the advent of the internet I also get to endure a torrent of abuse every time I turn to my favourite social media. From mindless comments from people I don’t know on twitter to the facebook trolls you’re not helping to ease the pain of defeat for me. The dedicated Charlton bloggers on the whole are pretty rational but some of the fan forums seem to attract the worst in people that would put off any one wishing to follow us. I sometimes wonder whether they have shares in pharmaceutical companies as my use of headache pills almost always goes up following a few hours on the net after games.

However, when the club has to issue a warning on facebook about foul and abusive language you know that’s a step too far. We know it’s not just a Charlton issue, the same thing happens at clubs up and down the country. It’s unfortunately going to continue until the day when like rugby fans (and at today’s NFL game at Wembley) opposing fans can all sit together and enjoy a pint while watching the game. It’s a nice idea but I can’t see it happening and to be honest I’m not sure I want it to happen as it would lose some of the rivalry.

Of course we should be able to criticise our team, it was a poor result after all, and I would defend anyone’s right to do so but please leave out the abuse. Some people seem to think that they are immune hiding behind their electronic devices but I’m sure in most cases it’s just a case of people letting off steam and not thinking. Remember post in haste, repent at your leisure. One well known Charlton follower has a good rule of thumb for twitter (apart from not posting when drunk) which is to ask yourself whether you would say your tweet to the person it was directed at if they were standing in front of you right now. It’s a great guide to abide by and I’d encourage you to try it.

“Chris Powell out” I heard some fans cry yesterday, you’ve got to be joking. The Championship has a history of rash sackings and Nigel Clough’s departure yesterday is just the latest in a long line. The quote from the BBC yesterday was as follows:- "The decision by the club will come as a surprise to some, but supporters have become increasingly frustrated by poor performances at home - despite some encouraging displays away.” This sounds familiarly like the situation we were in last season. Imagine sacrificing that late run of form that saw us finish 9th last year? While the Derby situation is a little different what makes us think that another manager. Remember, there is no budget for a new coach to change around the squad, let alone the money to even bring in a new coaching squad. Now Powell does suffer from a bit of tactical naivety but he’s learning fast and in all fairness the spate of injuries has left him having to experiment with previously untried formations out of a limited squad. Incidentally, Clough’s sacking puts Powell up to 11th in the league of longest serving English league managers (www.leaguemanagers.com/managers/longest-current.html).

Others were calling for Jimenez to leave too. Well go figure that one out Charlton fans. With many clubs struggling we were lucky to have them in the first place. While I have to acknowledge that we don’t make comfortable bed fellows with the current owners or their front men we are stuck with each other and the fact is that Charlton would have long gone to the wall without them. Yes, we’d all like a sugar daddy, including the board, the only difference is that we didn’t stump up the cash in the first place so they have a right set the asking price even if according to some the bar is currently been set too high. We as fans need to ensure that we do our bit by joining the Supporters Trust and getting behind the petition to turn the Valley into an Asset of Community Value so that we at least have some say in the future of the club. If you don’t do this one small thing then we all lose out and the ability to have our voice heard will be severely blunted.

In my last blog I said we had a tough ten days ahead with Burnley, Forest and Blackpool in quick succession and our 3-0 drubbing yesterday proved at least part of it right. Buckle up Charlton fans because it’s not going to get any easier from here on in. If you’re one of those fair weather glory hunting fans I would have pointed you to join a Manchester team or maybe even Chelsea….oh hang on they didn’t have a great weekend either did they? It looks like the Premier League is catching a dose of Championship fever which is great news for us neutrals but not so good for the betting slips of a few Charlton fans judging by some comments on twitter yesterday!

There was a glimmer of hope for us in yesterday’s game, where we seemed to have the upper hand for the majority of the first half. Possession and shots on goal were pretty even with Burnley and I think Chris Powell has now worked out his midfield, even with injuries. We still have a game in hand too if that is any consolation. I don’t expect a great crowd on Tuesday nights visit by Forest but am expecting a larger crowd for the Blackpool game as the club appear to have been handing out free tickets to Greenwich University students so let’s make sure we as fans at least, introduce them to the loud passionate Charlton family we want them to see.

Anyway, that’s my little rant over. Its one way of allowing me to work the stress of losing out of my system with out resorting to alcohol or therapy, it’s a lot cheaper too, you should try it some time.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Still hurting...

I've left writing my thoughts on the Millwall derby for a few days to have a chance to calm down and write an objective piece.  I was fortunate enough, in some respects, to have a lot of work to keep my mind occupied over the weekend rather than stewing away in a pub all afternoon on an abject performance.  I know many people were obviously upset at was undoubtedly a poor performance by any standard but I have never left the ground to find a red faced fan opening shouting and cussing the state of our team like I did on Saturday afternoon.

Loss shown live on Sky television adds to embarrassment


The game was not a sell out in either end.  Millwall were some 200 short but a crowd of less than 16,000 was also extremely disappointing.  A combination of tickets not being released on general sale, the game being on Sky, fan apathy over our recent performance or just not wanting the potential aggravation could all be contributing factors.




I had a chat with a few Millwall fans in an East End local on Sunday evening while watching the Manchester derby.  They all concurred that it was a dire game with not a lot to cheer about.  I was even told by one fan that we were unlucky but that is little consolation.  Despite 60% possession, Charlton conjured up only two shots out of six on target.  Millwall fared little better with only three out of twelve shots on target.  Their main talking point was the vast number of police that had turned out on patrol as they left the stadium.

New flag in the West Stand
The bright spot in the Millwall team was Nicky Bailey who effectively controlled the midfield.  I'm always nervous about the threat of old players returning to the Valley.  His story is very similar to that of our own Yann Kermorgant leaving Leicester with a missed penalty in a play off and so it seemed inevitable that he was going to score against us (if anyone is interested, there was a recent article in the Economist that explored the very topic of the performance of former players visiting their old team).  Thankfully it was not to be, but that was small comfort for the home supporters as a McDonald deflected shot wrong footed Ben Hamer and found the back of the net.

Millwall Crowd

I had credited the Millwall fans with a sense of humour when I saw all the inflatable fish in the crowd, thinking it was a reference to our flooded out game against Doncaster, but no,  it was just a good excuse to hurl abuse at Marvin Sordell for the incident against Bolton last season when he complained about being abused by one of their ball boys.  Some habits never tire.







 Our derby day contrasted markedly with the Manchester derby when City played with pace, appearing to have a head start against their red counterparts on every ball.  However, despite all the plaudits no-one questioned why they could not find this turn of pace and agility in their lacklustre performances in their draw against Stoke and loss to Cardiff City.



We now have an extremely tough run of three games in a row against top sides and Charlton fans need to prepare for a rough ride in the next fortnight as we visit Burnley, while Forest and Blackpool stop off at the Valley.  It appears that Cort and Solley will still be out for the Burnley game and Yann is touch and go.

Stadium not full for Derby Clash


On formation tactics, without Yann we are in a pickle.  I would like to see a 4-5-1 to bring in more midfield players and allowing Cameron Stewart into the starting line up for the first time.  His pace and agility very much reminded me of Danny Haynes and I'd like to see him on the pitch for a full ninety minutes along with Harriott on the other wing.  My only concern is that this formation demands a strong striker who can take down the ball and without Yann we just don't have anyone else capable of the role.

We will encounter the same problem with a 4-4-2 formation.  While Joe Pigott was valiant in his efforts on Saturday, his inexperience and lack of build showed.  I have no doubt this will improve over time and have no regrets that he was given the opportunity.  With Church a certain starter that only leaves Sordell, but for me he has to show a pick up in both form and pace to justify his place in the starting line up if Yann is not included. Whichever line up is chosen I am not looking forward to the next couple of weeks but as we saw with Millwall it only takes a game to suddenly turn things around.  I'm waiting for our "game" to turn up.





Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Hornet's sting somewhat blunted

With apologies for the lateness of my write up of the Watford game.  While there have been some excellent posts on the match and the use of the 3-5-2 formation I thought it would still be worthwhile posting a few of my pictures and sharing a few thoughts.

 
Good away support
It was my first away day of the season so I was as good as I could be at The Gun in Docklands on the Friday night at their IPA festival.  The range was fantastic and with over 30 ales on cask, keg and bottle, it was time to be selective.  I'd only tried three of the beers previously and so it was tempting to go overboard and suffer the consequences the next day, but travelling to football matches with a hazy head is not a good idea.





 I also had the pleasure of meeting up for the first time with fellow Addicks, bloggers and real ale lovers Hungry Ted and Marco Casual.  Hungry Ted has helped me tremendously with suggestions on improving my blog presence while I have Marco to thank for introducing me to some of Greenwich's finest ale houses so it was great to finally meet them and put a face to the names.  They also introduced me to the Rose of Denmark crowd who always make a strong appearance on away days, see see #rod and #rodontour on twitter for more information and look out for the flag!  I've been left going to games on my own after my brother emigrated to Australia so it was good to be in the company of some fellow supporters.

One thing that struck me though was the down right outbreak of cautious common sense amongst all the fans I met.  While we were all going to enjoy our away day, no one was wildly optimistic about the game and down to a man we were all willing to walk away with a nil-nil draw as a good result.
Watford Eyesore

I've been to Vicarage road more than any other away ground but in all this time they have maintained a shabby East side where an odd uncovered and unused section is followed by a cow shed much like the old North stand at Charlton.  This contrasts markedly with the rest of the stadium which is looking very smart these days.

The team played a solid game and although chances were few and far between there were also far fewer stray or wayward passes by the Addicks and I can't really be critical of any single Charlton performance.

After our penalty early in the second half it seemed like the game was permanently encamped in the Charlton's half.  So our 62% possession statistics surprised me somewhat and shows Powell's tactics focusing on team work patiently building up with the ball probing the opposition and looking for those chances. 

Otherwise a smart Stadium
Zola is slowly trying to mold his team and the rule change on foreign loan players will have helped by making many of them permanent fixtures in the squad.  Even so, certain continental tactics were still apparent in the game and Simon Church earned a yellow card as a result of his impatience with those actions by the Watford players.

The Watford manager was also critical of certain of his players for not playing for the team ( see www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/24126465).



 
Bit Foggy at Vicarage Road


Yann's solid penalty
The silence of the Hornets crowd during the game (my local library would have been proud) and their resounding boos at the end of the game echoed our thoughts that they thought they should have done much better than the draw.

The vocals from our away support are fantastic and the ubiquitous away day flare made its usual appearance.  It makes for great scenes but while I don't think many people really minded I'll reserve the pyrotechnics for bonfire night.




Over a post match pint of Hobgoblin we all agreed that the point was thoroughly deserved against what should have been a much stronger opposition.  However, I know that the Championship is a tough league but we are not going to progress until we can go to places such as Vicarage Road with more confidence and the knowledge that we are capable of taking all three points and this is what we should be aiming for.





It will be interesting to see how we line up against Huddersfield tonight and who Powell will choose upfront to partner Church in Kermorgant's absence, and whether Chris Solly, one of our most consistent players will fit into that formation or not once he's recovered from his injury.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Alt Bier, The hidden gem in Dusseldorf

Various events led me to end up in Dusseldorf last week.  Although I didn't have a lot of time for relaxing it would have been remiss of me if I did not take a little time out to explore a hidden gem in the German beer scene that is Alt bier. 
Brewery Fresh!

Most people are familiar with the many pilsner style lagers brewed in Germany.  Whilst lagers are generally cool bottom fermenting beers, Dusseldorf's Alt bier (which literally translates as "old beer"), like a real ale is top fermented in a warm environment.  You can buy the beer on tap or in bottles from other outlets but for the real deal you should make the visit to the breweries that make the beer itself.  There are five breweries in the city still plying this fine tradition and they are all within a short distance of each other. The frontage of each is just like a normal pub or Gasthaus while the brewing process takes place in the back.

If you've been to a food festival this summer you may have seen Meantime Breweries offering what they call Brewery Fresh Lager from their truck.  Well Alt bier is even more fresh.  A wooden barrel is filled directly from the brewery vat and literally rolled from the brewery in the back and propped up on the bar at the front and a brass tap banged in ready to dispense.  Its only served in 0.2 litre servings to ensure that your glass of beer remains fresh.  Don't worry about queueing up for another.  The waiters bring trays around regularly to top you up, just order an "Alt", they know its a beer!  They keep a tally of the number of beers dispensed by marking your beer mat and you pay once you've had enough.  How civilised can you get?
Brauerei zum Schlussel

While the real connoisseurs might disagree with me, I thought that they were all fairly similar in style and taste.  Its has a distinctive brown colour much like a Yorkshire bitter, perhaps a shade darker, but has the frothiness of a German lager which captures the malty aroma of the beer.  The alcohol content is around 4.8% and like a decent bitter the head does dissipate.  The taste is almost all on the front half of the tongue with no lingering after taste at the back of the throat.  All in all it’s a very pleasant beer.

Schlussel Alt Bier
 I know that in Britain we all have a habit of propping ourselves up at the bar.  Well in Dusseldorf they have bar benches, basically high tables to prop yourself up on.  No-one sits at the bar as that’s where the drinks are dispensed.  No need to go to the bar as the waiters will come to you, although at busy times some of the Gasthauses have an outdoor service area where you can get a beer rather than waiting for someone to come over to you.  Food at all these places is good.  Some have a full menu while others just have lots of bar food which in Germany means sausage dishes, or fresh bread rolls with pickles and a choice of cheese, cold meats, pate or even steak tartar – no crisps or pork scratchings here.

Brauerei Uerige

 
All the breweries are clearly marked on the local tourist maps so you’ll have no problem in finding them.   Three of them can be found right in the middle of the Alt Stadt or old town where all the night life can be found (just follow the noise).


We start with Brauerei Schlussel who have been brewing for over 150 years.  Although on the busiest street in the district there’s plenty of room for everyone outside and in, including a handy walled garden right opposite the pub and you should get a seat if you want one.  The food is excellent and I would highly recommend the whole grilled pork knuckles if you have a serious appetite.



Eurige Alt
Brauerei Uerige can be found further down near the Rhine on Rheinstrasse, you’ll probably go past it heading from the tourist office to catch a river cruise.  If you like your schnapps then don’t forget to check out the shop opposite selling Killepitsch which is the local version of Jaegermeister but more potent so I’m told.
 

One street away from Schlussel is Brauerei Kurzer which a much more recent brewery maintaining the tradition of Alt bier with a more contemporary environment and as such attracts a younger crowd.  The small brewery set up in the picture is modern and the traditional wooden barrel on the bar is replaced by a glass contraption into which the beer is poured.  The menu is also has an alternative appeal to the German food offering which is otherwise pretty much standard across all the other breweries.
Schumacher Alt Bier: No Relation

For a more quiet drink, I recommend Schumachers which is based about a kilometre away in Oststra├če, although If you don’t fancy the walk or want to enjoy the buzz of the Alt Stadt then they have a nice gasthouse serving their produce almost next to Schlussel but its worth going to the original brewery.  Their website has a handy explanation of the brewing process for those of you interested.  I'm afraid its only in German but it gives you a good idea of what goes on. 
www.schumacher-alt.de/brauerei/brauprozess

Brauerei Fuchschen
 
If you're after a balance between atmosphere and civility then I would recommend Brauerei Fuchschen (Foxes brewery) which is on the outskirts of the Alt Stadt a couple of blocks away from the centre.  The service was more attentive, with patrons just having to stick their fingers in the air to indicate the number of beers they want (use your finger and thumb for two beers in Germany – see the film Inglorious B*stards for further information on this!).  If you think the Germans don’t have a sense of humour then check out the toilets where the cigarette machine has a fox dressed as death saying “I’ll see you soon” and the condom machine, well you’ll just have to visit to find out what that says!




Fuchschen Alt
Dusseldorf Humour
With the good weather and great availability of outside seating (or propping) its easy not to ever enter the bars themselves but you should, just to see how extensive they are.  They look deceptively small from the outside but open up like a Tardis inside (remember there is a brewery stuck in the back of these somewhere!)  Most are beautiful examples of old German style pubs with plenty of thick wooden beams on the ceilings and wood panelling adorned with scenes of old D├╝sseldorf and the Rhine or decked with historic brewing implements.

Kurzer:relatively new Brewery


For those that don’t find Alt bier to their taste remember, with the exception of one place that also brewed its own Weiss bier this is the only beer these breweries serve so go elsewhere for a pilsner.  The usual suspects such as Krombacher, Warsteiner and Bitburger can be readily found but I would recommend pubs serving Konig Pilsner or Jever (look for the signs outside).



Kurzer Alt
I did notice in one bar that they had a lager that was cheaper than all the others.  My German wasn't good enough to understand what it said but the translated menu described it as “self drafting”.  When I asked for a glass they politely told me it was cheaper because I had to go down to the cellar bar and pour it myself!

If anyone is asking, there are four Irish pubs in Dusseldorf, I'm told the Guinness is decent and ranges from four to six Euros a half litre and no I didn't go to one, but it seems that our younger German friends like a drop of stout just as much as we do.

Cask on the Bar at Kurzer


If you enjoyed this write up and want more in a similar vein can I recommend fellow Blogger Hungry Ted's excellent guide to beer in Copenhagen.  While I only had the chance of a whistle stop tour he specifically went there to sample the beers and has a great indepth blog on his trip here:-

hungryted.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/craft-beer-in-copenhagen.html
 

Saturday sees us play away at Watford and it will be my first away game of the season.  As always I'm waiting for Charlton's Ian Cartwright to publish his away day guide as he always includes a good selection of decent pubs, but if anyone has recommendations for a local serving decent ales please do let me know.



Acknowledgements

I have to thank the following website for pointing me in the right direction and making a few recommendations


I’m afraid all the brewery websites are in German but google translate gets you pretty idea of what’s going on if you want to check them out.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Yann puts the smile back on Charlton Fans' Faces

The bright sunny afternoon was in sharp contrast to last week’s washout against Doncaster and it was good to see a full ninety minutes of football.

The day started with tracking down Joe Hall who was responsible for putting together the Valley Talk fanzine to get my copy. I put together a short piece on football club finances and I hope you enjoyed it. As you can tell from my amateurish efforts, I blog for my own amusement and its good practice at putting together short pieces in a quick time frame, Joe on the other hand is a professional and there are also some excellent pieces from a number of bloggers and writers that you might recognise. I particularly enjoyed his interview with Shaun Bartlett and the Chris Powell quote on the back cover, which sums us up perfectly. I hope you managed to grab a copy but if you didn’t then you can pick up a copy from valleytalk.bigcartel.com

Before the game I commented on twitter at the positive vibes and messages of support coming from Charlton fans to get behind the squad, not to boo the board and above all be patient. So it was timely and appropriate that Daniel Webster (@ramblingaddick) had a good piece on the subject in Valley Talk

With the exception of the 3-5-2 formation it was a typical Charlton game with the boy’s taking the lead through a scrappy build up to Morrison’s headed goal (they all count!) to take the lead, Yann’s usual goal against his old team, then holding on for dear life to cling on to the three points despite the Foxes being down to ten men. Even Christ Powell was cringing at times with his hands against his face. I was surprised to see that we had 58% of the possession as Leicester seemed to keep the ball for long periods in midfield without making any impact.

Wiggins and Morrison both had much better games which will be good confidence boosters for them. Personally, I think that Evina is the better player in this formation but Wiggins was looking much more comfortable in this role during the second half as he created a number of opportunistic crosses for the team. It goes without saying that Kermorgant needed no motivation for the game and made the most of it. He’s a real bogey man for the Leicester crowd and as Chris Powell said he’s going to tell Yann that there are 23 other teams called Leicester!

Again, Church worked hard and deserves his place, although he was getting frustrated towards the end but continued to track back when necessary. Stephens has skill but still seems to be a little nonchalant and spatially unaware as the ball comes to him for the first touch. Pigott and Cousins took their chances when they came on, settling down quickly unfazed by the crowds and certainly making an impact during their short stint as substitutes.

While the second yellow for Leicester number 8, James’ inappropriate protests was a stupid one to concede, I feel a little sorry for Leicester as the officials made a number of errors in the second half including a clear goal kick when Church headed off the post. I have a feeling that the assistant on the East stand touchline was struggling with the sunlight and this will only get worse as the sun sinks lower coming into autumn. This can easily be rectified if the assistants swap sides but I am sure that there is a rule that prevents this common sense solution.

Overall, three points thoroughly deserved and having chased down the Foxes all afternoon it only seemed appropriate to finish of the day with a small bottle of Tally-ho from Adnams. I’d not seen it before and thought it was a stout but at 7.2% it’s more akin to a barley wine. One was enough to help savour the much needed victory.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Charlton: Pizza the action or pie’ning for a change ?


First many thanks to Charlton Casualty and fellow Charlton fans that read my Charlton to Greenwich pub crawl article and gave me a few more places to visit on my trek back from the Valley.  I’ve been sworn to secrecy on the actual venues but can confirm that the ones I have visited so far have been excellent and look forward to visiting the others over the next few weeks.

Well for once I can’t moan about the quality of the play on the field against Huddersfield in the Capital One Cup.  Chris Powell took the plunge and switched to his 5-3-2 formation with marauding wing backs that worked so well in pre-season and it looks like we were unlucky not to come away with something.  From various accounts Joe Pigott again played in an unselfish manner and set up Marvin Sordell to allow him to get off the mark.  I hope the game has provided the manager with some food for thought for Saturday's tough encounter against Leicester.  While I expect to see Kermorgant and Church return up front, I wouldn't be surprised to see some changes further back in the field.  However today  I have a different gripe to raise.

I see that Charlton fans have the chance to vote on how we get a half price pizza from the League’s official pizza sponsor.  Personally I’m more concerned about the pies at the Valley.  Rumours abound that our very own Breton, Yann Kermorgant has been tucking in and carrying a bit more weight around him than he should but if it’s true I don’t think the pies are to blame.  I’m not sure what the fayre is like at the John Smith's stadium (I suspect the names says it all and Al Gordon's excellent blog piece on the match sums it up perfectly for me algordoncafc.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/the-capital-one-at-john-smiths.html) but the Valley appears to actually be abandoning our pies in favour of what I understand is called a slice!  Sorry guys but we want a pie with proper walls of pastry and a deep filling.  I’m assuming that this is one of those ploys where the price stays the same and the contents shrink.

There’s nothing wrong with the food and drink at Charlton.  It’s just that with the advent of real street food and the explosion of news London breweries offering craft beer, the staple offering of slices together with Fosters and John Smith's Smooth really doesn’t cut the mustard any more.  Having seen the fast food offerings at Truck Stop London and the Real Street Food Festival, London has a lot to offer by way of quality local food and drink and I think we should be taking advantage of it.

To make matters worse, Crystal Palace have jumped on the band wagon and revamped their range of pies and now get to enjoy our local Goddard’s Pies in with steak and ale pie using beer from the first commercial brewery in Croydon, The Cronx.  For once I am extremely jealous of the Nigels.  Many of us enjoy a decent pie and mash from Goddards in Greenwich (www.pieshop.co.uk), and when combined with locally produced real ale this must be heaven in a pastry shell!

Leyton Orient have had their skin in the game for even longer with a fantastic bar in the Matchroom Stadium that has won numerous CAMRA awards for their fine real ale offering.  Their latest line up includes local ales from East London Brewery and Hackney Brewery.
So what can we at Charlton do to up the game and provide some decent locally produced food to its fans?
On the beer front, many of you will know that I have written about various local breweries including the Kernel in Bermondsey and Meantime Brewery in the Greenwich area.  As mainly kegged craft beers these should keep longer than some of the real ale offerings.  There is also the Brick Brewery a new micro brewery in Peckham Rye, which I have to admit I have only recently discovered and know very little about.
However, the Kernel is too near our other South London rivals and appear to be targeting a premium market, although Bromley football club appear to be well stocked up on a good selection from their range according to an article on their website*

Meantime would be a good commercial partner for Charlton.  The brand is well known over London and they have a good range so there is something for everyone.  Without getting too esoteric, I’d personally recommend their London Lager and Pale Ale as standard replacements for the current big brewery offerings at the Valley.

However, there is a new player in town in the form of Woolwich’s first and only brewery.  James at Hop Stuff Brewery has been extremely busy over the last few months promoting the company and recently raised £58,000 on crowd funding site Crowdcube.  He’s also appeared in the Greenwich Visitor and made a presentation to South East London CAMRA on his efforts (hopstuffbrewery.wordpress.com)

Full scale production is a little way off with full scale production kicking off in the autumn but they have ambitious plans and having this local producer at the Valley would be a coup and there would be plenty of scope for a special Charlton own label (thinking caps on please chaps but keep it clean and positive).

In terms of food one is pushed to find a more authentic product than Goddard's pies but if I was to compile a wish list of goodies I would like to see Heaps in Greenwich produce a decent sausage roll for match days with one of their award winning recipes.

Of course, I am writing this as a foodie that likes his real ale and I have no concept of the commercial realities of catering at a major sporting event but it would be good to see a nod to local produce with a bit of thought into the ingredients.  Now, does anyone in South East London produce an alternative to Mars Bars?

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