Friday, 21 June 2013

Bar Review - Oaka in Kennington

You may remember my review of the Brewery Tap in Peterborough back in March (see the following link  This is the main retail outlet for Oakham Ales, but thanks to a retweet from South East London CAMRA on twitter I am pleased see that they have now expanded into London.  Incidentally @selcamra is an excellent resource for London real ale drinkers and it saves you having to sign up to lots of different pubs and venues.

Good location - Excellent Food
Oakham have now opened up a new venue called Oaka which is but a stone's throw away from Kennington tube station.

My apologies to Oaka for the lousy pictures as they really don't do the place justice but I was concentrating more on the beer than my photography skills on the night.  However,  its in a great spot just minutes away from Central London. 

I started off with Citra which is and Oakham regular and one of my all time favourites.  Its a bit extreme for some palates as it just screams hops at you but was the perfect drink on a beautiful summer's day.

Says it all

 They had all the familiar favourites regularly on the bar but I hadn't seen the Bishop's Farewell before.  I was reliably told by the bar staff that this was the beer of choice of the Brewers once they had finished their shift so what's good for the brewers is good enough for me.  After all they must know something, and what could be a better recommendation!

At 4.6% it was slightly stronger than the Citra but much less intense on the hop front.  Unfortunately I think having had the Citra first dampened my taste buds, but it was an extremely pleasant ale that could easily go into the dangerous session beer category.  They must be pretty proud of it as it has won tons of awards (

 The staff were all very friendly and knowledgeable about their product. They tell me that as well as the regular stable of beers you can see in the picture they introduce a few guest beers from their range at the weekend.

Note the Cider Kegs in the background
While they do concentrate on their own selection I did see that the menu had a few bottles from other breweries including the Kernel in nearby Bermondsey.

Like their other places the food menu concentrates on pan Asian flavours.  Its a good choice as the chilli's and herbs compliment the flavours of the beers.  I really liked their Gap Glam menu which had lots of tasty Asian tapas style dishes to graze at. 

With benches outside it was the perfect place to relax and watch the world go by.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Fixtures List - Outbreak of Common Sense at the FA

Big pre-planned press announcement days are always a good way of burying bad news.  Normally it's the government trying to slip in a few lines about some dismal failure in amongst all the press releases on Budget day.  This time, with all the excitement generated by the release of the new football season fixtures list today, I hope that fans saw the Football Association trying to bury its own bit of bad news.  In a rare outbreak of common sense they announced that the FA Cup Final will take place 17 May, a week after all other league games had concluded.

However rather belatedly and using another PR trick of turning what should have been an apology into a good news item they finally admitted that they had got it wrong.  FA general secretary Alex Horne said: "We're aware fans and media have been calling for the FA Cup final to have a day to itself and we're delighted that this is going to happen for 2014."

Well done chaps.  Despite all the communication channels and modern media it's only taken you three years to realise! At last we all as football fans from which ever club we support can now enjoy the showcase finale at the end of the season in the manner in which it was intended.

Now let’s hope the FA can continue with their apparent run of common sense and schedule the kick off time so that all fans, who want to, can actually travel to and from the match Wembley by train on the same day.  I know we don't know which teams will be playing but If Alex Horne is reading, can I suggest his next task is to flag 17 May with the railway companies now, to at least attempt to ensure that there will be no maintenance works planned on that day and the possibility that extra coaches might be put on would also be nice.  At best this would show that the FA really does care about the fans and at worst it shows they tried and deflects the criticism on to the railway companies.

Elsewhere I have to take my hat off to the dedication of the Charlton media team in getting the fixture list out to supporters.  At the rate they must have been typing to bang that information out on the website, facebook and twitter, someone must have triggered off the smoke alarm at the Valley.

I would always prefer a first fixture at home but we could do worse than away to Bournemouth in August and I'm looking forward to the start of the season.


Monday, 17 June 2013

Pre season friendlies and the League Cup...are you going?

With the announcement on Monday of the League Cup draw against Oxford, I see the moans have already started about Charlton's lack of success in the competition, the likely weak team that will be fielded and the low attendances.  Within minutes of the announcement going up on the official Facebook page we had comments like:-

"10 quid we lose"

"Shall we give them the game now"

"Out on pens end opf cup run AGAIN"

"bye bye league cup"

Now admittedly some of them may have been in jest (especially given our last performance against Oxford) but it was good to see a few supporters sticking up for the team with retorts such as:-

"Yep-fully aware of our cup record thanks. Don't mean we should write the team off before they've even kicked a ball!"

"Give the under 21s a game rest some 1st team players .... Good draw"

I have to say that I for one am firmly in the second camp, booking my ticket for the fixture and ensuring that I also get to see a number of the friendlies taking place this summer.  With the stakes so high in the leagues, the first few rounds of the League Cup are the only places for the development squad to show they have the mettle to step up to the plate in a first team fixture atmosphere at the Valley.  Apart from the first chance to see some decent football over the summer the friendlies are also a chance to get a first glimpse of our new signings (we hope) and more likely a look at any trialist that Chris Powell may be running the rule over.

There are two moments in Charlton history that stick in my mind that sum this up.  The first was when Alan Pardew brought on Scott Wagstaff for his first full blown premiership game.  Despite his experience and captaincy of the reserves he was like a rabbit in headlights when faced with a full Valley crowd.  Pardew himself admitted that he had introduced Waggy too soon.  The full match day experience phases some people more than others.  I'm the same when it comes to public speaking.  I can go into a room of ten strangers and comfortably present my business with them in a professional manner but stand me up in an auditorium full of people and my eyes glaze over and I turn to putty.  It should be no surprise that is no different for football players who need easing in and the first few rounds of the League Cup are a perfect opportunity to give them a chance in an appropriate competitive environment.  I'm pleased to say that Scott got over this and produced some marvellous football for us down the wing in subsequent games.

Many of the development squad members will be well known to Charlton fans by name, from the match reports and their call ups to various youth squads for their country but I for one just don't get the opportunity to see them play much during the season.  For many of us the summer will be the first opportunity to see some of the younger squad in action as they mix with the first team in a competitive environment.  Yes, it may lead to disappointment for fans as we get knocked out of cup games but with Financial Fair Play kicking in it looks like Charlton will be relying more and more on its youth set up for the Championship so this may be a more important factor than revenue from ticket sales in the League Cup.

The other memorable moment is the look on fans' faces in a friendly at the Valley in 2009 when the match day announcer first mumbled the name of Christian Dailly over the tannoy.  There was no programme or team sheet available and most of us did not catch the full name.  As the Scotsman came on to the pitch you could here talk of

"He looks familiar",

"Didn't he play for....",

"I remember him being pretty decent"

and similar comments, rippling through the crowds as we racked our brains on the history of this iconic player (no smart phones for the majority of us in those days folks).  Dailly went on to be named Charlton's player of the year that season but the first glimpse the pitch that day was a special moment for me when we first witnessed him as a trialist.

I am sure other fans have nabbed the bragging rights of when they first saw another trialist, Bradley Pritchard first play in a friendly for Charlton.  Given the current lack of signings and the need for Charlton to be inventive in this transfer window I am sure we will see a few more surprises over the coming pre-season fixtures. 

Friendlies are therefore a breeding ground for the rumours that are the bread and butter of Charlton bloggers and diarists.  Miss a match and you miss the opportunity to report a first.  So enough with the negativity, lets get behind what will be the future of Charlton Athletic and hope that they have a decent kit to wear when the club unveils the new strip tonight!

League cup quotes are all from Charlton Athletic Football Club's official facebook page

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Rise of the Belgians

I'm not very good at predictions and they usually come back to haunt me which is why I never have a bet on my own team or even voice an opinion as to the outcome of a Charlton game.  However, it has never stopped me from voicing an opinion or two on other teams even if it is just to stir things up so here is my latest prediction - the Belgium football team will win a major tournament in the next decade!

The old joke goes about trying to name ten famous Belgians, which we in the UK struggle to get further than the cartoonist known as Herge of Tintin fame and Poirot (who doesn't count as he's fictional character created by an English person).  Well here's a whole team, many of which are household names in the Premier League, although like me I am sure that most of you were surprised at a first glance that many of these players were from Belgium.

The National team's recent tack record actually looks appalling.  They did not qualify for either the 2006 or 2010 World Cup, or the last three European Cups.  However, their current FIFA ranking of 12 is higher than Brazil and looking at the list of recent players I cannot but think that they are a team in the making.

Vincent Kompany, the captain, at 27 is considered a veteran and one of the more well known players in the squad.  However, they have a youthful team with an average age of around 24.  Christian Benteke and Lukaku (who has just been called back to Chelsea after a successful loan spell at West Bromwich) make an awesome pair upfront.  Combine them with Mirallas from Everton and this would be considered a decent strike force in anyone's fantasy football team.  Adding the likes of Hazard, Fellaini and Dembele in midfield and one can quickly see why I have made my prediction.  These are just the players that ply their trade in England - never mind the rest of the squad that plays on the continent.

We also need to look at their average age.  Many of these players are too young to have competed in the qualifying rounds for the previous tournaments mentioned above and so are untried in a competitive environment.  The current world cup 2014 qualifiers are currently underway and Belgium currently lie top of their group having won six out of seven games and drawn the other.  While they still have to play second place Croatia who are only three points away, with three games to go I would find it difficult not to predict that they will qualify for Rio

The team still has a way to go before it starts to hit the headlines but when they do win something, remember you heard it here first! One thing is certain, and unfortunately its that none of them are going to sign for Charlton anytime soon.  Moules and Frites anyone?

Friday, 7 June 2013

Charlton: Financial Fair Play, Transfers and Reality

I had started to write an article entitled "N'Guessan I'm guessing" as my first attempt at speculation as to who would be joining Charlton this season.  Given that Dany N'Guessan has been a Charlton target for over a season now and with him apparently out of favour with Kenny Jackett he looked a certainty to me to be top of Chris Powell's buying list.  However, a week is a long time in football and as we all know Kenny Jackett has moved on and Steve Lomas will undoubtedly want to review the squad before making any decisions.  I believe that N'Gussean also has another year on his contract with Millwall and given that Charlton opted not to take up their free option on extending Danny Haynes' contract, they are unlikely to pay a fee to obtain the Millwall front man.

There are plenty of players out of contract this summer from the Premier League (see here for a complete list )  but Financial Fair Play rules (FFP) in the Championship mean that (with the possible exception of a few clubs with Premier League parachute payments) it's going to take some serious reality to settle in on wages before those players join a lower league club.  Unfortunately I don't think that reality will settle in for a few years from now as former Premier players realise they're not going to be able to command those types of wages in the lower leagues even if a club has a new Sugar Daddy willing to splash a bit of cash.  With Charlton struggling to pay a rumoured top weekly wage of about £13k to Ricardo Fuller, what chance do we and other clubs have of paying £20k plus to the likes of Jermain Pennant and others?

The FFP rules are different between the three divisions of the football league.  For Leagues 1 and 2 it's based on player salaries as a percentage of turnover, while for Championship clubs the aim is to break even on the core element of the club's activities (ie spending on youth development and improving the stadium fall outside its scope).  For more information on FFP see the following link FPP Explained

I believe that Charlton have a deficit of roughly £500k a month to fill before we meet the criteria once they strictly apply.  The FFP rules allow for a certain amount of equity injection and with a £6m annual deficit we are comfortably within those boundaries for the next season but this assumes that Uncle Tony is willing to continue to bank roll us so far but the message is clear that this is not going to continue.

We're not the only team to suffer.  It seems certain to me that Jackett left Millwall as he was frustrated at the club's lack of resources to strengthen the squad.  Even the Premier League is not immune if we are to believe the newspaper stories currently doing the rounds.  It is rumoured that Michael Laudrup is unhappy at the transfer policy at Swansea and Harry Redknapp is on the verge of walking out over the hold up in recruiting out of contract Wayne Bridge from Manchester City who has since gone to Reading.

I did attempt to put Charlton's deficit in perspective using a back of the envelope calculation.  If we imagine that players are on £5k a week (I have no idea if this a realistic figure and have to admit that its a complete stab in the dark)  then £1/2m is equal to culling over 20 players in order to break even. This is quite a stunning figure by any stretch of the imagination and with solidarity payments only rising by 5% and other non Charlton income remaining fairly static I'm not sure how the void can be filled. 

With the the different FPP rules in each of the four divisions I can also certainly see player contracts getting a lot more complicated to allow for potential promotions and demotions each year.  Good luck to the finance department is all I can say.

Talking of fair play, its good to see that the Football League have now about to introduce tighter rules on foreign loan players to stop the ridiculous farce that was the Udinese B team masquerading as Watford FC.  While no self respecting Charlton fan wanted to see Crystal Palace go up, I'm pleased that this type of behaviour while perfectly legal was not rewarded with a place in the Premier League.