Monday, 29 July 2013

It was all about Powell

The surname Powell has cropped up a lot in the sports news in the last few weeks.  Anyone that wanted a football fix since the end of last season has had to make do with the efforts of England manager Hope Powell, courtesty of the Women's Euros.  Despite the surprisingly poor performance of the England team, the football has been of a good quality and entertaining.  The heroic penalty saves of the Norwegian goalkeeper on Thursday night ensured that Denmark did not progress to the final without having won a single game in playing time.  Its a shame her colleagues were not as good when it came to taking penalties against Germany in the final.

Good to be back at the Valley

Then, on almost the eve of the anniversary of the 2012 Olympics there was the unfortunate news that Asafa Powell had tested positive for a prohibited substance.

However, on Saturday we could concentrate on and enjoy our own special Powells in the form of  the testimonial game for groundsman and former player "Colin" and Charlton manager "Chris" who are much loved characters at the Valley.  As a relatively new fan (1996) I can't claim to know much about Colin Powell and can't add to the excellent reports on the official website and fellow bloggers' write ups.  For those of you interested in finding out more the supporters trust reprinted an excellent interview undertaken with him in 2010.

However, I do know that testomonials are not handed out on a plate and when fans such as Charlton bloggers Chicago Addick and Drinking During the Game, amongst others, buy tickets to contribute towards the testimonial, even though they can't be at the match you can tell how much the man means to the fans and history of our club.

After almost three month's absence since our 4-1 thumping of Bristol City on 4 May, it was a good feeling to be back at the Valley whcih looked resplendent with the newly laid pitch.  Not much else seemed to have changed inside the ground except for some new advertising hoardings that withstood the "Yann Test" extremely well as he clattered heavily into them during the game. 

The other addition outside was the opening of the first phase of Addicks Place.  As with any newly installed item (whether at the Valley or not) the builders did a great job of the marble itself but left everything else in a complete mess with concrete dust all over the previous bricks laid down.  I know that many of those bricks are very special to the people that commissioned them (see here why so I hope this is just a temporary glitch while we wait for the concrete and marble of the new stones to settle in and they will be brought back to the condition expected once the barriers and tape are removed.

Our opponents Inverness Caledonian Thistle , best known for the famous tabloid headline "Super Cally go balistic Celtic are atroucious" for the February 2000 3-1 mauling of Celtic that ultimately ended John Barnes time at the helm of the Glasgow club.  As the team that finished fourth, narrowly missing out on Europa league qualification they were not going to be a pushover and the 1-0 win over Charlton was probably the right scoreline

I did have some decent draft copy penned on Charlton's choice of strikers for the coming season but it had to be abruptly binned following various news items being published which scuppered my carefully crafted words.  However, even with Coulibaly off the table and no word on Obika it was good to see Ricardo Fuller and Simon Church still training at Sparrows Lane. There is still time and hope for us yet as playing the lone striker upfront is not a comfortable formation for the Charlton team.

Our first game of the season is at Bournmouth on Saturday.  Away tickets were quickly snapped up by supporters that qualified by attending away matches last season.  While its a shame I couldn't get tickets it's good to know that the more faithful fans still get first choice on tickets.  It looks like the only way of Charlton fans legitimately getting tickets is to sponsor the match ball which works out at about £170 a head if you're feeling flush!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

AFC Wimbledon v Charlton Friendly

I'm going to miss the Portsmouth game and Valley supporters' day this weekend due to family commitments so it was important to get to the AFC Wimbledon game on Tuesday evening.  

The Original "Dons"
Charlton has a lot in common with the true “Dons”, their current squad containing former Addick players Ross Warner and Harry Pell and both teams having stints at Selhurst Park when we lost our grounds, but I have a big soft spot for this club for other reasons.  I do like the fact that a group of fans said No to the owner’s proposals for the future of the club that ultimately became the MK Dons but more than that they actually did something about it.  When the players take the train and walk to the ground along with the fans you know it’s a proper club.  

Wimbledon Players Arrive

I arrived just in time to see the players disembark from the Charlton coach, and they looked relaxed and in good shape after their Spanish training camp. It was also good to see the team sporting the new kit for the first time on home soil.
With "Oh Verona" followed by the "Red Red Robin" and the "A team" theme tune I thought Charlton had pretty cool pitch entrance music but Wimbledon's music takes some beating.  Asteroid (we know it as the  Pearl and Dean advert music in the Cinema) blared around the ground as the teams took to the pitch closely followed by Keith Mansfield’s "Young Scene" (I have to admit that I had to use Shazam to identify it but look it up and you will recognise it instantly).

Cheer Up Johnny its only a friendly
Earlier in the day, Richard Cawley of South London Press broke the news on twitter that trialist Adamo Coulibaly who currently plays for Hungarian side Debrecen would play at the game.  The number 9 partnered Yann Kermorgant upfront.  There was mention of a lack of match fitness but he certainly carried a fair amount of speed on him and looked dangerous each time he had the ball with one shot hitting the cross bar in the first half and a second deflected shot leading to the opening goal from Danny Green.  An unselfish pass in the second, when he could have shot, set up a great chance for Hollands who failed to capitalise on a great opportunity and seconds later he came up with an attempted overhead bicycle kick.  With no deal in sight for Jonathan Obika I hope we sign Coulibaly.  By the way, If you're on Twitter, Richard is well worth a follow @RichardCawleySLP for the latest on the South London clubs.

Wimbledon played with good momentum and wasted no time in getting the ball back into play from free kicks and throw ins.  Their urgency paid off and the first half equaliser by an unmarked Alan Bennett header from a free kick was deserved.  The Charlton defence will feel disappointed in their first half performance a better opposition would have capitalised on it further.

Charlton Faithful
Pre-match warm up

With the team unchanged at half time I thought some of the players might get a full run out, especially given the cooler evening conditions.  Unfortunately this was not to be, as the second half turned into a bit of a farce with wholesale changes of players punctuating the game.  I must however give credit to all the substitutes as both sides maintained a blistering pace to the game until the end.  The 1-1 draw may be a disappointment to the travelling fans but was probably the right result on the night.

Lastly, can I ask all my readers to take a look at the campaign by the Charlton Supporters Trust to make the Valley an Asset of Community Value.   The petition takes advantage of recent government legislation to identify a building or other land that is believed to be of importance to the community’s social well-being. The aim is that, if the asset comes up for sale, then the community will be given a fair chance to make a bid to buy it on the open market. If the nominated asset, in this case the Valley, meets the definition of an asset of community value, the local authority will list it.  The petition can be found at the Trust’s website
Please do take time to read the information to understand exactly what the petition is asking rather than glibly signing up but I think this is a worthwhile cause.  Further information on the community right to bid scheme can be found at the link below

Monday, 8 July 2013

Musings on Charlton's first friendly of the Season at Welling

First Friendly of the Season

I'm pleased to say that I am now an expert on the streets of Welling having spent the best part of an hour looking for free parking for the duration of Charlton's friendly of the season at the Wings.  In the end I caved in and paid to park at the Danson Festival car park.

Unfortunately this meant missing out on a visit to the Door Hinge micro pub which was recommended to me, and has had some great real ale reviews.  That will have to wait another time, but certainly well before next year’s friendly.

I’ve also increased my road knowledge to the West of Welling, after being diverted away from Shooters Hill Road on the way back owing to what seemed to be a fire on the railway track over the A207.  I’ve no idea where I went suffice it to say every road I took had those blasted speed bumps on them.  This normally wouldn’t be so bad but given the good weather I had decided to take the kit car out for the journey and with about 4 inches of ground clearance I can say that there is not a lot left to my sump tank after negotiating all those humps.

Anyway, on to the game and the noticeable absence of Rhoys Wiggins and Ben Hamer.  However, there was nothing suspicious about either, with Wiggins carrying a small injury and a chance for Pope and Button to show their skills.  It was also a good to see a run out from the youngsters after their successful campaign last season.  I was perhaps a little disappointed that Ade Azeez did not get a run out, but Joe Piggot made the most of it, neatly linking up with Kermorgant to score a hat trick.  The chants of “Get in there Smudga” clearly showed that the more youthful Charlton supporters need to use their social media a bit more, as they would then have known from the various Charlton feeds that it wasn’t Michael Smith hammering them in.

Good Crowd of 2104

There were rumours in the previous few weeks that Cedric Evina was still with the club after apparently having turned down a renewed contract offer as being too short.  Some fans had said that they’d seen him at the training ground but I was more hopeful that things might have come to an agreement when I saw Ceddy’s tweets on Thursday.  An “Optimistic” was then followed up with:-

“Putain, a la fin j’en es marre d’attendre mdr”

which, using my basic French skills, roughly translates as “dam, in the end I am tired of waiting ! I believe the “mdr” is short for "mort de rire” or “died laughing” and is the equivalent of our “lol” or “rofl”.  I really hate these abbreviations but Google translator had no problem deciphering what it meant which shows how common they are now used.  So it was good to see that the rumours appear to be true as I believe he has a lot to offer the club.
It’s always difficult to tell about form in a single friendly, especially when the players only had a 45 minute run out but I thought trialist Richard Wood handled himself well in defence.  My one issue though is that if we are trialling a central defender then why get rid of Matt Taylor at the end of his contract in the first place?  The only thing I can think of is he might be a cheap replacement.

Scorching Play in the first half
The fans were in fine form that afternoon with Captain Johnny Jackson got a taste of his own medicine on the pitch.  Well known for showing the “red card” on twitter to his fellow team mates for their fashion faux pas he was on the other end of the stick as he lined up to defend a corner.   I just wish I had caught on film the look on his face as he was jibed by the Charlton faithful with chants of “White boots, straight red, white boots straight red”.  Their taunts turned to the rather less slim Welling keeper Turner in the second half with some less than friendly comments but I have a feeling he’d heard them all before.

While it was good to see a number of fans sporting the new season’s shirt, it was noticeable that the team were still wearing last year’s kit.  There may be a number of good reasons for this but I really don’t have a problem with it and would rather it was used in these apparently austere times than wasted.  Given our current financial constraints it’s good to know that the money is hopefully being spent on more useful things elsewhere.  In any case, I was there to see the players and not their outer wear. 

Strong Support from Rose of Denmark

Elsewhere the Jon Obika rumours are still doing the rounds.  Given their recent signings and the depth of the Tottenham squad I can’t see him staying at White Hart Lane if he is serious about playing first team football (which of course any self respecting player is) but it is clear that Spurs will want a fee for this promising youngster.  It may be fortuitous timing that Charlton will be receiving an incremental fee from Liverpool for the sale of Jonjo Shelvey to Swansea, which could be deployed to ensure that this transfer gets done.

Finally I have taken the plunge and joined the CAS Trust.  It’s very easy for us fans to sit on the side lines and moan, or in my case blog, about the club but we should all really get a bit more involved.  At £5 for the year its a snip (just sacrifice your first pie and pint at the first home match and its paid for).

Did anyone take advantage of the 2 for 1 local restaurant offer on the back of the Welling ticket?  I think Charlton are missing an advertising trick!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Charlton: Whingers need not apply

The main sports news on Wednesday was of Brian O'Driscoll's absence from the Lions squad.  The man is undoubtedly a legend in the sport but as a casual observer of the sport, I don't have any strong feelings as to whether this was the right decision or not.

However, what really caught my eye was O'Driscoll's public response to his exclusion.  His statement on Twitter read :-

" Obviously totally gutted at being left out for deciding Test but all efforts go into preparing the boys to see it through #seaofred "

There is no doubt that he was extremely upset about the decision, but he managed to put his own emotions aside to ensure that the focus was all about the team.  I can confidently say right now that even after the game on Saturday, win or lose, any public remarks by the man will reflect this stance.  This is the true mark of a real sportsman.

This is the reason why I'm not a fan of the likes of Michael Schumacher or Christiano Ronaldo.  They both undoubtedly reached the pinnacle of their respective sports, but there's winning and then there's sportsmanship.  These two professionals, in my eyes, sadly are not sportsmen.  Maybe its my British "support the under-dog" mentality but this "win at all costs" mentality, or the throw your toys out of the pram prima donna strops , don't cut it with me and never will.  We all remember Roy Kean admonishing Ronaldo as he lay rolling around the turf like a baby at the Valley following a good chop from Graham Stuart.

This point brings me to Charlton.  We really don't do whingers do we?  We have a squad of dependable workman-like footballers, no prima donnas, and I believe we play better like this.

Now please don't confuse my definition of sportsmanship with not showing emotion or passion.  By showing that he deeply cared about being dropped O'Driscoll displayed his passion for the game.  You can bet your last dollar that he will be watching the last test with gritted teeth, thinking how he would have played the game.  The Charlton team too has passion by the bucket load.  Plenty of Charlton players give their all for their team and are therefore understandably emotional for example when they are substituted during the ninety minutes.  This emotion sometimes shows its self in the form of what might be thought of as petulance but it is no more than the culmination of their passion for the game.  Passion is good and can be highly effective in the game when correctly channelled.

Ben Hamer's outburst at his team for conceding four goals in our epic win over Cardiff is such an example.  Despite the win, as a true professional he was annoyed that he and his defenders had not upheld their part of the bargain, making the job more difficult for the rest of the team.  Yann Kermogant is another example.  The man never stops.  There is no rolling around on the floor for him when he gets tapped.  It takes a good solid tackle to stop him and then despite the gashes and wounds, he picks himself up all wrapped in bandages and soldiers on.  Ronaldo take note!

I was rather worried when Ricardo Fuller signed for us last year.  A big name in a small pond, but prior to his 180 odd games at Stoke he has experienced his fair share of smaller clubs and he fitted well into the squad.

I am sure that there are plenty of fractious issues between manager and players that we don't hear about but the point is that these take place behind closed doors.  On the pitch and in the public eye we are a squad that is united.  So with the transfer window officially open, no star names for us please, we want team players.

There was a fair bit of chat on Twitter today from fans moaning about various things including the fact that we are definitely now going to lose against Millwall as the match is being screened live on Sky.  While football would not be the same without the odd moan, perhaps we as fans could take a leaf out of the attitude of the squad's sportsman like mentality?

I hope to be at Welling on Saturday, camera at the ready, on the look out for a few new faces in the match day squad.  I somehow doubt there will be any Russians investors in the crowd though.