Monday, December 04, 2006

When You Know Your History .....

5th December 1992, an historic day in the history of Charlton Athletic Football Club, the fans of whom consider it the greatest football Club in the World, and rightly so.

Exactly fourteen years on and possibly the most important game of the intervening years. Yes, we've had downs in between but mostly we've had ups. However, we are on the brink of a 'down' that could have catastrophic consequences for the football club. Do the players realise this ? Yes, of course they do. Do they care ? No they don't, with a few notable exceptions. Do we care ? Of course we bloody well do. Can we help ? Unfortunately we can't. The players have got us into this position and only they can get us out. Only they won't. Not enough of them have got the stomach for it. Not enough of them care. Unfortunately some of those that do care simply are not good enough. All in all we are in real trouble. I hate being pessimistic and I always try to put a positive spin on things. I could easily say that two wins on the spin and suddenly we are at least back in touch with those above us and in with a fighting chance. I could say that four of the next six games are at The Valley, win three of them and a couple of points on the road and hey presto come January we'll be 16th and pulling away. Problem is six weeks ago we looked at the fixture list and were saying that with games against the likes of Wigan, Reading, Sheffield Utd and Watford all upcoming we'd soon be out of the mire. We contrived to lose three of those games whilst picking up a solitary point against the team directly above us. So it's pessimism all the way for me.

There are a lot of contributory factors to our current plight. The loss of a long-serving successful, albeit boring, manager. The premature sacking of his replacement. The injuries to key players, especially new signings, a tough opening fixture list, more injuries, suspensions, poor decisions etc etc but in reality there is only one underlying factor. The players. Either not good enough or not committed enough. Or both.

I look back with fondness to our last Premier League relegation season. 1998-1999. Up from the play-off's, that epic Wembley encounter with Sunderland, Rufus's goal, Mendonca's hat-trick, real lemonade, jumpers for goalposts, you get the idea. Eight straight defeats (?) and then a last minute Pringle goal giving us a home draw with Newcastle that felt like winning the Cup all over again. Heroes all over the pitch. Robbo whinging, Brownie, Kins, The Ruf, Super Clive, Stevie Jones, Danny Mills. You get the drift. Players you could count on, players you were proud to support. If only the current squad showed half the passion those players possessed. And Villa away. Behind gawd knows how many times, all subs used, keeper sent off, Brownie in goal, last minute winner. Fecking brilliant. Ultimately not enough. But that didn't matter. We showed guts, we showed determination, we showed we cared. The players showed they cared. Enough said.

And so back to the present. The performance at Bramall Lane was in many respects worse than the result. We were not only outplayed but were outclassed and outfought. Being realistic we are going down. I obviously hope we don't and I'll be at the Lane on Saturday shouting myself hoarse and hopefully celebrating at the end of the game six points won in six glorious days. But in reality that isn't going to happen.

Tuesday 5th December 2006. We cannot lose. We have never lost on this date since the return to The Valley and we can't let it happen now. This is OUR day. It is written that this day now belongs to the fans of Charlton Athletic. We demand a win, this day more than any other. I will walk into The Valley tomorrow night and still stare in wonder at what a fantastic place The Valley is. I will look back, beyond those fourteen years, to the times when I stood on the dilapidated terracing, to the times when I peed up against a wall in the pitch black and the pouring rain, and I will look back at that glorious Sunday morning when my brothers and I and hundreds of others descended on The Valley with spades, shovels and forks to clear the pitch and terracing of weeds, bushes and trees, fans united together in a way that you could never imagine. That's why we're different, that's why we support Charlton Athletic. And then I'll look forward again to 5th December 1992 and Walsh's goal and remember exactly how euphoric I felt that day. And then I'll pray that the current team, for once this season at least, won't let me down and forever ruin the date of 5th December.

Monday, November 13, 2006

'Gutless' ? Maybe, maybe not .....

Well, Iain Dowie has gone. I for one am surprised and very disappointed. If twelve games in he isn't the right man for the job then frankly he wasn't the right man for it in the summer. If he wasn't the right man then why was he appointed. Is sacking him now the right decision or is it gutless? Shouldn't we all be getting behind him and the team to get us out of the sticky stuff we find ourselves in. Or is sacking him now a show of strength. It would be easy to blunder on until it's too late and it's a brave man to admit he's got it seriously wrong but it appears that Richard Murray is that brave man.

But hang on, has he been sacked. Theories abound that it is really to do with being away from his family, that he really did leave Palace to go back 'oop north' but the pull of the Prem and Dickie's persuasiveness caused him to do otherwise, and that it has now backfired on all concerned. Other theories suggest it's to do with the ongoing court issues with Jordan whilst a bung theory has also arisen.

More will be revealed tomorrow but one thing's for sure. For that Oompah Lumpah Jordan to call the Charlton board 'gutless' is definately the pot calling the kettle black. With something like six managers in five seasons and another about to bite the dust he's hardly Mr Loyalty is he.

The future ? Well, AC has ruled out a return and rightly so. Names like Hoddle, Graham, Souness, Robson etc do little to inspire me. McLeish is a possibility as is Cardiff's Dave Jones. Personally, I have my own little list. We need someone ambitious whilst at the same time having Premiership experience, someone young and go-ahead not someone who has been and won't be again. Can I suggest a name or two, actually three. All number two's at their current clubs but unlikely to succeed the current incumbants for a while to come. All ambitious, all with Premier League experience in abundance behind them as both players and coaches. Step forward Mark Bowen, Steve Clarke and my own personal favourite, Sammy Lee, who I championed in the summer before Iain Dowie was appointed. I wait with bated breath.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Fan Loyalty Rewarded ?

Whilst the support shown to Chris Powell on Saturday was laudable it was also quite laughable. Laughable to the extent that many fans showed more support to Chris, an opposition player, than they did for their own team. 'Fans' who sat on their hands, mouths firmly closed, for 90 minutes whilst the team they allegedly 'support' was trying to win a game and get a vital three points suddenly came to life when Chrissy made a late substitute appearance. And at the final whistle they could hardly contain their excitement as Chris got a rapturous round of applause as he performed his ledgendary tunnel celebration. Sad. Just a pity they can't put as much energy into supporting the team on the pitch. Fans, they don't know the meaning of the word.

At least they'll be pleased to read in the programme that the Club has decided to take the full allocation on offer for the forthcoming trip to Reading. The Club expect demand to outstrip even the 2,000 tickets on offer. They also took great delight in reiterating the current away ticket allocation policy. Yes, the blanket wearing, flask waving ValleyGolders get first dibs again whilst those who may not be in ValleyGold but are making the much longer and considerably more expensive trip to Wigan the previous week are left to wait patiently in line. Why ?? I've always been against a policy which basically rewards those who can afford to pay a tenner a month into VG over those who prefer to spend their money actually supporting the team. We'll be able to spot those at the MadStad who are there just for a jolly-up and a new ground a mile off (any true Charlton fan has been there already, a pre-season trip a few years ago). And will they support the team, will they end up hoarse urging their team onto victory?. Will they heck as like. It'll be moans about fans standing, fans swearing, people shouting too loudly in their earholes and their blanket getting dirty as other fans have the temerity to celebrate a Charlton goal. Whatever next?

Perhaps we should book Chris Powell as a warm up act. That'll keep 'em happy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Operation Wigan (or get off your backsides)

Well, despite all good intentions it seems that Operation Cottage, instigated by the Charlton Life team, reported on here previously, has hit the buffers. A great idea and a very good attempt but it just doesn’t have the required exposure, at least not yet.

It has been suggested that Charlton have sold around 1,000 tickets for the game. Rumours of 2,500 plus Addicks making the short journey to West London seem unfounded. Some fans are still saying they will turn up on the night and pay on the gate, and undoubtedly they will be able to do so, but come mid-afternoon on Monday 16th, it’s raining and a mate calls to say how do you fancy a curry at the Omar Khayyam followed by a few pints down The Red Barn watching the game on Sky it is far easier to say okay when you have not already coughed up twenty-five quid for a ticket than when you have. If you are going to go then get off the fence, ring the Club and get your ticket. Otherwise shut-up.

Perhaps it’s already time for Charlton Athletic themselves to consider their annual ‘freebie’ trip. In fact it could be said that now is the time more than ever before. The previous ‘freebies’ to Port Vale, Forest, Bolton, Boro’ etc have all been launched to propel us towards glory, whether it be promotional glory or FA Cup glory. The same theme remains though; good times, happy times, times when we shouldn’t have needed such encouragement to support the team. Now the boot is on the other foot, nearly. Perhaps not yet bad times but, make no mistake, another couple of bad results and the bad times are just around the corner. The team, injuries permitting, is good enough for a top-ten finish, but once you become entrenched in the bottom three then it becomes psychological and whoops, before you know it, down you go. So it’s time for the Club to launch Destination Wigan.

Why Wigan you ask ? Well, for a few reasons :

1) we’d be able to get a large allocation of tickets.
2) the tickets will be of a reasonable price.
3) Newcastle is too soon, Sheffield Utd could be too late whilst Reading, a week after Wigan, is a new ground for most, a reasonable travelling distance, shouldn’t be too expensive and so should be well supported anyway. Another reason to get a large following up to Wigan the previous week.
4) it’s a winnable game.
5) it’s a great idea.
6) it can’t get any worse than last year at the JJB !!

So, it’s time to back Destination Wigan.

Let’s hope that someone at the Club (preferably someone important) either reads this, is alerted to this or are so clever that they have already had the same great idea. Failing that perhaps our Fans Representative will take up the baton and run with it. He can even claim all the credit if he wishes. Over to you Ben Hayes, let’s see what you are made of.

Up The Addicks !!