Thursday, 5 March 2015

The ticket price issue

I have had some difficulty in following the complexities of the season ticket price issue for next year, but it seems that what it boils down is that, despite the fact that the club announced that prices will be frozen, most people will end up paying more. This is seen as another example of the club misleading fans in a way that is counter productive.

All this will play into the narrative of the 'Napoleonist' group of former Valley Party activists and VIP directors who are engaged in all out hostilities with the Belgians. They consider that the club is displaying amateurism in handling a number of matters, despite staffing levels being higher than when we were in League 1.

Much of their ire is directed at Katrien Meire whom they consider lacks sufficient relevant experience to run a football club. As I don't work for her, I have no means of judging this one way or the other. However, it does seem to me that football is a very conservative sector of the economy, note the considerable resistance to the use of video technology to assist referees (there have been some awful examples of poor decision-making this season). Another dimension of this conservatism is the relative lack of women in senior positions. It does seem to me that Roland is at least prepared to shake things up a bit and challenge some of the prevalent conventional wisdom, e.g., about the necessity of agents (although Charlton have still made use of them).

There are certainly one or two oddities about the season ticket purchase process. When I clicked on 'buy season tickets' I got a 404 error, so I have printed out the relevant form. I notice that there is a £5 charge for using a credit card which I don't recall in previous seasons and it is not made clear whether this applies to debit cards, so it looks as if I will be writing out a cheque and putting it in the post. The April 10th deadline to retain an existing seat seems early to me.

It's not the Belgian ownership or the flaws in the network model that would put me off renewing, but the pessimism and negativity of many fans. Of course, all fans tend to complain about their own club, but sometimes I think that it is worse than usual at Charlton. On top of that one now has to do battle with people with whom one was previously on amicable terms over the current regime.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

'This Luzon bloke does have a clue'

That is what one Addick tweeted after Charlton beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 at The Valley tonight through a Bulot brace.

Tony Watt launched one of his trademark attacks early in the game, but got fouled.

Tony Watt was taken out as he went steaming forward and a yellow card was given to Lascelles. From the free kick Bulot put it into the top left-hand corner with a screamer to make it 1-0 after six minutes. The Gabonese fans I passed in Floyd Road on Saturday would be happy if they had come again.

Antonio got the ball on to his right foot and put the ball into the bottom left-hand corner to make it 1-1 as Henderson made a despairing drive.

Lawrie Wilson was brought down off the pitch by Antonio and needed the attention of the physio.

Watt didn’t have enough support as he forged forward and ran into a dead end. Lansbury put a shot straight at Henderson.

Diarra had to clear the ball away as Charlton were under pressure from Diarra. This led to the first corner of the game. Henderson got his fists to it and put it out. The curling ball caused chaos. Charlton struggled to get the ball clear, but it eventually went out for a goal kick. However, the old Charlton vulnerability in defending corners showed.

Forest had the upper hand as news came through that Millwall were 2-0 down at Boro. Diarra did well, but was thrown head first into the advertising hoardings. Charm merchant Lansbury was lucky to get away with a yellow card.

Wilson did well as Antonio threatened again. His powerful runs had troubled Reading last Saturday. Henderson was unsighted as Antonio made a shot and Henderson put it out for a corner. The ball went out for another corner. Henderson missed it, but the ball went out for a goal kick.

Charlton needed to get back in the game as Forest were on top. Wilson delivered a good ball into the box and Bulot buried it to make it 2-1. This is Bulot who was written off in the last Voice of the Valley by Steve Dixon: ‘I cannot remember a significant contribution from [him].’

Cousins battled well with Osborn as two minutes were added on. Harriott seemed to be in trouble after he tripped up. Good work by Vetokele dealt with Antonio.

HT: Addicks 2, Forest 1

With Harriott off with a knock, Eagles came on. Bikey replaced Wilson. Luzon showed that he was not afraid to make half time substitutions.

Forest got a free kick in a dangerous position after protestations by Antonio. Vetokele intercepted for a corner.

Charlton got their first corner of the game, but it was unproductive. Diarra defended well.

Forest put in a header which went over the bar, Bikey told Fox he should have got it away.

Antonio was still causing problems, muscling Eagles out of the way.

A Forest shot curled wide. They had got the upper hand in the second half. But then Charlton put in some good work with the ball hitting the defender for a throw in.

Gardner, who had had a frustrating time in the second half in his role of feeding Antonio, was taken off.

Henderson took the ball well as the offside flag was raised, but it looked as if he had injured his shoulder, but he carried on.

Vetokele couldn’t just get to a ball that was chipped in by Gomez. Dexter Blackstock came on for Forest. Bikey defended well.

Burke got away from Fox but Bikey blocked his shot. Lansbury came off and was replacesd by Vekdwijk.

Bulot had shot on 85 minutes, but it was held by Darlow in the Forest goal. Vetokele went down and Lepoint came on. Darlow kept out a header from Watt and a shot by Bulot was blocked. Lichaj was booked for a foul on Watt. Antonio was then shown a yellow card for a bad foul.

Forest got a late corner and Darlow came up but to no avail.

The Addicks are now 14 points above Millwall who lost 3-0 at 'Boro. Charlton are now 5th in the form table.

Forest pose tough test

Against Nottingham Forest tonight Charlton face a team that also won 3-0 on Saturday, demolishing Reading 3-0 away. Forest are currently top of the form table while Charlton are 8th. In the real table Forest are currently 9th, nine points off Norwich in the lowest play off place. However, under Dougie Freedman, they must fancy their chances of making up this ground before the end of the season.

Even so, Freedman is concerned that the rejuvenated Forest side may not have enough games left. The former Palace manager commented at the weekend that teams higher up the table kept winning their games.

Forest did not have it all their own way against the Royals. After initially controlling the game with their passing, Freedman said, 'In last 15 minutes of the first half, we were by far the second best team. We had to defend for our lives, keep our bodies on the line, and the keep the ball out of the net.' Forest took the lead in the 56th minute with a well-struck left-footed curling effort by Osborn from 30 yards out.' Osborn was the standout player for Forest, getting a mark of 8 from the Football League Paper.

The away encounter earlier in the season ended 1-1 and our recent record against Forest has been reasonably good. However, they will be looking to take all three points tonight or at least secure a draw. The bookies do not see our prospects as all that good (Coral): Charlton 2/1, Draw 9/4, Nott'm Forest 11/8.

Charlton have a couple of injury worries in Gudmundsson and Solly who suffered muscle strains in Saturday's match. Tal Ben Haim will face a late fitness test and Johnnie Jackson remains out for some time. Gudmundsson is our second leading scorer after Igor with seven league goals. The contribution that vice-captain Solly brings to the team in terms of effort, determination and skill needs no emphasis.

Some fans have been working themselves into a lather about season ticket prices for next season, pointing out that they have not in fact been frozen as the club claims, or at least only in comparison with post early bird prices last year. The raising of the senior concession from 60 to 65 had some fans spluttering in their Bovril, but it seems reasonable enough, particularly when the club clarified that existing season ticket holders in the 60 to 65 age range could continue at the concessionary price.

Once again the communication was poor, but it looks as if some fans are looking for any stick with which to beat the current regime while they wait for a resurgent Valley Party to march from Woolwich.

Much to my regret the time at which I will be leaving work today, and the lack of foresight of I K Brunel leading to a severed rail line, means that I will not be able to make tonight's game. I am going for a 1-1 draw.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Charlton praised for work on Down's Syndrome

This morning's Times praises Charlton Athletic for its work on Down's Syndrome in relation to the Charlton Upbeats Day: 'The club host football's most well-attended Down's Syndrome project nationally and are keen to take the lead in raising the profile of World Down's Syndrome Day on March 21st.'

The paper praises 'such incredibly selfless and understated work' and contrasts it with the experience of Kevin Kilbane who is a patron of the Down's Syndrome Association. As his career came to a close with Coventry City, he went to take a throw in and was told by one of his own supporters that his performance was so bad, he had got his just desserts in having a daughter with Down's Syndrome. Kilbane was quite restrained in his response which was just to tell him where to go.

Will it be Guy Luzon's red and white army?

When will fans start to sing Guy Luzon's name? Luzon said a week ago that he would win the fans round and the topic is being discussed on the boards. Fans did not object to Luzon personally, it was just the apparent manner of his appointment and the concern that he was another network cast off - although his first season at the mother ship was a good one.

The case for him being a useful coach is that he does seem to have some idea of what he is doing. The team does seem to be playing as a team in quite a disciplined way, Johnnie Jackson said that he really only achieved this at the Brentford match. His philosophy is to have a solid defence, but let the forwards express themselves which works well with Tony Watt whom he coached at Standard Liege.

The counter case is that we lost at Derby, which might not seem that surprising, but some fans thought that there were mistakes in team selection. It is also argued that the 3-0 wins could be a flash in the pan and we need to see ten matches to make a balanced judgment, a reasonable point.

His gyrations on the touchline are seen by some to be ridiculous and others as a sign of passion, but one explanation may be that he has a relatively weak voice.

The game against Notts Forest will be a crucial test of how far he has lifted the team. One would not expect fans to identify with him in the way that they did with Chris Powell. It is also possible that he may be replaced at the end of the season however well he does. The managerial merry go round is one of the least attractive aspects of life in the network. But, as with many things with Roland, it is a question of fifty shades of grey.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Same old Charlton: winning 3-0

Our most common result this season has been 1-1. But our most common winning score is now 3-0, all three victories achieved with Guy Luzon as coach. This was the result against Huddersfield Town this afternoon in front of a 'football for a fiver' crowd of over 25,000.

Charlton opened their account just before the half hour mark with a great free kick by Gudmundsson opening the scoring and in the second half Tony Watt scored two goals, the second goal a superb one. Despite being a network player, Charlton fans have quickly taken to Watt with his attractive attacking style and real skill with the ball.

Guy Luzon claimed in the programme that he is trying to create an attractive attacking style. Although we were dangerous in the opening five minutes, we had not really threatened until the set piece. However, we attacked with increasing pace, although the Terriers were capable of threatening on the counter. Henderson made some first class saves, keeping the clean sheet. 'Now don't cock it up,' yelled the Bloke Behind Me when we went 2-0 ahead, but we increasingly took charge in the game.

Charlton have gone up to the top half of the table again in 12th position and are 11 points above Millwall who lost at Rotherham. So what's going on? The explanation in CAS Trust News, distributed at the ground, was that the Head Coach has 'momentarily turned things around.' So it's a blip, but it's a decent blip and looks increasingly like keeping us out of League One.

I rang Derek from Dymchurch who has been at the UKIP convention in Margate and he told me, 'Clearly it's all down to the fighting spirit of the players. It's nothing to do with Luzon.' So if we had lost 0-3 today, what would he then say? 'Oh, in that case, it would be down to Luzon. I don't begrudge him his bit of luck, but these Belgian geezers always get found out in the end.'

Chris Powell got appropriately warm applause on his return, with many fans also applauding at the third minute. I was particularly pleased to see Richard Rufus walking round with the Academy players after all his troubles. My late wife was his kit sponsor for many years and he heard and acknowledged the shout of 'Roofus' from our row.

Player ratings

Henderson was certainly a close second for man of the match. He was particularly tested by Wallace's close range shot, but dealt with everything. The 17-year old Gomez was a great advert for the Academy in the centre back role. The yellow card he received was harsh. Giving Johnson a 8 this morning the Football League Paper said 'Four games, three clean sheets for Charlton since Johnson arrived at The Valley.' He wants to get his career back on track and that works for us. Of course, fans will say, 'why did we hold on to Morrison?' but I would think his wages were higher and we are losing £7m a year. I thought that Fox had a decent game, even though Scannell did get behind him once. Solly put in a very solid and professional performance, once again showing that his more mature than his years (something discussed in his interesting exchange with Johnnie Jackson in the programme).

Gudmundsson took his free kick well and he was active in midfield, but he didn't take a great part in open play. Even so, I was a bit surprised when he was the first player to be substituted, but maybe he was fading a bit or perhaps had picked up a knock. Cousins was very active in midfield, always available to receive a ball and pass it on well. In my view he is becoming a class act, a Lee Bowyer without the petulance. There was some debate around me about whether the yellow card was deserved. I think there was a shove, but the player shoved made the most of it. Bulot had some good bursts down the wing and provided some quality crosses and got warm applause when he was substituted. Buyens comes in for a lot of criticism from fans, but I thought he was better yesterday. The FLP gave him a 8 and said, 'Nothing flashy, but his neatness and protection enabled team mates to flourish.'

Igor combines well with Watt and provided the assist for both of his goals. Watt got a rare 9 from the FLP and was clearly man of the match. Luzon was impressed with him at the mother ship and wanted him at Charlton.

Wilson was energetic when he came on and didn't do anything wrong. Diarra looks a bit of a lump, but he can move the ball around nicely and knows how to pass to a Charlton player. Eagles moved the ball around confidently.

I know we don't do 'Hiss of the Match' any more, but I certainly would have given one to Vaughan who abused the referee for some time after a yellow card was finally given to a visiting player. He was lucky not to get booked for dissent.

Big day at The Valley

It's Football for a Fiver day at The Valley and most seats should be filled (some season ticket holders may not make it). For those who resent casual supporters turning up, it should be pointed that this is the only occasion when many families with tight budgets can come to The Valley. In this connection, it is good news that season ticket prices are to be frozen next year.

I would also point out that Crystal Palace had difficult selling out their allocation at West Ham and had to extend their eligibility categories. Glaziers received an e-mail from Alan Pardoo urging them 'to leave the sofa for this one. We're still short for Saturday. It's a massive game for us, if you can get there, please get there.' Prices are a bit higher than at The Valley, £43 for adults and £25 for children.

It's clearly going to being an emotional day, particularly for those who venerate Chris Powell or simply think that he was badly treated (which he was). However, we do need to take three points off Huddersfield Town who are close to us in the real and form tables. Away from home they have won four, drawn four and lost eight. They have conceded more goals than us away from home, but also scored more.

Jordan Cousins is expected to return after recovering from a muscle complaint. This is great news as he has been a key player in midfield, showing energy, skill and real commitment. He is, as the Covered End sings, 'one of our own.' New signing Alou Diarra and Chris 'Red Robin' Eagles could make their full debuts, while skipper Johnnie Jackson remains sidelined with a leg problem.

The last two home matches against them have been drawn. We also drew away at the beginning of the season. We last beat Huddersfield at home in League One in 2011. Odds are: Charlton 9/5, Draw 9/4, Huddersfield 13/8.