Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A Rare Treat...

Chris Powell will be nursing a headache this morning, but one he will welcome with open arms. For those 6,000 hardy Addicks who ventured to the Valley last night - no doubt assuming they would be facing one of those painful and dire nights where you are left wondering why you bothered - a rare treat was in store. A glorious treat indeed! All of a sudden, Saturday's starting 11 is not quite so obvious. Powell's headache was created by an Addicks second 11 full of energy and desire and who thoroughly deserved victory against the Championship Royals. In fairness, the winning margin should have been more if Charlton got what they deserved in full.

Further more, and as bold a statement as it may seem (I deliberately wrote this the morning after, to ensure I still felt the same), I haven't seen Charlton play that well and with such passion for years. I loved every minute of it. Absolutely brilliant entertainment! Well done lads. The smiles around the Valley were great to see.

In reality, every player on the pitch had something to prove, whether, like Benson or Francis (who, in particular, played outstanding: his best game for the Addicks by a country mile) the future is a little uncertain or whether, like Pritchard, Izquierdo, Green and Mambo, their future is on the up and is firmly in their own hands. Hughes (who, in that central midfield role reminded me of Matty Holland), The Doc (who looked reassuringly steady) and Euell (who had the intelligence we have sometimes missed up top) complimented the young enthusiasm wonderfully well. Wagstaff's boundless energy as a sub was hugely impressive, and although he wouldn't thank me for saying it, may well be a great asset to us this season.

Jumping back to Francis in particular, surely he has given Powell the greatest food for thought? If a player must be worth a bit of extra effort from the coaching staff it must be this man. His height and strength are a real asset, as is his fitness. His consistency is the problem, we all know that, but I for one would love to see him given a second chance, and on the bases of last night, few who were at the Valley would argue. And what may well have been critical in his performance was that from the outset the Addickted were right behind him.

Furthermore, Pritchard looks a real effervescent talent. No nerves at all and full of thoughtful and intelligent passing, left and right. He was very unlucky not to get on the score sheet as well. My only concern about this lad would be his height, which, for a central midfielder is small.

This is one game, and so often we've faced false dawns. But dare I dream? Whatever team Powell is sending out is looking hungry and passionate to succeed, and the early season signs are positive.

If Charlton continue to take on the personality of their manager, then thank God for Chrissy Powell!!!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Away From Home

I returned home yesterday from a thoroughly pleasant 10 days sweltering in the glorious Spanish sunshine on the Costa Blanca. I couldn't do a travelogue even if I was a sharp enough wordsmith to do so as we so rarely ventured from the fantastic pool we had in our rented villa. Alongside the friends we went with - who had a very young baby - we very deliberately set out to have as quiet and relaxing holiday as we could: a stay that would be centred around our young children rather than our desire to drag them about sightseeing during the blazing hot days and then drag them in and out of restaurants in the evening. I'm pleased to say it worked for me - I have not enjoyed a family holiday more - and I am one of those chaps who could take or leave a summer holiday abroad generally. What I can say is the quality of the seafood in even the most basic of supermarkets was a most welcome surprise and our homemade Paella (pictured below) was one example of some excellent dinners we enjoying in the evenings whilst taking in the odd glass of Sangria here and there. There's a lot to be said for a San Miguel in temperatures edging towards the 40's!

None the less, a downside to holidays crammed inside that 6 week school break period is the risk of missing a home game at the front end of the season. It so very rarely happens at any time, but I absolutely hate it when it does. Saturday was total agony for me. No matter the distraction of family fun around the pool, my mind was elsewhere (SE7, to be exact). Worst still, my missus knows I'm getting fidgety and irritable leading up to kick off (and I really tried not to be, especially as we were with friends) and she doesn't like it one bit. She knows only too well where I'd much rather be, if only for that 90mins. Trying to keep abreast of action was also near impossible given my iPhones awful reception, so, as was the case with the previous two away games last week, I relied completely on the intermittent texts from my Mum, who was following the games back home.

I was delighted with the news of the victories at Notts County and CUFC, but like everyone else my mood was dampened by the last gasp equaliser by the Irons on Saturday. I've not had the chance to check over a single report of the 3 games whilst I was away, so I write this post without any knowledge of the mood of the Addickted. My hope is that although Saturday would have been a blow that would have almost felt like a loss (especially after being 2 up), for the most part there should be a fair amount of optimism that things appear to be looking a little more positive around the Valley. 10 points from a possible 12 is something I'd have settled for before a ball was kicked in anger this season, after all. I'll be back to my usual East Stand seat tomorrow night v's Reading, so I will be hoping to gauge for myself how well the team are progressing since I saw them against Bournemouth.

Whilst we was away my son decided he wanted a Spanish football shirt. Despite my desire for him to have something different (no surprise there - I wanted him to have an Alicante strip) in the end the young lad went for a Messi no.10 Barcelona shirt. Deep down I don't blame him and he looked as pleased as punch when he first tried it on. I must confess, seeing him in a Barca strip wearing the number worn by my footballing hero Maradona in his time at the Nou Camp made my heart burst with pride. Whilst I dried him off following a spell in the pool he said to me that "we support 3 teams don't we Dad?". Playing dumb I asked him what teams they were and he answered "England, Barcelona and....I held my breath.....Charlton". Thank God, I thought! Interestingly, and without my prompting, he went for the Barca jersey as the club badge has the cross of St George on it. A rational reason to suport a team abroad, I guess.

He's just about to turn 5 and he may well have a tough road ahead of him if he does follow the Addicks (I totally accept that's not guaranteed), so I can't begrudge him the shirt of a more well know football team, can I? Rather Barca than Chelsea or Man United!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

More Than A Passing Interest

When I emerged from underneath the railway tunnel on Ransom Walk and viewed the vast expanse of the Valley for the first time this season I was very quickly reminded of how much I missed the buzz and anticipation that Saturday afternoons at the football give you.

When Stephens scored our first goal this afternoon I was reminded of quite how powerful the emotion of following the Addicks can be and just why I could never give it up, no matter what. It was good to be back at the Valley: a Valley once again full of optimism. Let's hope it lasts.

But let's not get carried away. It did feel different by virtue of the numerous new and fresh faces on show, and perhaps equally as importantly, the lack of old faces who may have had the best intentions, but just represented a low period best forgotten.

We had central midfielders capable of running, tackling and...wait for it...passing!!! Hollands looks to be a great purchase, and young Stephens could well be a great acquisition and revelation.

The tough start to the season will test Powell's gameplan and young squad to the fullest, but with an encouraging performance (that's the point, it's encouraging...judgement reserved going forward), a clean sheet and 3 goals comes confidence and belief, which bodes well for the next month.

Well done lads, the start we all wanted. What next?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Rumbling Tummy...

I've just read the results of the BBC's Price of Football Survey which was taken across all divisions from the Premier League down. Interesting to a point, but hardly revolutionary stuff. It stands to reason that northern clubs will be cheaper days out whilst London and the south will be more expensive. Some of the figures may raise an eyebrow or two, not least of all the fact Leyton Orient are the most expensive club in League One from a spectator's point of view.

The figures are based on certain purchases an adult fan would typically make on a matchday: ticket, programme, pie and a cup of tea. Amazingly - and I'd honestly not considered this before - when I read this piece I realised that in 17 years of watching football regularly at the Valley, I have never once bought a pie or a cup of tea from any source inside the ground. Not once. Never. That extends to beer, Bovril, chocolate or anything else edible or drinkable for that matter (I would argue - without even trying it - that the beer / larger on offer is so sub-standard that the term 'drinkable' is stretched to the very limit).

For some odd reason I'm quite pleased with myself. 17 years...beat that!!!!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Google Images

Another two new players in...and another quick visit to Google Images to see what they look like! That's no discredit on their reputation or standing as footballers, but more to do with my knowledge of the lower leagues (or rather lack of it). I don't want to have a vast knowledge of the lower leagues, if truth be told. and now I will make a positive statement of intent for the new season! Given the opening sentence of my post I would normally follow it up with a lament about how far we've fallen that players are signed to my club that I wouldn't recognise if I bumped in to them on Floyd Road. Not any more! Positive thinking from here on inwards!

So with the arrival of the versatile and experience (as I'm led to believe) Andy Hughes, comes the 15th signing at the Valley this summer. With just 5 days to go to the new season, it is certainly far beyond the re-build I was expecting. Most encouraging. In fact, having not attended any pre-season games, it's likely I'll be clutching the reverse of the matchday programme throughout the game on Saturday to make sure I correctly identify my Wiggins from my Taylor's!

Like many others that have commented throughout the summer, I've not know a close-season like it and it certainly whets the appetite for the new season. Well done to Chris Powell (I suspect he has had more say in the new faces than some may like to give him credit for), Slater and Jimenez. Now we need to be patient and see if Powell can create a promotion winning team from this group of players. I think it's fair to say it won't happen over night and the tough looking start to the season isn't ideal, but the lengthier contracts handed out to younger players would suggest that success is not expected instantly, but rather this is a longer term plan. All of which is fine, as long as the signs of progression are there.

I've not been overly active on the blogging front over the close-season break. I've been really busy at work, but not least of all I do make a very deliberate effort to avoid football as much as possible in the close-season. I spend far, far too much time worrying about things when it all kicks of so I really do take advantage of the break. I have to say, when I do dip in to check on all things Addickted, the standard of the numerous Charlton-related blogs has been excellent. It says a lot that I no longer feel the need to move around the internet and instead just follow the regular and highly reliable posters...links found on the right-hand side of this site. The views I do not always share, but a unified passion for the Addicks is what links us all.

On the face of it, I'm about ready to jump on the rollercoaster once again. Onwards and upwards...Come on you Addicks!