Saturday, 31 August 2013

Victory At Last...

Well that's more like it. Charlton finally picked up their first win of the season on a blazing hot day at the Valley, and perhaps most satisfyingly of all, the pride and passion returned in abundance in an excellent performance against Leicester, one of the leagues in-form teams.

Pre-match there was a good few eyebrows raised by the already nervous and pessimistic Addicks when the team was released including a number of changes and a 3-5-2 formation. If it was a brave gamble, Powell got this one spot on. Isn't it typical of Charlton that when all hope looks lost they pull out a result?

No Solly. Not even on the bench. We were told he has a knee injury, but could it be his time with Charlton is up? Monday's transfer deadline day will reveal all, I guess. Fingers crossed he stays as I can't see any funds generated from his sale going back into the team.

But today we never missed him. In Solly's absence, Wilson whizzed up and down the right hand side superbly and on the other flank, Wiggins looked more the player we know he can be. Pritchard returned from suspension and gave us a typical lung-busting performance, covering every single blade of grass. Quite how some Addicks can't see how important he is to our side is beyond me. Kermorgant was a beast! Church deserved a goal for his non-stop running up top.

Morrison's first half goal calmed the nerves and Big Yann's header lifted the roof in the second half. Leicester pulled one back but our defence held firm, even throughout 6 agonising and unjustifiable stopage time minutes. The final whistle blew, the Valley erupted. Relief. Huge relief.

Off the pitch it was great to finally pick up a copy of @ValleyTalkBlog's brand new Charlton fanzine, Valley Talk. I met briefly with Joe, the man behind the new publication, before the game and I was struck with his drive and passion. If you follow him on twitter you'll know he's a breath of fresh air amongst hot-headed Addicks with his fair-minded and balanced views on Charlton and I wish him success if he tries to make the fanzine a regular feature. Oh, and by the way, my contribution to the publication can be found under the title 'The Valley; A Story of Destiny and Desire', wrote under my real name of Rod (no, I'm not called Hungry Ted as that would be odd).

Anyway, I'm off now to cook my dinner and have a celebratory beer. The season is finally underway for Charlton and we finally have a performance we can be proud of.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

A Crafty Beer...

As some of you who follow me on Twitter may have gathered, I'm a tad partial to a good craft beer or a traditional real ale. Earlier in the summer, when football and Charlton had taken a back seat, I began writing a post about the craft beer venues I frequent in London and I've finally got around to finishing it.

I don't think there has ever been a better time to be a beer drinker with an exciting, ever-growing list of independent microbreweries around the world pushing the boundaries of ingredients and taste to quite extraordinary levels. Not since I first discovered the wonders of continental beer, particularly from Belgium and Germany, many years ago have my taste buds been quite this excited!

All around London specialty craft beer venues are opening up at an encouraging pace (and seem to be thriving) and I'm going to share with you a few of my favourite establishments for sampling good craft beer and most often a tasty cheese board to boot! In no particular order of preference (all images are my own)...

I've chosen this venue over their sister bar in Camden as it's the one I frequent the most being close to Liverpool Street station. For some time I shunned Brewdog because of their youthful and brazen approach to merchandising, but how wrong I was to judge a book by it's cover. Primarily known for the Punk IPA you can find on the shelves in most supermarkets nowadays, this Scottish brewer is responsible for some of the most progressive craft beers currently in production. Outside of their own beer range they always have a healthy balance of guest beers on tap and in the bottle. Situated near the top of Brick Lane, the added bonus of this venue is a top quality take-away curry on the way home.

This is easily my favourite pub at the moment. Home to the Earl's Brewery, this gem be found in leafy Islington amongst attractive looking - and no doubt very expensive - Georgian houses, close to the Regent's Canal and within a short walk from Angel tube station. The wonderfully presented beer board (left) typically offers around 12 keg and 6 cask offerings with countless bottled beers to chose from. Recently I've grown very attached to Red Hook's 'Long Hammer IPA' (main picture above), which is a refreshing American IPA perfect for a late summer evening in the sizable beer garden out back. I can thoroughly recommend the food as well, both the snacks and the main meals.

Craft Beer Co. - Islington

With bars in Clerkenwell, Brixton and this featured one in Islington, in a craft beer sense, the Craft Beer Co. bars are as close as you get to a chain. But don't let that put you off, the emphasis remains firmly on the quality of beer. This venue, which is within walking distance of the Angel tube station on White Lion Street, has the feel of a traditional local boozer with big, comfortable leather chairs and a framed painting of Winston Churchill on the wall. Only one small criticism is that I don't always feel the bar staff have quite the knowledge to match their beer list, but that is being overly picky considering few craft beer venues will have quite this selection of cask, keg and bottle offerings. If you live on the south coast, you can visit their Brighton venue.

Duke's Brew & Que - Hackney

A real challenger to the Earl of Essex as my current favourite craft beer venue. A short stroll from Haggerston tube station on Downham Road, Duke's Brew & Cue is the home to one of London's finest independent brewers, Beavertown, who are the creators of another of my current favourite beers, Black Betty. As if the extensive list of craft beer on tap and in the bottle isn't enough, this great pub also specialises in meat based cuisine, particularly BBQ'd food (the aromas are quite something). The knowledgeable bar staff are friendly and the table service, particularly if you're sat outside watching the world go by in their small beer garden, is worth the service charge. It can be an expensive night in this venue, but it is definitely worth it!

The Euston Tap - Euston Station

When I first got interested in craft beer, this was the venue I would frequent the most. The Euston Tap is quite literally within spitting distance of the main line station, set in an unusual stand-alone square stone building. It's a small venue with a seated area upstairs and on busy nights it can get very cramped, but with around 150  bottled beers to choose from alongside extensive keg and cask offerings, you can forgive the lack of space. It was in this venue that I first tried a beer produced by the ground-breaking Mikkeller brewery of Copenhagen. The bar staff can sometimes come across as a tad arrogant and impatient, in my opinion, but I suspect this has something to do with the amount of punters who stroll in wanting a quick pint of standard larger before grabbing their trains home. None the less, it's well worth a visit. If cider is your thing, the identical building opposite houses The Cider Tap.

The North Pole - Islington

I only discovered this venue on New North Road, Islington, a year or so back and it's never let me down whenever I've visited since. The interior reminds me of a typical recently renovated pub and it does miss the quirkiness of some of the other venues noted in this post, but that's only a personal view and on the plus side it is spacious with plenty of seating to take the weight off after a hard days work (yes, that's how I justify a cheeky beer every now and again). The hand-pumps regularly feature independent brewers and the extensive list of draught and bottled options means you could spend a very comfortable night in the North Pole if you wished! The snack food is fantastic as well, as you can see from the picture to the left.
Stepping into this boozer, a favorite of fellow Charlton blogger, Marco, you could be mistaken for believing you'd just been transported back in time to the 1940's or 50's. I'll be bluntly honest: I nearly never added this to my list as I am somewhat put off by the open arrogance of the owners of the venue. From odd hand-written notes on the bar warning customers against asking certain questions to bizarre lists like this on their website, I'm a little baffled as to why they are so grumpy. So why have I included it? Well, because all of the above aside, it's a bloody good venue to enjoy a good quality, well kept pint and it's décor, cheeseboard (left) and the tiny walled beer garden add to the appeal. Perhaps more for the real ale drinkers than the hipster craft beer crowd, this is a great pub showcasing the best of the UK microbrewery scene. Another observation is the nice choice of piped music, which is played via an old style record player.

There are plenty of other venues worthy of a mention, like The Holborn Whippet - Holborn, The Pelt Trader - City of London, Jolly Butchers - Stoke Newington, The Hops And Glory - Islington and The Cock Tavern - Hackney, but given that I've not spent quite the same amount of time in them I can't really offer much more of a comment other than they are all worthy of a trip so you can judge for yourselves.

By the way, just in case you were wondering why I'd left out The Rake in Borough Market, I have done so as I've felt a little let down by their pricing policy on a few visits this year. Notably, they tried to charge me £6.70 for a bottle of Beavertown Black Betty and then when I questioned the price I was rather arrogantly told "Craft Beer, Craft Beer Prices. It costs a lot to get these rare beers to you". Needless to say I walked out. I know enough to know craft beer comes with a weighty price tag, especially the imported ones (Beavertown is a London brewer), but for me, this seemed more to do with exploiting the local, and dare I say it, naïve tourist trade that are in huge numbers, wide-eyed around the wonderful market. Make up your own mind, but I don't like to feel I'm being taken for a fool so I may well be cutting off my nose to spite my face here, but so be it.

Please let me know your comments, especially if you can add to this list as I'm always open to a new venue. And for the Addickted, please take a moment to read this Charlton to Greenwich Pub Crawl post by another fellow Charlton blogger and beer lover, Wrong Side of the Thames. 

Monday, 26 August 2013


I've been watching football long enough to know when something is not right and I'm not alone in being concerned. As Dave and Chicago Addick note in their most recent posts, all is not well on and off the pitch at Charlton and despite being a pretty positive sort of chap, I'm bracing myself for a very tough season ahead. This does not appear to me to be a simple case of finding form (although God knows I want to be proved wrong). No, this is the sort of deeper rooted problem that can be difficult to pinpoint and even greater to overcome. One things for sure, the spark appears to have gone out of our League One heroes: the question is why and how does Powell deal with it?
There's no secret that the playing budget is woeful, but for me, the real issue has to lie with the astonishing amount of senior players who will be out of contract next summer. As I alluded to in my post following the Boro game, perhaps it's about time we accepted this may not only be the fault of the board and the poor financial state of the club, but perhaps some of these players are actually keen to move on, but are refusing possible moves now so they can walk away for free next summer and command greater leverage in future contract talks. If memory serves me correctly, the day we signed Church and Sordell a rumour began suggesting Wiggins would be sold. The Addickted were incensed, but not one single person on my twitter timeline actually considered the thought that he may actually want to go. Wiggins, as you will be aware if you've watched the team this season, is under-performing from the high standards we've come to expect.
Sadly, he's not alone, Solly, Morrison and Hamer in particular all appear shadows of the players they were in the last two seasons. Our steady, reliable defense playing well off the boil, making uncharacteristic mistakes.
We should not flatter ourselves and assume players would never want to leave our club.
There is little doubt this team misses Johnnie Jackson's leadership and drive and so the simplistic view would be to hope that matters on the pitch improve when he regains full fitness. I'm not so sure even Johnnie can drag us through this battle. 
Of course, I could be wrong, and this may prove to be one of those post I look back on with embarrassment (I hope that's the case), but the poor form, body language of the team on Saturday and lack of clarity from the club worries me greatly. Without the ability to move players on and bring in new fresh hungry faces, Powell's job looks harder than it ever has. To motivate players who may already be looking elsewhere is immeasurably difficult.
Let's hope Powell can keep his own motivation up as he must feel like he's trying to tread water in treacle...      

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Great Weather For Ducks...

Just when you think you've seen it all, football throws up another day to remember. Unfortunately this time it's for reasons you'd rather just forget. Weather conditions stopped play at the Valley for the first time that I can recall in nearly two decades.

Of course, if you're an Addick it may well have been a blessing as Charlton looked woeful and out of sorts once again, finding themselves 3-0 down before the young and inexperienced ref suspended play for half an hour so even more rain could fall on the pitch. The nature in which we conceded each goal was embarrassing, although full credit to Doncaster for starting brightly, getting on with the conditions and taking their chances. I try very hard to be positive, but I'm really concerned at the form of our defence. Wiggins, Morrison and Solly were poor and Hamer should put as much effort into concentrating on his duties than he does moaning at the ref.

There is little question that once Church had pulled one back for Charlton the tide was turning, if you pardon the pun, especially as Doncaster were reduced to 10 men just before the half time break. Nobody could say whether we'd have got back in the game, but given the bizarre nature of the day it wouldn't have surprised me. In fact, knowing Charlton's luck we'd have gone 4-3 up and then the ref would have abandoned the match!

On the plus side, young Cousins looked decent and it's a shame his full debut will be erased from the record books. Hopefully he gets another chance soon.

Match day announcer, Dave Lockwood, rightly pointed out via twitter after the game that the name of our ground hints to why we may struggle to cope with heavy rainfall, especially given that water does not run up hill! Perhaps if our ground was names 'the Hill' I'd happily accept the criticism that our ground staff never done enough. The true fact is (and you couldn't judge this unless you was there) that an army of workers could not have improved matters to a waterlogged pitch when the rain continued to fall heavily. Contrary to the opinion of some fans from Doncaster - who clearly weren't at the game - the rain never even looked like stopping and the play had long since been reduced to a farce before the ref called the game off from the safe surrounds of his dressing room at half time.

Weather...ahem....whether or not it was 'unsafe' to continue could be gently debated over a post-match pint, but the fact the ball wasn't always rolling true and would occasionally stop dead when it should bounce confirms the decision was 100% correct, no matter how tough it is on Doncaster. You do have to feel for them, as they will have to revisit SE7 once again, most likely on a Tuesday night when travel for their fans will be tougher, and to make matters worse, the slate will be wiped clean and the game will start zero - zero.

I did have to laugh when the PA played 'Why Does It Always Rain On Me' by Travis after the suspension in play...

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Grin...

Chris shot upwards in his bed, sweat dripping off his brow, heart pounding with such a pace he feared it may jump out of his chest. He leant across to his side cabinet and silenced the alarm clock before looking around the room, rubbing his eyes in an attempt to focus better in the half-light. He paused momentarily on the super-hero costume that hung on the wardrobe door. Chris drew a deep breath and dropped his legs heavily out the side of his bed before shuffling his feet into his slippers, wiggling his toes in an attempt to warm them through. He glanced at the alarm clock once again as if hopeful it had made a mistake and he could return to his slumber.

Outside the rain continued to lash down aggressively and the wind whirled around, rattling the branches of a tree on the window.

'Beep, beep - beep, beep'. An incoming text. It was Dyer. 'You up yet, gaffer?'.

Chris stared intently at the words, allowing them to dissolve and disappear as he drifted deep into thought. Once again he glanced over at the wardrobe and that costume. It hung gently now, but when worn it weighed heavy.

'Beep, beep - beep, beep'. Dyer again. 'Gaffer, the boys are turning up. It's bloody pissing it down. When you getting here? How long you gonna be?'.

Slowly Chris began walking towards the dressing table. He sat down and stared deeply into the mirror. Placing both hands on either side of it, and lifting it gently to his face, he began applying his huge grin, manoeuvring it into position carefully. It sparkled magnificently. The corners of his mouth rose high across his face and his pearly white teeth shone in the half-light. He stood up again and walked over to the wardrobe, lifting the disheveled fabric of his costume off the hanger. Left peg in first. Always left peg first. That was his strongest, after all. Tradition. Tradition. Tradition.

Outside the rain and wind began to calm and the branches retreated. Blue sky began pushing through the grim, grey sky. The birds began to sing joyously.

Mrs. P turned in the bed, peaked out from beneath the sheets and smiled lovingly at Chris. "Go get 'em, champ", she said full of hope. Chris never replied, but simply turned on his heels and left the bedroom, puffing out his chest as he powered across the landing; his cape flapping behind him. 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Sadly Lacking...

Writing this, I'm reminded of just why I love the closed season so much. No spoilt Saturday nights ruined by poor performances and disappointing results. 

If you was at the Valley today you'll know only too well how bad we were. If you wasn't, you'll just have to take our word for it. Not at any moment did Charlton look like they could manage to string three passes together, let alone attempt a decent shot on target. Disjointed, lacking in quality and perhaps most worryingly of all, missing that passionate fight that has bridged many a gap where technical ability has been lacking on occasions. Have our League One heroes ran out of steam?

Wiggins, so often the galloping marauder down the left, looked flat and unsure of whether to stick or bust, Solly, similarly, looked unwilling to commit going forward with the unpredictable Green in front of him. I said midweek that we should be cautious in calling for Green's inclusion, and I can't help wondering if Wilson would have been the better option today. It is obvious why Powell prefers Pritchard on the right, that's for sure. Johnnie Jackson returned in the centre of the park but had no impact as he and Gower failed to grab hold of the game. Up front Kermorgant huffed and puffed in typical fashion, but other than a weak left foot shot and a header over the bar, never once looked a threat. Sordell looked disinterested at best. If his abject performance is down to fitness, then I will reserve judgement.

The comedy of errors that lead to Boro's goal, starring Gower and Hamer, was nothing short of embarrassing. Boro were only marginally better than us, which rubbed salt into the wounds.

Only Dervite came away with any credit today. His performance was actually worthy of praise. Church came on and zipped about enthusiastically, and after his brace midweek he must fancy his chances of starting next Saturday against Barnsley. An effective front pairing for the Addicks looks some way away.

The only thing worse than today's performance was those idiots who booed the team at the final whistle. After a performance like that the team must accept a level of criticism, but we are only two games in, after all. Things can change quickly in football. Before next Saturday Powell must work out how to get the best from the resources he has and get our season underway. How Charlton could do with another result even half as good as the last time we visited Oakwell...

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


In Charlton terms, last night's fine victory over Oxford United now officially means we are on a 'cup run'! Don't hold your breath, fellow Addicks, that it will continue, but lets enjoy it whilst it lasts.

Goals from Green, debutant Pigott and a brace from Church gave us a handsome victory at the Valley despite 10 changes from the side that lost to Bournemouth last Saturday. Oxford never really offered a huge amount, in all honesty, but Charlton impressed in a solid and determined performance. If this was our second 11, they certainly played like they had a point to prove, which has not always been the case in these games. I was particularly pleased with Jordan Cook, who looked great with neat first touches and forward passes. Danny Green must fancy his chances for inclusion this Saturday, although a few frustrating moments, particularly in the first half, reminded me of why Powell favours the more consistent Pritchard on the right. Don't be surprised if Lawrie Wilson gets the nod on the right on Sat instead, for he too had a good game.  

All this means that for only the second time in 6 years we can look forward to a second round draw, and who knows, perhaps a home draw against one of the 'big boys'.

The night was extra special for me as at the very last minute I decided to take my boy with me. With no school the next day I thought it was a great chance for him to experience the Valley under floodlights. He loved it! Midway through the second half he turned to me and said "I love the Valley, dad". My heart melted...

One disappointment was the gate, although not in any way surprising, if I'm being honest. Just a little under 5,000 of us bothered, with an impressive 770 of them from Oxford. Too many times have Charlton massively underperformed in these games, so it's hard to criticise those that stayed away too much, but personally, if Charlton are at home, I go. Simple as that. I've never once in nearly two decades missed a home game by choice. What does puzzle me, though, is that throughout the closed season I saw endless streams of fellow Addicks on Twitter constantly going on about how they 'missed football and Charlton' and yet I'd love to know the percentage of those same people in attendance last night. People have good reasons for non-attendance, of course, so perhaps I'm being a tad harsh; or maybe the other 10,000 or so regulars were all on holiday!

All I do know is that they missed a very rare Charlton cup treat!