Monday, 24 November 2014

The Alternative End...

Pre match, the Valley Crowd rose to their feet as one, eagerly awaiting their returning hero. Big Dave Lockwood, still behind the mike after nearly 40 years service invites the 55,000 sell out crowd to view the big screens perched high on the roofs at either end of the vast Valley stadium.  
"Let me take you back to the 22nd of November 2014..." he bellows enthusiastically. 
A loud cheer rang out as the video began. The Covered End drummer began beating a defiant rhythm. A few near misses to endure first as the hearts of tens of thousands of Addicks began to beat faster and faster. Then that glorious moment. Harriott slots the ball through to Tucudean, who, with ruthless abandon drills the ball high into the Millwall net. If he'd have picked up the ball and walked it to the goal he couldn't have placed it better. The Valley erupted wildly once again, just as they did 20 years earlier!
"And here he is. Ladies and Gentlemen, Geeeooooorge!"    
The applause rang around the valley for a good few minutes before Big Dave called for order.
"George, Just try and tell us what that moment meant for you and Charlton" asked Big Dave
In broken English the Romanian spoke to his adoring public. "For me, it was the turning point. To think that I would go on and score 24 goals that season, including the goal that got us promotion, was unbelievable. To see how the club have pushed on in the last two decades is remarkable and I'm proud to say I was part of it until my transfer to Barca. Winning the FA Cup the following year was special; it was my first game at Wembley, but of course, we would get used to that place for a while" 
"And do you feel guilty for what happened to Millwall that year and since?" Big Dave asked mischievously. George's smile seemed to reach the full width of the big screen to the amusement of the crowd. His humble dignity did not allow him to gloat and he politely declined to comment.
Tucudean left the pitch a hero once again, pumping his fist towards the Covered End. Alongside him was his son, Johnnie, born on that same day 20 years previous.
East Stander and Charlton fan, Hungry Ted, commented "I remember back in '98 when Shaun Newton stepped up to take his penalty in the Play-Off Final I was convinced he'd miss. I'd have put my mortgage on it and I was so relieved when I was proved wrong. That day I was 100% certain George would score. Never in question. What a moment. I've got a picture of George above my bed alongside Sir Chris. The missus hates it but the man's a legend, simple as that".  

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Not Quite Enough...

Regardless of how often we've actually met in the last 18 years due to our mixed fortunes, a victory against our nearest and least dearest neighbours still painfully eludes us. At least today we never rolled over in quite the same abysmal and gutless fashion as the last two Valley fixtures, but that's scant consolation, we wanted the win so badly, there's no point pretending otherwise.

And it could have been such a glorious end.

Oh George! I can imagine that you, like me and many other Addicks, will struggle to sleep tonight, tormented by what could have been. So close... 

Having seen it again, I wonder if Tucudean thought the job was done when he chipped the ball over Forde deep into injury time. Instead of simply walking the ball into an empty net and carving his name in Charlton history forever, the much-maligned Romanian was chased down by Millwall defenders before being left face down in the Valley turf. Perhaps if we'd scored from the resulting corner nobody would have thought about it again.

But we didn't. Our best chance had gone. Yet another disappointing derby result.

Perhaps the draw was a fair result. The stats would certainly suggest so. And yet I can't help thinking that this was an average Millwall side who were there for the taking. Both sides grafted in the manor in which you'd expect for a game of this importance, and at times it was decent enough to watch, but ultimately neither side could find that bit of magic in front of goal. I do wish Big Bob had started with two up front. I'm never keen on five in midfield at home, especially when the lone striker is still not 100% fit.

Sadly, tonight at least, this draw feels pretty close to a defeat. As I said earlier, we wanted the win so badly. 

Maybe tomorrow the positives will make things a little easier to accept. Gudmundsson, Solly and Coquelin were all superb. In the case of the latter, I can only hope we can secure the services of the Arsenal loanee for longer, especially with a busy Christmas period fast approaching. Young Pope stepped up from the bench in Henderson's absence and dealt with everything that was thrown at him, claiming a number of dangerous high balls into the box in the process. Harriott came on for the injured Buyens and proved once again why he can be both exciting and excruciatingly frustrating to watch. His desire to make something positive happen outweighs the downsides for me...just.   

I wonder what might have been had the ref played the advantage when Igor managed to shake off a heavy challenge to put Wilson through on goal late on. It was a poor decision from the official, and very bad luck on Charlton. We just don't get the luck in these games, do we?

Charlton remain unbeaten at home and despite dropping a place in the league, remain within touching distance of a play-off place. I would imagine Big Bob will be on the blower to Mr. Duchatelet tomorrow to gently remind him about our need for a new striker...

Monday, 10 November 2014

I Followed On...

As regular and unconditional as my attendance at the Valley has been for the last two decades, sadly away from home I remain an occasional face amongst the travelling Addicks. The problem I have is my job can mean sporadic weekend work and my careful planning to avoid clashes with home fixtures is more often than not to the detriment of away games. This and the fact it's asking a lot of 'er Indoors to have our two kids all day Saturday, every Saturday! Whether my bank balance could handle an uplift in my support is a whole different thought.   

For me, following Charlton on a matchday in any other way than in person still fills me with utter dread. I've always felt like the very moment I turn on a radio commentary I am condemning the team to certain failure and our appalling record when appearing live on the box is very well documented, although I can't accept responsibility for those defeats at the Valley. I don't even like following Sky's Soccer Saturday if I'm home as I can remember so many occasions when I've sunk to my knees in the front room following a goal conceded, more often than not within a split second of me turning the T.V on! I must confess, I never renewed my CAFC Player subscription last year as I was never using it out of fear of hearing the quite brilliant Peter Finch deliver some devastating news.

There have been the occasional exceptions. Norwich earlier this season springs to mind and I'll always remember that amazing game at Boundary Park in April 2012 when Charlton somehow held on to a one-zero scoreline against Oldham, despite having two men sent off by a referee who seemed hell bent on giving the home team the points. I dared to listen in from afar and was rewarded. Ultimate joy, but still utter agony to listen to.   

To avoid jinxing the teams, I often plan a long run for a Saturday afternoon. Unhindered by the temptation to 'tune in' I can lose myself for part of the match at least. That's what I done last Saturday and it was brilliant to be met with those extended O's, A's and L's from the club's excellent media team on Twitter when I got back. Those 6 mins of injury time nearly drove me back outside to pound the streets once again. Agony. Utter agony.

I have nothing but admiration for those Addicks who travel away from home regularly. Of the half dozen occasions I go away each season I know I'm likely to get at least one of those days like Saturday just gone, when all that time and effort is worth every penny spent.

It would be nice to have a pound for every time I hit refresh on my Twitter feed when Charlton are playing away. A little less stress would be nice as well!