Monday, 21 December 2015

A Serious Lack of Festive Cheer...

If I had a Christmas wish, I'm damn sure I wouldn't waste it on Charlton. And anyway, it would take more than a Christmas miracle to change our fortunes any time soon.
 
Saturday's defeat ensures that we will be spending Christmas Day in the relegation zone and after the Boxing Day game at Bristol City we will have reached the half-way point of the season with the worst goal difference in the division. It could be a very bleak 2016!
 
My fellow blogger, Chicago Addick, wrote this excellent piece on Karel Fraeye earlier today: The Circus of Karel Fraeye. I think we all realised pretty quickly that Fraeye was going nowhere. His appointment permanent from the outset: the 'interim' tag just a very poorly actioned smoke-screen to fool very stupid people. It fooled nobody. Meire was foolish enough to think it would.
 
There is no recruitment process is there, Katrien? Another lie. It is painfully clear that Duchatelet was hoping for an upturn in results (a new manager bounce) before announcing his man in the post. It hasn't happened. It was never going to. I wonder if Roland and Meire are as embarrassed as they should be? 
 
On the desk of those poor chaps in the media team, still waiting issue, is a dusty memo from Meire that reads something like 'in light of the encouraging upturn in form and following an extensive and painstaking search, we have come to the conclusion that Karel Fraeye is the right man to lead us into the next exciting period in this club's history'.
 
Oh dear! The hapless Meire has got her work cut out justifying the appointment of a man who might well be 'nice enough' but is woefully short of the required basic credentials to run a Championship team.
 
I noticed yesterday that there are a few conspiracy theories doing the rounds surrounding Duchatelet's intentions, one of which relates to him actually orchestrating and  ultimately benefiting from Charlton's demise by justifying a lucrative sale of the Valley to property developers. Such is the state of the club at the moment, it's not hard to see how people have come to this highly pessimistic train of thought, although I'm less convinced. Mr. Duchatelet clearly doesn't give one ounce of a toss about us, so if he wants to put a 'for sale' sign up outside The Valley he will not waste time plotting our demise over a number of seasons.
 
Not that I can offer any explanation to his bizarre ownership. Nobody in their right mind would. 
 
As for me, I'm looking forward to my enforced hiatus over the holiday period and it will not be until Blackburn at home on the 23rd of Jan before I see the Addicks again. Heaven only knows what state we'll be in by then, but I'm not going to allow it to spoil my Christmas and a holiday with the family. I was going to do Colchester away on the 9th, but I can't be bothered now. Simple as that. I've decided to take my son to watch Arsenal v's Sunderland instead. He's an Addick, but he's found his own natural draw to the Gunners and I will not discourage it. What right would I have to anyway? I spent many happy Saturday afternoons on the North Bank at Highbury in my mid-teens with my Arsenal supporting mates, and I'm keen to visit the Emirates myself.
 
It will be nice going to watch a game of football knowing it can't spoil my Saturday night...
 
Anyway, enough of this negativity. Thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read anything I've wrote this year and especially those who take the time to comment. Have a great Christmas and New Year.
 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Not Good Enough...


I can only hope that some time in the not-to-distant future, when we're languishing in mid-table mediocrity in League One, struggling to get a foothold in another tough, uncompromising division Duchatelet has woefully underestimated, that him and the embarrassingly naïve Meire both eventually reflect on evenings like last night with deep regret. If ever there was a lamentable sign of the times, this was it.
 
Bolton Wanderers, a financial shambles of a club that's very future is in serious question, should have been easy fodder, even for us. Players unpaid again, bottom of the league, lowest goal scorers...etc You might imagine their players would be demotivated and demoralized. In reality, they looked far hungrier than our rudderless, worn-out, threadbare squad.
 
The game lacked quality all over the pitch. It was a poor example of a football match from two sides facing down the barrel of a gun.
 
Despite the unexpected surprise of a first minute goal and another on 26 mins, Charlton failed to take any form of control and with a mixture of truly embarrassing defending, poor decision making and tired passing, it was only a matter of time before Bolton got back in the game. Lookman's brace almost forgotten as the team trudged off, heads down, at half time. The Valley faithful struggling to hold back their anger.
 
Apparently there was 12,294 inside The Valley last night. My best guess would be nearer 8,000. The image above was taken 10 mins before kick off. I know the club must include season ticket holders who, for whatever reason, don't attend, but a 'true' figure of attendance should be printed as well, if only to embarrass the breathtakingly ridiculous Target 20,000 that Meire will undoubtedly persist with. I shake my head every time I think about it. Laughable!    
 
Duchatelet's immense stubbornness and Meire's naivity is killing this great club. I feel angry, but not in a way that wants to fight. It's a feeling that I've had enough. I'm fed up with feeling so negative about something I have given everything to for years and years. It's not good for you to feel that way.
 
Thankfully, I miss the next two home games as I'm away with the family over Christmas and New Year. I can count on two hands the total of home games I've missed in the last two decades, but it will be the first time in 21 years I have missed back-to-back games. At this point, I see it as a blessing: an enforced hiatus, if you will. My only regret is Duchatelet already has my money as a season ticket holder, so despite my empty seat, and my boy's next to me, Roland and Katrien will not care.
 
But that's what comes when generating a level of income is more important than ambition.
 
By the time I return I fully expect us to be cut well adrift in the bottom three, and....Fraeye to have been appointed full time. Lets not kid ourselves, Fraeye is going nowhere despite the poor results. Charlton's lack of managerial direction, ability and experience the very reason we're in this mess. 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Man v's Mountain?

Hill walkers amongst us will no doubt be familiar with a huge big rock formation in the eastern fells of the Lake District that looms ominously above anyone who dares to try and pass. A difficult enough obstacle at the best of times, but when tackled in conjunction with some of it's near neighbours like Fairfield and Heron Pike, it might well prove too much of a challenge for some. The mountain's name is Nab Scar. Now as you read that name you might be, as I was earlier this week, instantly reminded of our very own Naby Sarr, but unlike the natural rock formation noted above, our French defender is proving to be anything other than a forbidding, impenetrable rock.
 
I've had the great pleasure to walk the slopes of Nab Scar, and as fell walking goes, the most you really need to worry about is ensuring a firm footing for your feet. For the vast majority of Mr. Duchatelet's foreign imports, finding your feet appears the biggest challenge of all, and many have fallen over the precipice trying (if you can call it that) in some cases, never to return. My guess is Naby will end the same way, but I'd love to be proven wrong.
 
With Partick Bauer starting his suspension following another red card against Brighton, Charlton's leaky defence is under even greater pressure tomorrow against a physical Leeds United, and young Naby will need to step up and make something of his 6ft 5in frame. Let's hope tomorrow is a turning point for him.
 
I believe there is another protest planned behind the West Stand tomorrow at 14:30 which I will be fully supporting in principle if not in person. My boy is due to come with me tomorrow and I don't want him exposed to that side of following Charlton at the moment. He knows I'm not happy, but he doesn't really understand why. Perhaps you need to have done the decades of unabridged and uncompromised support to fully understand what is at risk here...at least in my opinion and those who will protest again tomorrow. At 9 years of age he's the future of this club, but after seeing his favourite player in Tony Watt given away loaned out recently, finding a reason to get excited about watching Charlton is harder to find than seeing Roland at the Valley on a matchday! 
 
Funnily enough, by all accounts, Mr. Duchatelet was at the Valley most of this week, no doubt listening to the hyperbole, rhetoric nonsense spilling out of Meire's mouth. She will have painted a very different picture than those of us in the 2% are seeing, that's for sure. I wonder what his thoughts are on Target 20,000 when gates continue to fall. He may be unrelentingly stubborn, but surely he's not as naïve as Meire?
 
Unsurprisingly, as he's not a Charlton fan, Mr. Duchatelet will not be staying on to watch the game tomorrow. His absence clearly setting a growing trend amongst so many other genuine Addicks...  

Monday, 30 November 2015

Meire's Faulty Abacus...

 
If I didn't know any better, I'd think Meire has been tapping away at her faulty abacus again (the same one that calculated that just 2% of us had the hump). One thing is for certain, if you exclude the 2,500 odd traveling Tractor Boys, then there was never 13,500 odd Addicks in the Valley on Saturday. I'd hazard a guess that it was well below 10k in the home areas, and with 10mins to go, I'd put that figure as low as 8k.
 
Sorry, Katrien, can you run through Target 20,000 again?
 
It was very disappointing to see Johann's comments in News Shopper this morning. If you've not seen them, they can be found here. Whether he misunderstood (or wasn't fully aware) of what the protest was for, my view is that it's an embarrassing reflection on Johann if he can honestly say that a peaceful protest staged in the 2nd minute of the game that lasted no more than a minute adversely effected his (or Charlton's) performance. It's certainly true that the stadium was drowning in a tsunami of apathy, but rather than criticise the fans for taking measures out of sheer desperation, how about looking up at the directors box for a change of attitude.
 
Might I also remind Johann that it is as much his job to produce a performance to lift the fans? We can' always rely on Johnnie...  
 
Ironically, I didn't actually feel the protest had quite the effect I was anticipating. It was actually very difficult to make out the posters (see image above) and gauge it's impact, but one thing is for sure, it wasn't supported by many. The chap behind me, for example, put a very good case forward to support certain aspects of what Mr. Duchatelet was doing, although he did accept he needs to address his approach to the playing side of things and that Meire was woefully out of her depth and far too dismissive of genuine issues. Both of those points, by the way, form the bases of my concerns. Beyond that, we could be closer to a happy conclusion than you might think.    
 
But sadly it's obvious that Mr. Duchatelet has no intention of picking a manager / head coach without whom there is already an established working relationship, and as such, I fully expect Fraeye to be given the job until the end of the season under the pretence that 'after a carefully considered search and detailed recruitment process, no suitable person has been found' followed by some ironic nonsense about 'stability during a difficult period'.
 
I like Fraeye; I think he speaks well and there is no question he's throwing his heart and soul into the job. I'll back him all day long for that. The big problem is, when wily old managers like Mick McCarthy roll into town with a team that is, on paper, no more impressive than ours, there is a high probability we'll get turned over. With all due respect, has Fraeye got the depth to his tactical nous to compete in the Championship long-term? Maybe a good addition to a back-room staff. Imagine him and a Mick McCarthy together and you're not far off, right?  
 
Therefore, it appears we will continue to amble aimlessly, winning the odd game here and there, but will inevitably lose more. Mid-table is a distant dream at the moment. Once again, I am left hoping there are three teams worst than us come 5pm, Sat 7th May.  
 
Nothing to suggest the apathy will lift any time soon then...    

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A 'Proportionate Protest'...


This blog is intended to provide a chance for me to air my own personal views, but you'll have to forgive me if I bang the drum for what I believe is a greater cause.
 
Full credit to the Voice of the Valley and those behind the 'Spell It Out' campaign for joining forces to get what they have sensibly called a 'proportionate protest' underway this Saturday. Full details and the poster (as above) can be found here. It's a great idea that, in front of the Sky cameras, should provide maximum exposure to the legitimate concerns of Addicks. It should also encourage the otherwise clearly intelligent Katrien to calibrate her calculator and redo her sums. Whether she wants to believe it or not, 2% is not representative of those unhappy at certain aspects of the way the club is being run.

It is also right that the initiative encourages the full support of the players. I will extend that support to Karel Fraeye as well. I can't agree with the nature of his appointment, but like the Network flunkies deemed worthy enough to coach manage before him, he is not to blame here.

In many respects, I would favour this form of protest over the mass gathering behind the West Stand, which always has the potential of descending into primeval sexism or racial abuse, which detracts from the intended impact and plays into the hands of Meire. I'll stand alongside my fellow concerned Addicks all day long, but I won't entertain that sort of approach.      
 
I guess Katrien will have hoped the recent fans' meeting and the subsequent update that followed a few days later will have appeased restless fans. To her credit, it's a tentative step in the right direction and two back-to-back wins will have helped her cause still further (and those of the interim manager she has employed). Football fans are a fickle bunch, so I'm sure it has placated some, but not me. Not just yet.

Actions speak far louder than words.

My feelings on this matter are not a petulant rant against a regime that has undoubtedly done some good, but more about the concerns of what I'm slowly losing: the identity of a club I fell in love with many years ago and one that is intrinsically linked to my heart and soul.

Oddly enough, despite all this, I actually believe Katrien's intentions are good (regrettably I can't say the same at this point regarding Mr. Duchatelet), but for me, the fans' meeting highlighted just how detached she is from the true feeling of so many Addicks. She spoke in detail, but her words lacked any form of genuine depth and were, for the most part, woefully short of a credible, achievable conclusion that I can believe in. Perhaps nothing represent this better than her Target 20,000 initiative. Sounds wonderful in principle, and I'm sure some were wooed with the positivity of it all, but we all know that this club will never get 20,000 fans regularly through the gate unless we are in the Premier League. That's not being defeatist or negative, it's being a realist.

As a season ticket holder of 18 years I have never been closer to not renewing. That's not an idol threat, but the thought frightens me more than I can say.

I wonder if she even cares why I feel this disenchanted, or is her priority the 'new fans' who might not share my nostalgia for what this club has stood for? Perhaps rather than prioritising new fans she should first try and retain those who have stuck with this club through the dark days...
 
Anyway, as I said right at the start, this is my view alone and I make no attempts to sway anyone's opinion. Join the 2% only if you want to.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Digging The Hole Deeper...

 
If it was possible for Katrien Meire to make matters worse, then it would appear she has done just that. The hole she began digging 18 months ago has just got a whole lot bigger. Last night's fans meeting should have provided an opportunity for her to reach out to the disenchanted, angry and apathetic, but instead, if the quotes prove to be a genuine and fair representation of the events, then it looks like she as thrown petrol on the fire. Rather than admitting the repeated failings of the regime on a number of massive issues, it appears Meire has reinforced her defences and thrown a few hand grenades over the barricades.
 
I should quickly point out that I wasn't there: unlike the privileged few in attendance I was left to follow matters on Twitter. Perhaps I should wait until the video is released to draw conclusions? Possibly, but there appeared to be a level of consistency to the reporting from well-respected sources, so a change of opinion seems unlikely.
 
A couple of stand-out Meire quotes from the night via Brad Pinard of London24Sport:
 
"We have improved with every manager we have had. They have been the right decisions"
 
"I want [Charlton] fans to stand up against the negative people and don't giver them a platform. It was unacceptable"
 
The first quote beggars belief! There is some confusion surrounding the second quote, with some suggesting it only related to the behaviour of the minority at MK Dons a week back. Naturally many, many others have assumed it was in reaction to the fans protest. Either way, she needs to question the cause of the negative vibes and deal with that.
 
I also noticed a quote from Meire that suggested "they will give Fraeye all the support he needs". So expect the word 'interim' to be dropped shortly then. No surprise there. As she says, improvement to every manager... 
 
I would love know if anyone asked her about the photos she took whilst sniggering at us gathered behind the West Stand. If anything was 'unacceptable' it was that.   
 
To offer a sense of balance to this, I noted that Rich Pemberton, who is a CAST board member and was present at last night' meeting, said in a tweet that he was "surprised by the tweeted reports. Lost context I think. Nowhere near as bad as presented and fans' contributions understated". I noticed something similar from another attendee, but can't find the quote on my timeline now. Fair enough, those chaps were there so I fully respect their opinion. We will get a chance later to view the video and judge for ourselves.
 
But one thing is for sure, regardless of the arguments and whomever is right or wrong, and regardless of whether it's the minority or majority that feel anger and resentment towards Duchatelet's regime, Katrien Meire is completely responsible for the mess this club is in. In many respects, I see her as the greatest immediate problem to solve. I don't care one bit if she's being treated shoddily by Mr. Duchatelet. That's down to her to deal with. Mr. Murray needs to take a long hard look in the mirror as well, in my humble opinion. His credibility is rapidly going downhill, and it pains me massively to say that. 
 
The peaceful protests must continue until Duchatelet and Meire accept the damage they are doing. Last night should ensure those that may have otherwise have sat on the fence will join in.
 
See you outside the West Stand on the 28th.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Massive Victory!

 
A win at last, and three goals to go with it! I had forgotten what it felt like to celebrate a goal, let alone reflect on a game of football I actually enjoyed. Johnnie, in typical fashion, drove us on to our first victory in 13 games, and kept us to within touching distance of our relegation rivals. The relief around the Valley at full time was tangible. How nice it was to see the tunnel jump once again, even if our talismanic skipper would only treat us to one.
 
Whether we want to accept it or not, Duchatelet's latest flunky Interim Head Coach, Karel Fraeye must take some credit for setting the team out in an interesting 4-1-3-2 system that either took Wednesday by surprise or...let's give him some credit here...outwitted the inform Sheffield side. In reality, perhaps Wednesday were so certain of victory they slipped on the banana skin and never quite got going. 
 
The bittersweet feeling post match was that this win could hand Fraeye the job full time. Nothing personal, Karel, but I hope this was your last match in charge. 
 
Diarra sat in front of the centre backs offering the sort of reassurance that resonated into the 3 home stands at the Valley, and a sense of calmness and control prevailed for once. Gudmundsson was busy, and Ba made us forget Cousins was absent. Up top Ghoochannejhad looked like a man who had something to prove.
 
And then, after 25 mins, a goal. Yes, a GOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!! Jackson. Who else, to put us in front? A powerful header as he drove unmarked into the box from a corner.
 
To our disbelief and delight, Makienok scored again just before half time after some neat work from Ghoochannejhad and the team left the pitch to a standing ovation. The fans recognising the effort that had been woefully lacking in recent games.
 
Smiles returned, but for how long?
 
Our third goal arrived after 55 minutes from our re-born Iranian striker following some unselfish play from the much-maligned Morgan Fox. A consolation goal failed to lift the visitors, and victory was ours.   
 
 
Before the match there was the important matter of a fan protest to attend! Many questioned whether it will make any difference to the bloody-minded arrogance of Duchatelet and the hapless Meire, but I would like to think they will be a little surprised, if not unnerved by the size of the crowd that formed behind the West Stand (hard to gauge whilst amongst it, but I'm guessing at 350-400). At one stage Meire appeared as a lonely figure at a window, blatantly taking a series of images on her phone while appearing to smirk and snigger at the baying crowd. Make no mistake, her contempt shone through above any signs of empathetic concern. One could only hope she was sending those images back to Mr. Duchatelet, although she might try to pass them off as queuing folk at the turnstiles and Rolly might well be detached enough to believe her! 
 
Thankfully the demonstration remained peaceful, which is hugely important if we are to deny Meire the chance to dismiss matters as being driven by mindless yobs, but what impressed me the most was the demographic. I fully expected to see a younger crowd that you might associate with today's social media, but there were young and old gathered together for one common cause. Word has spread far and wide, and Meire should take note. Next up is the 'Black and White' day on the 28th when the protests will gain a wider audience in front of the Sky cameras.
 
But whilst we should undoubtedly enjoy it, we should remember that today's long-awaited victory changes nothing. Let's not let the euphoria of today's rare win mask the deep-routed problems caused by Duchatelet and Meire's repeated bad decisions. Duchatelet should use this forthcoming international break to appoint a manager or head coach with the correct credentials to do the job in this difficult and unpredictable division, and Meire should go off and find a job better suited to whatever talents she may very well have, because running a football club is not amongst them.

Friday, 30 October 2015

The Great Discontent...

So, according to this piece on the club's official website, "the club’s hierarchy are fully aware of supporters’ discontent" and will meet with fans. The meeting cannot come around soon enough. That discontent has been brewing for 18 months or more, and certainly since we knew in our hearts Chris Powell was a dead man walking. In that time there has been no credible attempt from the club's hierarchy to appease the concern with action, and for too long they have hidden away, relying on the odd decent result every now and again to pour a thimble-full of water on the raging flames.  
 
Cynics will question whether this is a shallow attempt to ease or even halt the impact of any planned mass protests in the short term, particularly with a televised home game coming up, but whilst I will be keeping my powder dry for now, I will give Meire and Murray the benefit of the doubt. And so should everyone else: I mean, why wouldn't we all hope some good comes out of this?
 
Perhaps the greatest frustration of all is knowing that if Mr. Duchatelet recognised and learnt from his obvious mistakes he could actually be closer to success than he is in trying to create an illogical model for the mundane at best.  
 
In case you missed it, Joe Hall, the man behind Valley Talk wrote this exceptional article that was printed yesterday in CityAM. Every single word resonates deeply with the vast majority of Addicks. I would love someone to stand up in front of Katrien Meire and Richard Murray and read it word for word and demand a response. I just hope that whomever is fortunate enough to address the pair can articulate themselves with the same depth of feeling as Joe did.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Deluded and Devious V's The Diluted?

 
You know what? I don't think Katrien Meire is as stupid or naïve as her actions would suggest. I think she has us, the Charlton supporters, well and truly sussed out. And if I'm right, I think her battle plan to ride this storm out is actually pretty devious clever.
 
I noticed a comment from a well respected former Charlton media employee in which he suggested KM is "very switched on when it comes to fans forums and social media". He went on to say "she'll know how unhappy fans are for sure". Of course, we all know that she is making absolutely no attempts whatsoever to appease our fears, so I'm left with the fair assumption she doesn't give a toss about us.

And that got me thinking...
 
I said myself via Twitter on Sunday evening that any fan protest against Mr. Duchatelet's bizarre, disrespectful and illogical running of our club needs to be very well coordinated or the effect of a number of smaller factions will be heavily diluted and the results easily dismissed. Within a few hours of Luzon's sacking a number of anti-Duchatelet Twitter accounts had opened up to 'compliment' those already out there, and with all due respect to the those behind the accounts and their worthy intentions, most barely get past double figures in followers.

Hardly readying the foot soldiers for action: something I honestly think KM is well aware of.

And yet, if you combined them all together, and had a single 'leader' directing the 'troops', then the effect is quite different. I think she knows that as well. In every respect, the vastness of social media is actually working on her side.

Again, on Sunday evening numerous suggestions for peaceful demonstrations appeared on social media, ranging from boycotting games to banners and focused chanting at certain times. All valid, but without coordination they will pass the majority by and have little or no impact.

We already know that KM has little regard or respect for the Charlton Athletic Supporters' Trust as she has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of willingness to talk to them. I think she knows the 'younger fan' will not take guidance and leadership from the Trust, and unfortunately I think she might be right there.

So who else is there?

So in my view, the 'call to arms' that appears universally supported, is in great danger of diluting itself down to little effect.

La Union Fait La Force! Unity Makes Strength! We just need a credible and well-respected 'Che Guevara' to step forward. Wouldn't it be nice if she has underestimated us?

Monday, 26 October 2015

Waiting For The Punchline...


 
I doubt you've noticed, but this blog has fallen by the wayside lately. I've always believed blogs have a finite lifespan and I felt mine had reached the end of the road. I seriously lack the time, and, I'll be honest, the motivation to write anything Charlton related and as such I felt I'd run out of things to say (*insert obvious joke).
 
For the past 8 months or so I've forcefully tried to switch off from Charlton and concentrate on other things, many of which should have been my greater priority all along. I've still attended all home games, holiday aside, but it just doesn't feel the same. Not even close. I'm doing it purely out of habit; a 22 year habit. I can't remember the last time I actually looked forward to a game. Why the apathy? Well that's simple. Roland Duchatelet.
 
Ignoring the sacking of Sir Chris, Riga and Big Bob at this point, I was completely against the appointment of Luzon. At the time I wrote this which contained the line "I can't even bring myself to welcome Guy Luzon. I don't want him at my club". Now he's gone I actually feel sorry for him. Another victim of a crazy macabre experiment gone wrong. It was never going to work, Guy, but I genuinely admired your passion and the way you carried yourself and I wish I'd shown you more respect. It wasn't your fault, I know that.
 
Once again, in sacking Luzon and putting another flunkey Karel Fraeye in charge, Charlton's owner has shown a total lack of respect for our club, it's proud history and most of all, us, the fans. Once again he has treated us like mugs. For me, this latest episode is the final straw... 
 
I am not fooled and nor is anyone else. Interim Head Coach, my arse! Who gives up a job to take a temporary one? But I have nothing at all against Karel Fraeye and unlike Luzon he will get my full support from the outset. He is not the problem here, but more of an embarrassing answer to a very difficult question. There cannot be a single argument that can justify the appointment of a man without any credentials or experience in managing a club of Charlton's size and in such a competitive league. Place Fraeye's CV alongside the long list of established, experienced, available and UK-based alternatives and he shouldn't even warrant more than a cursory glance.   
 
If we are to believe there will be a process to find a replacement, why not ask Jason Euell or Sir Keith of all Peacocks to look after thing? Perhaps both. At least the fans would back them 100%.   
 
This is all so unfathomably bizarre, so ridiculously deranged. It makes such little sense it feels like a terribly sick joke where, when the punchline is delivered, it attracts nothing more than a deep groan from the irritated audience. I can only imagine what sort of conversations Mr. Duchatelet has with the hapless Meire, but how on earth can a man be so detached from the majority view (including any observers outside of our club), and why can nobody make him see sense?
 
That last point again...why can nobody make him see sense? What exactly is Mr. Murray's role these days. How can any of this make sense to him?
 
My view on this is that Mr. Duchatelet simply doesn't have the skill set in place to carry out a thorough process to appoint the right head coach, and rather address that embarrassing failing in his 'model' he takes the easy route to appoint people he knows and then turns off his phone. It's a little like asking a kid to pick his team in the playground and realising he's just chosen his mates and left the team with no credible balance.    
 
So why write this? I certainly don't want to add to the doom and gloom to which I've been trying to escape in the last 8 months. Well, in short, in a text exchange with Marco from Charlton Casualty yesterday evening he suggested it "might be worth cranking up the blog again to publicise things". He's right. If I can help spread the word of any coordinated fan protests or demonstrations to even a small number of fans who might otherwise not hear about it, then it will be worth my time and effort.
 
This is my club, our club. I will be here long after Mr. Duchatelet has blamed someone else for it all failing and moved on to his next bizarre experiment. Let's stick together. Unity in numbers.
 
   

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Unwelcome Distractions...

Blimey! Has it really been over 10 weeks since I last dropped by Hungry Ted HQ. I've not been missed, but in all honestly, I've not missed Charlton one bit.
 
Since my last post I've seen a good friend of mine pass away in his sleep, my dad struck down with cancer and my step-father fall very seriously ill. On top of all of that we are in the stressful throws of moving house, so as much as I do normally like to switch off from football during the close season, this time around I've had some very unwelcome distractions keeping my mind off matters at Charlton.
 
Of course, I'm not completely oblivious to what's been going on, it's just that losing young Gomez to Liverpool, for example, no matter how disappointing that was, pales into insignificance to some of the things I've had to deal with of late. Some new players have come in but I've not even had a chance to digest their arrival or see where this leaves us as a squad. I will, but maybe not today...
 
But for the first time since May, as I drove into work this morning daydreaming as usual, I got that feeling deep inside that longed for a trip to the Valley. I was thinking about that wonderful Johnny Jackson goal against QPR from Feb '14 and how much I love those moments when the Valley erupts in utter delirium. Perhaps I am missing football now. Maybe I am ready to embrace it again. Who'd have thought it?   
 
Unfortunately I will miss the league opener against QPR as well as the Dagenham & Redbridge league cup game as I'll be sunning myself with family and some friends in Lanzarote. Bad planning on my part, but holidays in August are always a fixture list gamble. Even so, I can't deny I am looking forward to a holiday. 
 
So if you notice my seat vacant in the East Stand, please don't think I've given up on the Addicks! I'll be back at the Valley on the 22nd, ready to jump on the roller-coaster once again!  

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Ambition Makes Things Possible...


And so another season comes to an end. A bright start, a truly woeful middle and, thankfully, an up-turn in fortunes towards the end. All in all, a forgettable season with few highlights and plenty of lows, some desperately so. At one stage I was convinced we would go down, so I suppose I should be happy with 12th.
 
Happy with 12th? Did I really just say that?
 
Bournemouth have shown perfectly throughout this season just what is possible with ambition and desire. They might have the backing of a very rich Russian, but they deserves huge credit for showing the sort of characteristics that money can't buy. In Eddie Howe they have one of the brightest managerial talents in the game, and I'm pretty sure he'll stick to his principles and play with attacking full-backs, traditional wingers and a 4-4-2 formation when they set off on their Premiership adventure. I for one will be wishing them all the best.
 
I can only hope that Mr. Duchatelet takes inspiration from the Bournemouth blueprint...
 
I always enjoy those moments at the sharp end of the season when there's a spontaneous eruption in the stands that is born out of something that has happened elsewhere. Sheffield Wednesday's late, late equaliser at Watford sent Bournemouth top and the away fans into delirium. When the final result at Vicarage Road handed Bournemouth the title, the Charlton fans stood as one to applaud the new Champions. It was a nice touch.
 
In reality, the game yesterday was men against boys. Wave after wave of Bournemouth attack could have made the zero-three scoreline far, far worse for the home side.   
 
I never hung around after the game. Watching the Charlton players amble awkwardly around the Valley pitch in their flip-flops celebrating mid-table mediocrity, whilst the away fans readied themselves for the greatest moment in the clubs history, was not my idea of fun. Instead I made my way over to Greenwich to enjoy an end of season drink with friends, who, unlike the football, I will miss over the summer break.
 
It's not like I've not seen the Championship trophy lifted at the Valley before...
 
The start of the new season can take as long as it wants. I can now enjoy a brief respite from having my Saturday nights spoilt by football results. I will, however, keep one eye on what's happening at the club during the close-season: hoping for any small-but-significant sign that Mr. Duchatelet fancies a bit of the Premiership action.
 
I'll be setting my expectation low, just to be on the safe side...
 
One positive for Charlton yesterday was the new kit. I like it. It might well be another off the shelf Nike number, but it has a retro feel and will be a huge improvement on this season's jersey. Let's hope the bodies that fill the shirt are worthy of the honour.
 
I've been pretty quiet on here lately. Work has been very busy. You can expect even less from me in the next few months (I'm confident you'll be able to cope with that devastating news). Many thanks to anyone who drops by to read my occasional posts and those that take the time to comment.
 
Enjoy the summer.    

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Renewed Hope...

I've gone and done it! For the 18th year running I've renewed my season ticket. I've made the expensive commitment to the club, both for myself and my young son. I will be watching matters very carefully over the summer in the hope that Mr. Duchatelet shows the right level of ambition to push this club forward. No question I'd sign up for another season: as I've previously wrote, what else would I do on a Saturday afternoon?
 
Retain and complement the likes of Watt, Vetokele and Gudmundsson, whilst keeping hold of our bright young stars like Gomez, Fox and Cousins, and I will not question the sanity of parting with my hard-earned cash.
 
In the pub before the game last night we commented on how much fun those final few home games were last season under Riga as we edged closer to survival. All good memories, but how nice it would be to have something positive to play for at this stage of the season. Last night's rather tepid affair at the Valley gave me every indication that the players already have one foot in their flip-flops, and with nothing left to play for after a difficult campaign, I guess it's going to happen. I cannot deny that even I'm getting to the stage where I'm looking forward to a summer break from the intensity of football.
 
With only a few weeks of this season left I can't help but reflect on a campaign that could, with only slightly differing fortunes, have ended very, very differently, at either ends of the table!

Luzon has made a difference, no question. Charlton have improved, the players look happy again. In the end we have run out of games to make something of it, but there's an air of renewed hope on the pitch. Let's hope Roland embraces that this summer.  

Monday, 30 March 2015

First Rule of Watching Football...

'Thou shalt not leave the match early...'
 
With no Charlton fixture on Saturday my son and me took the opportunity to go and watch our local side, Bishop's Stortford. Fellow relegation threatened Farnborough were the visitors. Stortford huffed and puffed but it was a woeful performance and a minute into stoppage time and with 'The Blues' trailing 2-0 I said to my boy (who's nose had gone blue in the cold) "come on, let's head home". He never argued and feeling despondent we trudged off alongside others who decided they'd seen enough. As soon as I got home I decided to check the league table only to discover goals in the 3rd and 4th minute of stoppage time had given The Blues a most unlikely point! In reality, I doubt I'd even gone 100 yards down the road and by that time I'd missed the most dramatic end imaginable.
 
I sat on my bed shaking my head wondering how I was going to break the news to my son! What an amazing game football can be!    
 
Allez Les Bleus! Image by @RedneckNath
I've got previous with this, so you'd have thought I'd learn my lesson. Those with a better memory might recall Charlton's clash with Norwich at the Valley in February '97, when, with just a couple of minutes of normal time left plus stoppage and the Addicks trailing 4-2 I decided to beat the traffic and left early. As always, as soon as I jumped in my car I turned on the radio to get the classified check, only to hear James Alexander Gordon dropping the bombshell that two late, late goals from Jason Lee and the legend that is Carl Leaburn had given us a most unlikely 4-4 draw! I remember having to pretend to my mates that I saw the drama unfold as I was too embarrassed to admit the truth!
 
I guess both games drew a bittersweet feeling from me: gutted to have missed the drama and the euphoria of the moment, but ultimately immensely pleased that the goals came none-the-less, especially for my home-town club as they are teetering on the edge of the trap door in the Conference South and that point could well prove the difference between survival and relegation. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Pies, Pints & Points...

The last time I sat with friends enjoying a pre-match beer in the Plume of Feathers in Greenwich was on Valentines Day when there was a very distinct lack of love for what was going on at Charlton, both on and off the pitch. At that point of the season we were without a win in 15 games, with just 4 wins from 30 and we sat 20th in the table, staring at the dark abyss below. I was certain we would go down as nothing whatsoever suggested otherwise. But that day we would beat Brentford three-zero with a great performance that came out of nowhere and the transformation since then has been nothing short of amazing. 7 wins out of 9 to be exact! Up to 11th and with 54 points on the board.
 
No, I don't get it either!
 
I've said before, football has a habit of making an absolute arse of your opinions. Luzon is a case-in-point with many, me very much included. Whatever impact he has had is quite astonishing and I am already excited about the prospect of this team moving forward together next season. For the time being, I'm going to enjoy the positivity and blatantly ignore that niggling, persistent voice in my head telling me Roland's ready to cash in on our star performers in the summer and leave us with a whole new squad of unknown continental players and untried youth.
 
I'm also going to hope I've got Mr. Duchatelet wrong, just as I did Guy Luzon. The summer will speak volumes about his ambition for our club. Build on this current team and I may dare to dream next season. And why shouldn't I after seeing the performances of late?
 
Ironically, the last victory before that Brentford game was against yesterday's opposition, Reading. Charlton started OK, but fell away slowly as Reading's neat and tidy passing just about gave them the edge. Charlton struggled to make anything happen up top with Eagles proving a better wide man than a second striker. Reading's Pogrebnyak was a thorn in our side with great movement and link-play and he found space in the box to score from pretty much the only goalmouth action of the half. It wasn't great viewing, but so often a different Charlton immerge from the tunnel in the second half.
 
Thankfully that was the case yesterday...
 
If Luzon is the influence, then once again he must take the credit for the turnaround. Charlton moved the ball much quicker and with purpose and as the pressure mounted we got a penalty that is as good as a goal with the super-cool Buyens around. The Belgian midfielder then put us in front 10mins later after a decent cross from young Gomez. The ever-popular, Church, added a third from close range on 80mins after some fantastic play from our new hero, Tony Watt, Watt, Watt (you Watt, You Watt...).
 
Reading's stoppage time goal left us with a nervy finish, but Charlton held firm. A great day topped off by a good win.
 
There is nothing better than a matchday when everything goes right. Literally nothing better. I'd started the day by meeting up with Marco and Al for pie & mash at Goddard's in Greenwich and then enjoyed a few pints before the game in the Feathers. And before you ask, I fancied gravy instead of liquor! Marco and Al kept a very polite silence on that even if they were inwardly frowning. If I thought I'd got away with that, Marco did remind me via a text later in the evening that proper pie & mash should be eaten with a fork and spoon.
 
An otherwise perfect day ruined by my inability to choose the correct utensil!      

Monday, 16 March 2015

What Else Would I do?

I got my first chance to review the details of the 2015/16 season tickets this morning whilst crammed like a sardine on my train into London. I would be very interested to hear how the early sales are going, especially with so much talk of fans not renewing; some in favour of buying match-to-match whilst the uncertainty remains around the direction of our club, others suggesting they will not return until Mr. Duchatelet goes.
 
I remain hugely concerned regarding the true intentions of Mr. Duchatelet going forward, but I will not try and offer any bravado to this situation. I will renew around the start of April, both for me and my boy. I am in no way enough of a wordsmith to articulate the void that would be left if I just decided not to go to the football anymore. In reality, I am a million miles away from that. It's what I've done regularly since I was 8 years old and the thought of Saturdays spent being dragged around the shops or doing DIY means my tolerance in times of uncertainty will hold firmer than my desire to work out how to fill the void if I gave it up.
 
Just over a month ago I sat in a Greenwich pub with friends before the Brentford game feeling as low and fed up as I can ever recall in nearly two decades. At that point I was convinced we was going down and doomed off the pitch. In four weeks things have changed on the pitch at least and in the most dramatic fashion imaginable. So much so, with the pressure of relegation lifted, I can honestly say I enjoyed my day out with my young son last Saturday against Blackburn, even in defeat. Spending the day with my lad means everything to me.
 
If you can find something better to do with your time on a Saturday afternoon, then good for you. I'll continue to take the rough with the smooth. I've spent the last two decades doing that anyway.
 
Concerns about Roland's masterplan aside, there's something that bothers me more at this point anyway. As an East Stander who sits in the most expensive Block E, zone 2, I find it very hard to swallow the fact that anyone buying the cheapest adult Valley seat in zone 6 of the same stand could, without any resistance whatsoever, move to a free seat in my block. That means there could be people around me on a matchday that will have paid £300 less per season for the same view. I've seen nothing anywhere to suggest the club even recognizes this potential problem, let alone have something in place to stop it happening. Very disappointing.  
 
A word of caution to those intending to buy 'match-to-match' next season. When I was much younger I can recall doing the same thing. The Valley back then, as it is today, was not remotely full on a matchday, so tickets were easy to come by. I felt I didn't need to commit to a season ticket. That was until we got drawn at home to Liverpool in the League Cup in '96 and despite not missing a home game for two years I failed to get a ticket. Gutted was not the word. I stood outside the Valley that night pleading with people to sell me their tickets, but to no avail. It was that disappointment that lead to me purchase my first season ticket, which I've held every year since.

Monday, 9 March 2015

More Craft Beer in Copenhagen...


Back in September 2013 I wrote this post on places to drink craft beer in the wonderful Danish city of Copenhagen. Myself and a few mates have been back a few times since, most recently in January of this year, and so I thought it was about time I wrote an update to include a few of the new bars we've got to know. The original piece has since become my most read post of all time, and I would love to think it has offered travelling beer connoisseurs a helpful insight into the venues of one of Europe's leading cities for sampling good quality craft beer.
 
Just as before, I will point out quickly that this post is intended only as a pub-crawl style guide to the numerous bars specializing in craft beer, and although I will inevitably list the odd beer drunk along the way I'm no beer writer! For tasting notes on anything you see listed in this piece please click on the beer name.
 
January 2015
 
Just like the last time we visited this fine city, my mate, Bolts, and me stayed in the Copenhagen Crown on Vesterbrogarde, which is a short walk west of the main train station in the trendy Vesterbro district. The twin room was reasonably priced, simple and clean, but to be fair, to us it's nothing more than a place to sleep for the night!

 
We arrived in the city just before midday, and just as the snow began to fall. Keen not to waste any drinking time we dropped off our bags in the hotel and headed straight out to Olbutikken on Istedgade. Although not technically a bar, this excellent little bottle shop has a bench seated area so you can enjoy your purchases on-site if you want (unlike off-licenses in the UK, of course). The shop  is owned by Morten, a big friendly native who could talk enthusiastically about craft beer all day (and F.C Kobenhavn). We met him back in 2013 when he was working in the Lord Nelson bar. Bolts and me shared a 'Jule IPA' from Ebeltoft and a 'Black Nitro black IPA' from Amager (pic above, left). Both brewers based in Denmark.
 
Leaving Olbutikken we took a stroll east, back past the train station and the famous Tivoli amusement park, to Taphouse on Lavendelstrade, near the city's main shopping area. Taphouse is Copenhagen's newest craft beer venue and as this was our first visit we very deliberately planned it to be early enough in the day that we would be sober enough to remember it! The modern interior was spacious and set over two levels with a sizable bar offering 61 draught taps from micro-brewers around the world (pic above, centre and right). It was an outstanding selection! The bar staff were friendly and knowledgeable, which is always an essential element of enjoying a good drinking session! First drink for the both of us was by local brewer, Flying Couch, who had created a 'Black Shade IPA' with American craft brewer, Cigar City. Of the beers we had there, my personal favourite was the 'Campfire Stout' from Pittsburg's High Water Brewery. A really creamy, sweet and comforting stout that fitted the freezing temperatures perfectly.

 
By mid-afternoon we left the warmth and comfort of Taphouse and wandered through the snow over to the Orsted Olbar on Norre Farimagsgade (pic above, left). The interior of this excellent bar reminds me of a British boozer, with flickering candles and sporting memorabilia on the walls. We have made a bit of a habit of timing our visit to this excellent venue to watch the Saturday football results roll in. Just like last year we challenged the big-bearded barman (who had recognized us from our last trip and even remembered what teams we supported) to create some 'black and tans' which he done by mixing an Amager Brewery 'Winter in Bangalore IPA' with a Bryggeriet Djaevlebryg 'Gudelos Imperial Stout'. The result was so good we had a couple of them, although heaven only knows what the ABV would have been!
 
By late afternoon we decided to depart the Orsted Olbar in search of a bit of food. The chilly walk back into the city's shopping area cleared our heads and got some air into our lungs and after enjoying a snowball fight in a park and a bite to eat we headed over to Mikkeller Bar on Viktoriagade in the Vesterbro district (above pic, centre and right) to start our evening session. This small and cosy venue is about as good as it gets for craft beer lovers and the 20 or so taps highlight perfectly the wonderful imagination of the Mikkeller micro-brewery and those brewers they regularly collaborate with. We sat at the bar and enjoyed 3 or 4 Mikkeller offerings including the 'Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Imperial Stout' and 'Crooked Moon Double IPA'.
 
Being so close to our hotel, any sensible folk would have called it a night at this point, but Bolts and I felt we owed a visit to one of our favourite Copenhagen bars, the Fermentoren on Halmtorvet, which was a short stroll south west from the Mikkeller Bar (passing Olbutikken en-route). This small bar is located near the trendy and rejuvenated Meatpacking District that boasts art galleries and restaurants during the day (I can highly recommend the Fiskebaren if seafood is your thing). Neither Bolts nor I can remember what we drunk there, which is probably the best indicator that we'd had our fill. Time to head back to the hotel. Day one over!

 
The next morning we rose early and headed out in search of breakfast in the city centre. With time to kill we decided to take advantage of a crisp and clear winters day by walking up through the Botanical Gardens, past the northern end of the Lakes and on to Telia Parken, home of F.C Kobenhavn. It was a deliberately long-winded route to get to the Norrebro district, and just after 2pm we finally reached our destination of Mikkeller & Friends on Stefansgade (six pictures above). This bar is probably my favorite current Copenhagen craft beer venue. The interior is all about that minimalist-but-modern wooden style instantly recognizable as Scandinavian. It's large, light and airy and is a wonderful environment to enjoy a Sunday afternoon session. Around 40 taps provide plenty of choice dependent on how your taste buds are feeling, but if by chance that isn't enough, there's the Mikkeller Bottle Shop right next door (pic above, bottom left). From the taps we particularly enjoyed the 'Sort Maelk' (Whisky Barrel Aged Milk Stout) from local brewers To Ol and Mikkeller's own 'Vesterbrown Ale'.

 
As tempting as it was to stay there all day we decided we should move on, heading over to Olbaren on Elmgade (pic above, left). This tiny, dimly-lit bar has a decent bottled selection which compliments the 10 or so draught taps. The stand-out beer was a sweet dark stout from American brewer, Dark Horse, called 'Too Cream Stout'. With time getting on we made the difficult decision to sacrifice a visit to the Soernes Olbar on Kroghsgade at the northern end of the Lakes (pic below, right, from last year). This venue is the sister pub to the Orsted Olbar with around 20 tap offerings and would ordinarily be well worth a visit, but we was very keen to spend the best part of the evening back in the Mikkeller Bar on Viktoriagade (pic above, centre and right) and, perhaps more importantly, a rather more focused visit to The Fermentoren (pic below, centre).

As the evening grew longer, we enjoyed a number of beers new to us, including the wonderful 18th Street Brewery's 'Hunter Coffee Double Milk Stout' in Mikkeller and the 'Phister de Noel Imperial Stout' from Flying Couch in The Fermentoren.

 
So that was that! We would have loved to have tried the Mikkeller cocktail bar, Mikropolis on Vendersgade which outside of the obvious cocktails serves a decent selection of bottled beers. In reality, though, it's probably not worth the risk in succumbing to temptation and mixing strong craft beer with fancy cocktails! For the record, some other venues that due to time constraints never made the cut for us this year but might be worth considering included the Norrebro Bryghus on Rysegade (bar and restaurant set in the brewery), the Lord Nelson on Hyskenstraede (still allows smoking inside which is not ideal if you value your health), the Bryyggeriet Appolo on Vesterbrogade (limited selection of beer brewed on the premises and a bit too touristy for us) and the BrewPub on Vestergade (disappointingly uninspiring selection on our only visit a couple of years back).  
 
Thanks to my mate and travel companion, Bolts, for helping to put this piece together with regards to the various beers drunk. If you're planning a trip to Copenhagen it would be great to know if this post proved to be helpful via the comments section below. I would also appreciate notice if there's any craft beer bars we've not listed. There is little doubt that Copenhagen has more to offer than beer, but what a reason to go? I would argue there's no better reason!  

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Forest Felled...

I always look forward to a night game at the Valley, but despite the recent up-turn in fortunes I couldn't see us getting much out of an in-form Nottingham Forest. Walking to the Valley last night my heart sank a little when I read the team. Players absent through injury will obviously enforce changes, but I wasn't convinced by the choice of replacements.

What do I know? From the outset Charlton competed well against a very good side and appeared as disciplined and well organized as I think I can ever recall. Luzon may not be too familiar with Championship football, but he clearly done his homework on the visitors.

When Watt was felled on the edge of their box after just 7 mins you could have been mistaken for lamenting the loss of free-kick specialist, Gudmundsson, but up stepped Bulot to fire us in front with a goal not too dissimilar to the one Johann scored on Saturday. Keeper no chance. Antonio equalised soon after, but Bulot restored Charlton's lead just before half time after some decent play down the right from Wilson.

In Frederic Bulot, Charlton have as good as a new signing. The Bulot that ambled about the pitch, offering nothing whatsoever and showing even less interest under Bob Peeters has reinvented himself under Luzon. My fellow Charlton blogger, Brian Haines, suggested to me via Twitter last night that he "got the feeling that Peeters insisted players keep to a strict role, whereas now they're much freer to improvise". It was a great point. It would appear a number of players have benefited from this freedom to express themselves in their more natural game and Charlton's form has improved as a result. Credit once again to Luzon.

Credit also to the way Luzon made a couple of decisive half-time changes that made Charlton more competitive in key areas. Gomez was moved to the right of defence, replacing Wilson, and instantly got tighter and more physical against the impressive wide-man, Antonio. In the reorganization Bikey came on for the hapless Harriott, who managed to somehow injure himself falling over his own feet.

I felt Charlton coped with the steady wave of Forest attacks well, absorbing the threat time and time again. Having witnessed the decline under Peeters, I don't even want to imagine what sort of scoreline we'd have faced against this lot just a few weeks ago, but Charlton's resolve has returned in abundance.

Tony Watt's hold-up play near the corner flag, sapping vital injury time seconds, was brilliant. A real moment to remember. Footage of the incident can be found here. That kid has the potential to become a future Charlton legend, up there with Darren Bent of recent times, perhaps even Mendonca if you want to go back further.

We held on for a very well-earned victory. Three more points to Championship safety.

After the game Luzon stated that he was "proud to coach this team". Well, Guy, I have to say that your impact is far greater than I ever thought possible when you took over and I doff my hat in your direction. Your mark and personality on the team is visible now, and I'm pretty impressed with the recent up-turn in form. What pleases me more is that unity on the pitch has returned. I can accept defeats along the way if I know the players are giving everything.

When I see total commitment and a winning Charlton team I cannot be happier.

I have no problems admitting that I wrote Luzon off way too early, although I would add in my defense that I failed to find anyone who had anything good to say about Luzon and his appointment and 'network' connections left a hugely bitter taste in my mouth (still does, if I'm honest). I fell for Riga quite quickly (even after the agony of losing Powell) and I was also keen on Peeters from the outset, but my starting point with Luzon couldn't have got lower. In reality, that's something I have to deal with a bit more fairly and positively now.

In fairness to Luzon, he's keeping his end of the bargain.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Tale of Two Dugouts...

 
The last time I saw Chris Powell, nearly a year ago at Bramall Lane after that hugely disappointing FA Cup quarter final defeat, he looked a dejected man who knew his time with Charlton was coming to an end. Before I'd even got home that day speculation was rife that Roland had pulled the trigger. I worshiped the man as a player and loved him equally as our manager. It was never going to last forever, but it just wasn't the way I wanted it to end. Losing Powell hurt like hell and I don't mind admitting it.
 
Yesterday I finally got a chance to say thank you. There is, for me, a sense of closure now. I've got to accept Powell will not be back at Charlton any time soon if at all, although you will never stop me from hoping. The standing ovation he received as he walked towards the away dugout was heartfelt and universally observed. Powell, showing humility and class in abundance, waved to us all whilst wearing a muted and respectful smile, before making a point of acknowledging the fans of his new club. What a man.
 
A tough moment for us all, but we'd seen it before. Almost exactly 8 years ago another legendary Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, returned to the Valley for the first time since departing and enjoyed a similar warm reception pre-match. On both occasions, however, the good-will didn't extend onto the pitch. Yesterday's three zero Charlton victory would have been slightly easier to swallow for Powell than the four zero Alan had to endure all those years previous.
 
And what a difference on the pitch! From a state of utter despair earlier this month, Charlton have somehow managed to find unity again and, most importantly, a formula for success. Three wins out of four since I predicted with some certainty that "I have no doubts whatsoever that we are going down".
 
Trust me, I'm only too pleased to be proven wrong...just as I will be about Guy Luzon, who I perhaps rather hastily predicted was "so far out of his depth it's embarrassing".
 
Only one embarrassed face around here, it would appear! I still have a very bitter taste in my mouth after the lies and deceit surrounding Luzon's appointment, but I may have to accept it could be replaced over time by the sweet taste of (a rather large slice of) humble pie!  
 
Credit where credit is due, Luzon has got Charlton organized and well-balanced. The smiles have returned and the players look confident. That comes with winning games, of course, but it may also be a sign that the players are being asked to play a system they are better suited to. Luzon has taken us back to basics. His playing style may not win awards for flair, but it has given the attacking players an opportunity to make things happen. Yesterday was a great example of a clinical Charlton performance: 8 shots on target with three going in.
 
Two of those goals coming from Tony Watt, who could well become the new Clive Mendonca. High praise, high expectation, but the early signs are good. So much so, we've all forgotten just how much we needed a target man. His unselfish relationship with Vetokele continues to grow from strength to strength. Similar in style, they can play together regularly, and to devastating effect.
 
At the back, Roger Johnson continues to marshal the defense. I loved watching him gesticulating non-stop yesterday. Always vocal. Solid. The decision to bring him to the club looked more than questionable, but there's clearly enough humble pie to cover him as well.
 
Football never ceases to amaze me. Two and a half weeks ago I though all hope was lost, and yet on the pitch we've somehow turned things around. Is it too much to expect that off the pitch things may improve as well, starting with more transparency from Mr. Duchatelet?
 
I for one would much prefer to enjoy days like yesterday whilst looking forward to a more positive future without the cynicism and suspicion surrounding the true intentions of Mr. Duchatelet lingering away in the background.
 
One step at a time, I guess.