Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Operation Brainwash.

If my watch is working correctly, it should be approaching half time at the Valley about now. In truth, I'm not that fussed about missing a pre season friendly against Ipswich, though it would have been nice to meet up with some of the usual crowd for a drink prior to the game.

I'm sitting on the grass, drinking a super strength coffee outside our comfortable accomodation in Normandy. My nephew Jack is charging around as only a 5 year old can, kicking a beachball while wearing his Charlton shirt.

I spent this afternoon on the sand at St Martin sur Mer, near to Brehal, where I worked hard at force feeding my nephew and nieces the idea of becoming Addicks.

As residents of Brighton, they live near enough to London to have a passing interest but far enough away that they don't know anyone else who could help with their impending Addicktion.

Jack seems to be quite keen - he even tried to make the Charlton badge out of shells and pebbles on the side of a sandcastle! Daisy and Lily really aren't that bothered though they were very happy to pose for my photograph.

Cries of "Last one in the sea supports Crystal Palace" etc. don't really work, when the only kind of 'palace' you are aware of is where the Queen lives.

I've just received a text to say that we are 2-0 up at half time!

I really didn't expect that. Good luck in the second half.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Au Revoir

I found this photograph, stored in the memory of my iPhone. It was taken before Christmas at Blackpool, Bloomfield Road. It's not easy taking a picture while trying to keep warm with a steaming cup of coffee. The players quite rightly wore gloves on a day that was really horrible.

The match itself was one of the many low points of last season. The journey was the longest that the Addicks had to make and quite frankly, it was a totally wasted journey when only thinking of the football. If we hadn't been making a weekend of it, staying with friends nearby, I would have been severely teed off.

On the Doctor Kish site, Ketts has said that Andy Gray is off to Barnsley. If this is true, (and I have no reason at all to doubt the 'Man in the Know'), it will bring to an end a most unsatisfactory period for both player and club. It never really worked for him 'down South'. His injuries coupled with his wife's awful illness meant we never really saw the best of Andy Gray. He moved to Charlton with hopes of the Premiership and for the cash that Pards waved under his nose. Now we have to get rid of him as the current financial situation means we can't afford him anymore.

A shame for Andy is that if he'd stayed put, he might now be enjoying a Premiership pre season with Burnley.

Fans favourite Chris Dickson to Gillingham? If the reported fee of £50 000 is to be believed, I'm truly downbeat at the news. He is a lively player who would appear to be good for team spirit. He obviously doesn't play to the 'system' Parky wants but in all honestly, it's hardly been a roaring success has it Phil?

Chris Dickson can't be on massive wages and we don't appear to be getting much of a fee, so why is he leaving? We will be left with Burton and McLeod as our, (ahem), fire power up front.

Not one of us leans forward with anticipation when we hear that Burton or McLeod are coming on. Personally, I think I'm doing my part if I manage to supress a groan. Imagine Dickson coming on with 15 minutes to go. Rightly or wrongly, he lifts the crowd and we believe he can do it. Surely Dickson is worth something to us? I hope Burton and McLeod are fantastic next season and those who see them everyday rather than just on match days obviously rate them but for me, neither have that 'zing' of Dickson.

Moots has been terribly treated by Charlton. He left his home country to play for us and seems to have had the handbrake pulled on his career ever since. A woeful error last season against Scunthorpe, which lead directly to their goal would seem to have been the final straw for Pards and Parky hasn't even given him a single straw, nevermind a final one. The one major error that Moots made compares favourably with the 5 or 6 that Nicky Bailey made last season.

As captain of the French under 21's, surely he has something to offer a tier 3 team? Apparently not as Moots is now on trial at Pompey.

It's au revoir from me too. In a few hours, I'm on the Eurostar to Paris and then another three and a half hour train to the base of Normandy. I'll have my MacBook with me but I'm not too sure of the WiFi in rural France! In all probability, I'll be out of the loop.

On my return, I hope that there might be some good news, however small, coming from the Valley.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Miss Fortune? Yes.

Reports are surfacing that Jonathan Fortune has decided not to take up the option of a new Charlton Athletic contract.

The lure of tier 3 football obviously isn't strong enough for a player who was playing in the Premiership, against Arsenal, only a short while ago -September 2006.

Jon Fortune has never been anything other than functional.
He hasn't been known for tearing down the wing and swinging in crosses like Luke Young or screaming the place down like Herman. He's just a fairly competent defender who scored some nice headers now and again. (Sha la, la).

It really seems a pity to me that Fortune has played admirably well for us on many occasions but always gave the impression of being very slightly out of his depth. He never really looked comfortable. Now we have fallen to a level where he would most likely be able to out play many of the forwards he would come across, he appears to be leaving.

My memories of Jon are vivid.
Through a series of complicated events, I found myself only able to get a ticket for the North Bank at Highbury, (rather than with the Charlton support), when Henry scored his spectacular back heel goal through Fortunes legs. I was surrounded by gleeful Gooners.
My seat was in about row 4 and I was no more than 10 -15 metres from the event. If you see the clip, everyone jumps up to celebrate in the crowd but one person is just too slow to really be celebrating. That's me. Thanks Jon. My cover was blown.

My other strong memory needs no description ---Sha la,la.
(Though we conveniently forget that we were cursing him when he gave away a penalty earlier in the game.)

More recent memories involve being sent off, as the game finished, at home to Ipswich in our first Championship season. What were you thinking Jon?

I'll be sorry to see Fortune go.
Some reports have him being lined up for a press conference at Sheffield United. If this is so, then good luck Jon. You are just the kind of player we really need to be holding onto but the lack of knowledge with regards the clubs financial short term future seems to have meant, as a business, we don't know what we can offer you to stay.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Tom & Freddy

A fantastic few days for armchair sports fans.

On Sunday evening, Tom Watson came within an 8 foot putt of an unlikely victory at the Open, played at Turnberry, Scotland.

Most of the romantics were desperate for the likeable American to win, only a few weeks prior to his 60th birthday. His metronomic putting had never looked like failing him over the course of the competition. He holed some truly impossible long distance efforts on Friday and Saturday, which only made his scuffed effort on the 18th to win outright more galling.

Watson went to a Play Off with Stewart Cink, who somewhat ran away with it over the extra 4 holes.

Watson looked spent.

I learned something from Cink. When he holed the winning putt for his first Major win, he removed his cap to acknowledge the crowd. As I share his shaved head 'style', he showed me that it's really easy to end up with the pale 'fish belly' colour on the top half of your head but tanned on the bottom if you wear a cap all summer.

I did feel sorry for him though.The greatest moment of his career to date and everyone wanted to talk to the bloke who came second.

And so to the cricket.

Today, Andrew 'Freddy' Flintoff inspired an Ashes test win at Lords for the first time in most of our lifetimes.

He managed to grab 5 wickets to claim the headlines but in truth it was a massive team effort. England are now odds on to regain the Ashes according to the online bookmakers I've just scanned.

C'mon England!

Charlton are on the road again tomorrow evening. You never know, I might actually get off the sofa by then!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Outclassed in the Countryside

I made a phenomenal decision today.
I sat watching the Open.
Despite Tiger Woods missing the cut on Friday evening, it still made compelling viewing.

For a fleeting moment when I awoke, I contemplated heading West to see how the development of our heroes is progressing.

They've been training together for a few weeks now and surely we could expect some positives to be apparent. Couldn't we?

The simple answer is, we were outclassed by the Dog and Duck second eleven in a small Cotswold village.

A reported crowd of around 700, including over 100 Addicks, witnessed a 3-1 defeat for a rag bag Charlton XI against a Forest Green Rovers side who were having the first outing of their season.

Despite being a few weeks behind Charlton in their preparations, they completely outclassed their supposedly superior visitors.

Back to the training ground for Parkinson's troops I hope.

Friday, 17 July 2009

School's Out!

Yes, School is out for the Summer!

Teachers and Learning Assistants arrived home this evening, weighed down by Maltesers, four packs of beer and shower gel from grateful parents and pupils- or maybe that was just me.

The excitement of packing up and sending the kids off for 6 weeks was slightly ruined by the knowledge that we will all be back in on Monday and Tuesday.

Only 3 weeks later, we all have to be back again to more or less rebuild the school as 'major decoration' is happening and everything needs to be put back where it belongs. Then it's planning, setting up the classroom, collecting resources etc etc.

If I'm lucky, it will leave a few days to pop to the coast or enjoy a few rounds of golf before the next bunch arrive to take over my world.


I can't be the only one who is getting a little morose due to the Charlton situation. This summer has almost been an information free zone. When added to the most forgetable season just past, I can't imagine any 'waiverers' now rushing towards the Charlton Athletic ticket office.

Ironic really as it's now that the club needs the support more than any time in the last 10 to 15 years.

I think it's a case of getting behind the team, whoever they may end up being, and hoping that the off field shenanigans are sorted out by people who have the 'correct' motives.

Tomorrow it's away to Forest Green.

I'm not going. I'm not really a fan of the pre season friendly unless it's somewhere I want to be, (Brighton last year) or just around the corner (Welling every year).

I intend to vegetate in front of the golf on BBC while enjoying my beers.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

My thoughts are with Colin

Though he never played for Charlton, I thought Colin Hendry was what we like to think of as a 'Charlton type'.

Unfortunately, the Charlton types of recent years have been players such as Jimmy Floyd Piggybanks, Djimi Traore and the Danish whippet when we did have some money and anyone who can't get a game elsewhere now that we haven't. (Just count them).

Hendry played like a Scottish Terry Butcher.
Maybe it's my mind playing tricks but he always seemed to be on MOTD diving in to recover the situation, deep into his own penalty area.
He stuck his head into dangerous places and was the epitome of taking one for the team.

I admired him when he decided to give up any involvement in football in order to care for Denise, his sick wife.
She had become ill after a cosmetic procedure had gone terribly wrong. Attempts to rectify the mistakes just added to the problems.

Unfortunately, Denise Hendry died yesterday in hospital in Greater Manchester, aged just 42.

My thoughts are with Colin and his 4 children.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Welling Away- It All Starts Again.

Back on the saddle.

Along with 2200 others, I was at Welling, Park View Road last night, to see the usual pretty meaningless pre season friendly: - truly a game of two halves.

Charlton fielded two teams, one in each half, which gave everyone plenty of chances to play 'Who He?'
Other than Racon,Gray, Moots and Holland, all the usual suspects were on show but strangely Parky wasn't to be seen, (unless he was hiding really well).

Mark Kinsella made all the noises and did all the waving from the sidelines.

Charlton had Mambo playing.
Whoever handed out the shirts last night obviously didn't have a sense of humour as he was wearing number 6.
................Surely he should have been number 5?

At the end of the match, both Shelvey and Bailey were mobbed with a very vocal group of Charlton supporters imploring them both to stay at the club.

I decided to capture the moment, partly so I could have a close up of the new kit, sponsored by a Chatham based Building Society.

Unfortunately, the nudge I received at the critical moment somewhat wrecked any future paperazzi career I might have enjoyed.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Q&A off.- Riches to Arrive?

The news that the Q&A on Thursday evening is off has meant some people now believe Charlton Athletic are well down the road to a take over.
The 'legal' reasons for delaying the meeting do seem to hint strongly that something is afoot behind the scenes in SE7.

The close season 2009 is going to be remembered as the one when we all got our knickers in a twist about take overs.
Then decided there wasn't one.
Then decided we were better off with out one.
Then were desperate for one again.

Throughout the whole period the club has kept quiet which has only added to the rumour factory.

Personally, I feel that just because there might be a take over, it doesn't guarantee anything.

We had much more disposable income than most of the teams around us after we were relegated to the Championship but spent it badly and made lots of errors.

Whoever comes in, (if anyone), will need to put the club back on an even keel before the subject of signings and 'luxuries' can be considered.

It could be an exciting couple of days.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Happy 4th July

Ah, the fourth of July.
Obviously as an Englishman it means just one thing.

Gazza's tears, two missed penalties, Peter Shilton's legs finally showing their age when they refused to react to a deflected free kick, Lineker motioning to Sir Bobby and mouthing "Have a word with him", the English crowd humming the tune to the 'Dambusters' as the German team piled on top of each other in celebration.

I've seen the highlights of that evening in July 1990 countless times.
I'm pretty sure that I could have a fair stab at doing the commentary word for word if I needed to.

Everyone knows exactly where they were on the day.
I know I do.

I wasn't in the newly opened Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin.
I wasn't round at a friends house knocking back the beers and getting a bit lairy.
I wasn't even sitting home alone or listening on the radio while driving up the motorway.

Unbelievably, I wasn't even watching it at all.

I was a student in South Wales at the time and had managed to secure myself a J-1 work permit and visa under the reciprocal UK/USA student scheme.

I had flown out to New York City, (JFK airport), with 2 mates while England were playing their earlier match against Belgium.
The pilot told the passengers of David Platt's last gasp winner, leading to loud cheering and pestering of the trolley dollies for celebratory beers.

A few days later, I was to be found on the long avenue called Benjamin Franklin Parkway which leads up to the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art.

If you have seen the 1976 film 'Rocky,' you will be aware of the long Parkway and the museum.
It's where Rocky runs at speed and then sprints up the steps to bounce around at the top, signifying his fitness levels are at their peak.
The steps are still known locally as 'the Rocky steps'.

I was there to sell ice cream at the 'Freedom Fest'.
An estimated 300,000 to half a million people were there to witness a big free concert on the 'Rocky Steps', culminating in the most spectacular firework display.

The day had started well.
We had gone out for breakfast at WaWa's and managed to find out there were some local Spanish language television stations who were showing World Cup games.
Our next challenge was finding someone with a TV that received one of them.

Unbelievably, we managed to invite ourselves to someone's home and all was going well until it dawned on us, shortly before half time that we were due at work in only half an hour. The journey on the subway to the depot was around 20 minutes so we had a heartbreaking decision to make.

I spent the second half wondering what was going on in Turin and selling Jack and Jill ice creams to people who really didn't need the extra calories.

I lost count of how many times people recognised my English accent, and then asked me how Independence Day was celebrated in London.
I had to point out, gently, that as they were celebrating independence from us, it wasn't something we spent much time getting the banners and bunting out for.

There were lots of big name artists who performed and got the crowd jumping.

Local Soul diva Patti LaBelle was totally fantastic in my opinion but the 50 minute show by the (also local) Hooters seemed to be totally out of this world for everyone else.
If I'm honest, I've never listened to them before or since but everyone around me spent their show hanging onto each other, singing the words and waving lighters in the air.

I might have been able to enjoy the show a bit more if the local cops hadn't come to hassle me and ask to see my permit.
Of course I didn't have one as it was the company who had been given the certificates rather than the individual vendors.
I had to move to somewhere else and nearly got myself arrested when I accidentally said out loud what was running through my brain.

After the firework finale, packing up, taking the gear back to the depot and a late night subway journey we found ourselves back at our local neighbourhood bar, 'Murphy's' on Spruce street.
We still hadn't found out the final score of the game.

Upon entering Murphy's, we noticed a loud group of teutonic types getting merrily messy and drinking copious amounts of draft beer from pitchers.

Uh oh!

It didn't take long for us to be filled in on the details.

I have very few memories of the rest of that night.
My mate Sibbs went missing in an alcoholic haze and my other companion Nobby ended up getting involved in a game of pool that seemed to require a lot of pushing, shoving and swearing.
I have no idea how we all got back to our place in one of the 'liveliest' / dangerous places in America at that time.

It was at least 6 months before I finally got around to watching the highlights of that night in Turin.
I've seen them so many times since that I sometimes forget I didn't see them live. They've become part of our collective consciousness.

Happy Independence Day!

Friday, 3 July 2009

Middle England Despairs.

The braying Pimm's drinkers from the Home Counties will have to wait another year before their next opportunity to scream and lose their cool in public.

Andy Murray came away second best in this evenings greatly anticipated semi final against Andy Roddick.
The crowd gave Roddick generous applause but it was clear that he had somewhat pooped the party as far as most of those present were concerned.

As it happens, I only caught the final few minutes of the match having been stuck at work but I saw enough to realise the correct Andy had won.

In recent years, I haven't watched much tennis.
Of the many matches televised already from this years Wimbledon tournament, I've seen highlights of 3 or 4 and only watched one game from start to finish.

Unfortunately for those in SW19, "Wimbledon" doesn't instantly mean tennis to me,- it holds memories of damp afternoons standing on the terraces at Plough Lane.

In the late 80's, the group of friends I hung around with would often drive over to Wimbledon to see 'top division' football. There was no need to buy tickets in advance in those days and we would often only decide where we were going on the Saturday morning.
We visited Loftus Road fairly frequently, sometimes Highbury but more often than not it would be Plough Lane Wimbledon.
It was also at this time I had my first Charlton experiences. We would sometimes decide to go to Selhurst Park while Charlton were playing at 'home'.
We always knew we would have few problems accessing the stadium and we could arrive with only 5 minutes to spare and still get a reasonable view of the game. Crowd congestion wasn't really a problem at Ron's place.

My lack of enthusiasm for tennis hasn't always been the case.
At one time I was completely and utterly absorbed by the game.

I had posters of Mats Wilander on my wall and I became something of a Davis Cup fanatic.
I went to see an encounter between Italy and Great Britain at the Brighton Centre with my family and you couldn't have met a more enthusiastic schoolboy.

In 1980, my parents had gone to the Wimbledon tennis tournament and brought me back a programme.
I was now smitten.
Soon I knew players records, favourite shots, country of origin and place of residence.
But what really hooked me was the clothing.

While most tennis fans would have been quite happy to pour out the statistics of wins, losses and draws, I was compelled to share my knowledge of the clothing brands each player wore.
example: Bjorn Borg = Fila with Diadora footwear.
John McEnroe = Sergio Tacchini with Nike footwear
Ivan Lendl = all Adidas
Stefan Edberg = also all Adidas.

Even after all this time, the information is still easy for me to recall.
I became obsessed.
A simple walk to the shops was now an opportunity for 'trainer spotting'.
I walked around sizing up other people and grading them with my internal 'meter' with reference to their relative ability to pick out decent sportswear.

If I saw someone with a top drawer pair of trainers such as the Nike Wimbledon or Adidas Forest Hills I would smile the smile of one who 'knew'. If they had teamed it with something such as an Ellesse 'tennis shirt' or a Cerruti 1881 sweater then I knew I was in the presence of someone who really cared about their appearance.

When my family sat down to watch the final of the 1981 Wimbledon tournament, between the Swedish cool sensation Bjorn Borg and the American loudmouth John McEnroe, I didn't see the rivalry known as 'Fire and Ice'.

Throughout the 80's, I spent a ridiculous amount of Saturday job, paper round or milk round money on Tacchini and other 'casual' clothing.
I still wear Fila and Tacchini today.
I blame John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg for looking so fantastic throughout that period.

I can't help noticing that Andy Murray champions Fred Perry tennis wear.
I already own many Fred Perry garments.

I wonder if the youth of today are being influenced by Murray in the way the players of the 80's influenced me?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Well done Murray

Charlton Athletic fans know that there is only one 'Murray'.

Today, the vast majority of the country had their own number one Murray cruise through into the semi finals at Wimbledon.

He is still very young and shouldn't have to pay for stupid things said off the cuff but his comment about supporting anyone who was playing against England really did set his popularity back for a while.

I have no problem with him being Scottish. He is proud of his country and culture. Having spent 4 years myself living in Wales, I'm aware of how whole pubs will support, (loudly), whoever England's opposition is.
During the World Cup in 1990, the pub I visited changed from 'pro Irish' to 'pro Dutch', purely due to those nations playing against the 3 lions.
Andy Murray would have grown up in such an environment in rural Scotland so we should not have been surprised at his 'humour'.

As is the usual way when someone is winning, Andy Murray has become more and more 'British' in our media, to the extent that his Scottishness is now only mentioned in passing.

Murray won against the Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero in straight sets to progress to a match against Andy Roddick on Friday. Roddick had pushed aside Leyton Hewitt who was cheered on by a large contingent of yellow clad supporters.

Fridays match will be the first semi final a senior Brit has managed to contest since Tim Henman 7 years ago.

I wish him every success.

In other news, I was sad to hear that Molly Sugden has died at the age of 86.
Though never a massive fan of hers, I thoroughly enjoyed her character in 'Are You Being Served?'.
I looked forward to her descriptions of her pussy and the way she would put down Ms Brahms for being too junior to have a valid opinion.