Monday, March 31, 2008

Never fade away

You'll have noticed that over the past few months, updates to this site have been pretty patchy - it's been tough work following a side which has used 35 players this season, and the atmosphere at The Valley has been so poor, matches haven't had atmospheres I've really wanted to revisit.

I clocked the first boos against Wolves at about 28 minutes in, three minutes before Greg Halford's equaliser. It wasn't a good first half performance - and as the wind and rain swirled around The Valley, I wondered what the hell I was doing there. My mind wasn't really on the game either, since I'd had bad news earlier in the day. I loathe the cliche "puts football into perspective", but it put the evening in a different light.

Sat on the lip of the upper north stand, I looked over at the Jimmy Seed Stand, remembering my first ever visit to The Valley, having been taken there by my grandparents in about 1980. I would have been about five or six. I've no idea who we played, all I remember is standing on the old south terrace, looking down at the crumbling old ground. It's the fondest memory left to me by my grandfather, who died in the 1990s, and my grandmother, who died on Saturday. Because when you go to football when you're little, it's magic.

I didn't return to The Valley (apart from breaking in while it was closed) for many years after, but I never forgot that visit, and it was why I continued to follow Charlton. And it was the reason for me being sat in the Covered End on a miserable Saturday night, listening to some bitter old men behind me slag off Leroy Lita. Not much magic there.

So when does the magic go? I was miserable, hacked off, on my own and getting cold on Saturday night, but there was always the hope things would get better.

Behind me, it was all shit. And it was all Pardew's fault. Maybe it's not just Charlton. Perhaps it's the cost of petrol? The way the world's going? Wife not as good looking as she was? Can't get it up any more? Why not come to The Valley to take it out on the team? And everyone else who has also paid money to come to escape their own cares for a couple of hours. Instead, we've got to put up with their own moans for two hours.

The demands for Lita's substititution from behind me grew as the second half kicked-off, a background noise as irritating as tinnitus. Yet the on-loan striker had found new impetus, while Wayne Hennessey saved well from Halford and Gray. We were comfortably outplaying Wolves, but then went 2-1 down - again, this just wasn't going to be our day.

Until Lita scored that goal, and unleashed that celebration in injury time - ripping off his shirt and sliding on his knees towards Pardew. Did I say something about magic? And we had to press forward for a winner. This was....

...not going to be our day after all. Karl Henry scored with seconds to go, making it 3-2 to the jubilant visitors. Shellshocked wasn't the word.

But Lita appeared again, presenting his glowing boots to a youngster in the lower north stand. He's a class act. Yes, I did say something about magic, didn't I? And that lad will be hooked on Charlton, just like I was nearly three decades ago.

Behind me, Lita was still getting jeered. We were desperately unlucky, but we get the results our embarrassing fans deserve. We can't let these sad, frustrated little men ruin our matches for us. Hopefully our sour end of season will cleanse our fanbase of these losers, and they can spend their Saturdays grumbling at Jeff Stelling instead, and then moaning about their Sky subscriptions or something.

But while the likes of Leroy Lita act as generously as he did on Saturday, the moaning old bores will never win. And some of that magic will still be there. Even if you do come off the wrong side of a 3-2 thriller.

And with that, I went off to toast my old nan, and dream of happier days.

Monday, March 24, 2008

So, this is the second division

If it hadn't been hammered home in August, it was hammered home over an Easter weekend which saw us fall to 10th - 11 points behind leaders Stoke, 13 in front of third-from-bottom Sheffield Wednesday. We're strictly second division.

Funny, really - as the rain tipped down over The Valley and a painful draw with West Brom, I reflected that I'd come home from a trip to Valencia to catch this rubbish. I was there last year too, as we scraped a vital Premier League win, and saw the name of our shirt sponsor everywhere. Now their showroom is empty, awaiting a buyer, and we're floundering in second-tier mediocrity.

What went wrong? Loan signings Scott Sinclair and Leroy Lita were meant to push us forward. Instead, they've held us back - Sinclair has been poor for us, and Lita hasn't made the impact expected of him. At least Greg Halford started to get the hang of things on Friday. Do we miss Andy Reid in midfield? It's a moot point, but in all honesty, when confidence is low, would he have been able to turn things around?

If the players don't think we can do it - well, they're not playing like it, do the fans? West Brom's equaliser came as half the north upper was cheering a toy fish bring lobbed around the place (after the goldfish which plugs a web design firm on the big screen). Perhaps the Valley Flags guys should forget the huge Killer (which the East Stand was struggling with, clearly it was dislodging a few flasks) and just buy some plastic fish instead.

So, yeah, for the crap on the pitch and the crap in the stands, watching Charlton is a thoroughly miserable experience. Pards is targeting a win against Wolves on Saturday to kick us up the arse and get us back into the swing of things. I'm already considering where I'll be drowning my sorrows afterwards, and planning for a trip to Carlisle next season. Who's coming?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Have I missed something?

I'm back in the chair for a short while, since the Inspector is relaxing in his luxury Llanera property on the Costa del Kent.

Why is the second most despised person in football, Neil Warnock, so keen to tap up Scott Sinclair? The lad looks to have pace to burn but the run outs he's had so far have, if I'm being kind, been more than a touch underwhelming.

Moving away from the human choad that is Neil Warnock, Charlton lurch onwards to a home game with West Brom tomorrow. I'd open a AQITES sweepstake on how many times 'best footballing side in the league' is uttered by Tony Mowbray in interviews, but I've eaten the Easter Egg which was going to be the prize.

So I'll use (waste?) my last words to beg every reader to unconditionally get behind the team tomorrow. People are beginning to laugh at our constant complaining.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ipswich 2-0 Charlton

When the going gets tough, the crap stop updating their blogs, and so after the gutless defeat to Preston, I was a bit lost for words. So I left it until after Burnley. But we lost that too, so I kept my head down. Even if, it appears, we played rather well.

I still approached Ipswich with a sense of trepidation - and when someone last week suggested a trip to Chelmsford v AFC Wimbledon, I regretted having bought Ipswich tickets so early. Ho-hum. Even up there, in that away pub that smells of damp dog, I wasn't really up for it.

But there's something about Portman Road that can lift you. It's a cracking ground - space for 30,000 right on top of the pitch. And we started well - the away fans were in fine voice, and with Leroy Lita up front on his own, we were playing pretty well. Soon, the screws were tightening on the home side.

Then... a fluke ball banged in off the post past Nicky Weaver. 1-0 down. Our heads were down for a bit. But we regained our composure. We couldn't quite get the ball to Lita, though, probably not the best of players to have up front on his own. But we kept trying. Our midfield looked composed (Zheng Zhi was particularly good, bearing in mind his recent ropey form) and our defence looked pretty assured. It wasn't so bad. Come half-time and a chance to regroup...

And in front of us, a middle-aged man. Arms folded, he kept complaining. This ball was crap. So was that. Darren Ambrose missed a header he'd have needed to have been twelve feet tall to get - and he tutted. We took the mickey out of him to a few titters around us. But he wasn't the only grumbler. Still, we were having fun.

Half-time came and went, and ZZ was joining Lita up front, which didn't stop the brains trust behind us chanting for "two up front!" We were putting more pressure on Ipswich. We were still the better side. But, comically, this wasn't good enough for the man in front. Eventually, my travelling companion snapped. "Will you stop fucking moaning?!" If you don't like it, go home, I ventured. Or go to Wickes, I hear they've got a sale on.

The man in front's face turned red. "I've been coming for 50 years..."

"Well, you've seen some worse teams than this, haven't you?"

And with that, Ipswich went 2-0 up.

It was never going to be our day. No luck from the ref, nothing seemed to go right. The only person to have worse luck than us was Ipswich prodigal son Shefti Kuqi, newly signed from Palace, received thunderous applause when he came on but fell like a sack of spuds five minutes later and was hauled off on something looking like an ironing board, nursing a knackered hamstring.

Naturally, ZZ's efforts when he was substituted were greeted with a bald man making a wanking gesture in his direction, while Leroy Lita was jeered by some rat-faced kids to my right. Some of the abuse Greg Halford got was pretty dim - no, he's clearly not the best player in the world, but you could see the frustration etched in his face. He's in the red shirt, and deserves our backing.

The final whistle came as a relief - we looked like we'd lost hope, and our formation went to bits after Kuqi's injury forced Town down to 10 men.

Anyway, we're down to 9th - you said you wanted excitement? You got it now...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When there's nothing sensible to say...

Dear, oh dear. Anyone want an Ipswich ticket for Saturday?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Charlton 1-1 Bristol City

So what the blinkin' heck was all that about, eh?

A perplexing match against a shower of nasty buggers who we should have beaten. Bristol City do have skill, but they match it with getting in your face and causing trouble. Considering the divide between the allegedly "skillful" teams in the Championship (us, West Brom) and the "anti-football" sides (Hull, Stoke), it's a funny blend of the two, but it's done the trick.

And we couldn't cope with it. We were lacking in midfield and rubbish in defence. We seemed shell-shocked by Jamie McCombe's equaliser. (And what the hell was the flare on the pitch about?) And we flagged badly in the last 15 minutes. We remain in fifth place after a host of draws in the Championship - but with five points between us and West Brom in fourth.

The question is - do we really have the bottle to get ourselves out of this division?

Monday, March 03, 2008

A little bit of motivation

See, my avoidance strategy worked. Instead of being hunched over the internet, trying to follow some commentary, I went out into the fresh air (what's that all about)... and we won. Victory at Sheffield United will keep the moaners at bay for a while - and in 24 hours, I hope that's true this time tomorrow after we face Bristol City, and I hope we get to see Scott Sinclair make his home debut as well.

Here's Bristol City's Jamie McCombe to give you some motivation: "We can go 11 clear of Charlton if we win at the Valley. That may even put them out of the automatic promotion race." (more)

Hopefully Pards will be pinning that one to the wall tomorrow...