Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The perils of fearing failure

Ladies, gentlemen, I return from Essex with news. We are mortal, my friends, and as liable to a deserved stuffing as the worst of them.

If it wasn't for being in rollickingly good company, Tuesday's trip up the A12 would have been swiftly consigned to the bin marked "bad memories". We overcame dreadful traffic conditions to get to the Care In The Community Stadium on time... except there's no signs to direct drivers to the ground. Up, down, and back up the A12 again, signs were finally tracked down somewhere off the dual carriageway, leading to a traffic jam. At 7.50pm. Colchester had also banked £7 in car park money... and then told us it was full up and we should park anywhere.

No sooner had we settled in our seats than Miguel Angel Llera guided the ball towards Rob Elliot... well, so he thought. He actually guided it into the back of the net, a furious keeper unable to do anything about it. Llera continued to have an awful match, and wasn't much use for Kayode Odejayi's second goal a couple of minutes later.

And apart from a couple of second-half spells, it didn't get much better than that, with Odejayi scoring again after Elliot collided with Nicky Bailey. Charlton were outmuscled, out of sorts, and looking knackered. I couldn't help wondering if too much is being asked of Jonjo Shelvey, while Bailey looks like a man desperate for a rest.

With Colchester's new boss Aidy Boothroyd winning friends and influencing people at the Us, it must have been galling for their old boss to be thumped there. But while Phil Parkinson's fine start to the season has lifted his stock at Charlton, hopefully he can deal with the first major hiccup of the season and make sure he and the squad learns from it. His decision not to substitute Llera until welll into the second half was a worry, though...

Colchester will, no doubt, be there or thereabouts when the League One spoils are handed out at the end of the season. With a tiny, tidy, if inaccessible new ground, it doesn't seem there's much to lose for them. But the fear of failure is going to haunt Charlton all season. Having been away for a few weeks, our nervy performance against Exeter (whose substitute goalkeeper was spotted in Harvey Gardens minutes after the final whistle picking up and paying for post-match pizzas) showed the early-season sharpness was wearing thin.

While last week's news of boardroom changes and a £7m investment in the club was welcome, it was also a reminder of how fragile Charlton remains. The directors' cash will plug this season's financial gaps. With big debts still lurking below the surface, it remains to be seen how we'd cope with a second season in the third tier, if that was to come about. There's an underlying assumption that we cannot afford to fail this season. And that's an awful amount of pressure to wear on anyone's shoulders.

If Colchester was tough, Leeds will be tougher. But they also know more than most the perils of fearing failure - in their third League One season, but now the only unbeaten team in England. They'll hit a rough patch soon. We just have to have the strength to guide them there on Saturday. And that'll mean overcoming the fear of failure. We can do it... can't we?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So, who's up for the Trust, then?

A potentially significant moment in Charlton's history took place on Tuesday night - I nearly missed it, eyelids drooping due to jetlag (thanks to Stuart for holding the fort while I swanned around the US and Canada), but it definitely happened. The Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust has been given fans' backing.

Well, I say that, but only about 20 people bothered to show up at the Charlton Conservative Club. A show of hands revealed about half came from the immediate locality. True, the weather was dire, and almost three times that number had attended the putative trust's first meeting in early August - and had been warned the second meeting (a technical formality) would go over much of the same old group.

But really... 20 people? Is that really how many people care about our club? It's worth pointing out, as Ben Hayes - the prime mover behind setting up a trust - said, early meetings of the Valley Party were also poorly attended.

Some things need pointing out, though - yes, we may be unbeaten and still be top of the league. Yes, things are looking rosy at the moment. But what would happen if we fail to win promotion this season? What if a takeover or outside cash doesn't materialise? Charlton are still in a perilous state, and have the highest wage bill in League One. Quite simply, it's time for us to be a little more vigilant about what happens to our club in the years ahead.

The next meeting is on 14 October, when roles like treasurer and secretary will be decided upon. Want to get involved? Or just want to see what goes on first hand? Don't rely on other people to do the work for you - get the date in your diary now and come down.

Tonight (Thursday) sees Phil Parkinson's Q&A at The Valley - I can't make it, having had something planned for ages that night, but tickets are still available if you want to go.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Put your Trust in Charlton shares

As many will be aware, some people believe that an independent Trust should be set-up to deal with the uncertainty that surrounds Charlton's finances and long-term ownership.

Personally I remain on the fence about the pros and cons. But the idea seems to have got a shot in the arm today, with the announcement that a mystery Charlton shareholder has 'donated' 524,894 shares.

The press release issued states that:

Assuming a decision is made to establish the Supporters' Trust (ST), we will grant it voting control in respect of the 524,894 shares that we own. As I mentioned before, if it were necessary or beneficial to the ST, we would be prepared to go further and actually donate the shares to the ST providing that, in the event of a financial return upon the shares, the net proceeds of that return were donated to a charity (say Demelza House), assuming that the legal advisers to the ST don't see any difficulty with that.

The press release gives the motive as:

While, in my view, my shares now have limited economic value they can regain meaningful value if they can be combined with significant voting proxies and/or share donations from other shareholders (large and small) with the aim of empowering supporters collectively with a permanent and independent voice with the owners of the Club, whoever they may be. If that were achieved, in current circumstances I am sure that all who contribute their voting proxies or make share donations to the ST would, like me, consider it a very satisfactory "return" on our shares.

Curiouser and curiouser. If you'd like to know more there is a Supporters' Trust meeting at the Conservative Club, 51 Charlton Church Lane on Tuesday 15 September at 7.30pm. Kent football journalist Tony Hudd, former AFC Wimbledon Chairman Kris Stewart and a representative from Supporters' Direct will be answering questions. All Charlton fans are welcome.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pardew's welcome?

Well, will you be booing?

I personally don't know. He didn't do his job and deserved to go, but are we making him shoulder more than his fair share of blame?

Either way, I'm wary of his return. His record against previous employers means no-one should expect a walkover against our fellow travellers from the Championship, Southampton. The thrashing of West Ham that arguably gave us false hope of Premiership salvation. Regular wins against the Palarse too. I reckon Pards knows how to motivate a side against those he thinks wronged him.

Nice to see a mention in Dispatches for the brilliant start Lloyd Sam has made, albeit with a bottle of Coke for a trophy. I'll bet that one will take pride of place in the fridge. Shocked but not surprised to hear that Sam's award is the first monthly prize a Charlton player has won for almost two years. Here's to more regular prizes in the rest of this season.