Saturday 8 January 2022

Signing Out

With a French residency visa, membership of the International Addicks, and a 12-month subscription to Charlton TV for the live streams all in my pocket, I can’t really continue under the title of Blackheath Addick. I am now living in France and plan to remain here – here being at present a mix of Lyon and our new place in Givry, Burgundy - for the foreseeable future. Consequently, while signing off from this space, there is a fresh incarnation, Burgundy Addick, which I hope others will look at from time to time -

One of the sadder tasks making the move was to scale down the Charlton memorabilia (inc programmes of course), to fit into an acceptable (to my partner Suzanne) shrine in the new place. In that I am indebted to the Charlton Museum. And when Ben came around to take a look he noticed the photo of me as a nipper on the pitch, the one in the photo on the blog, and wondered if the shirt still existed. It did – and I could hardly refuse.

Perhaps I always knew that my shirt would one day hang proudly at The Valley. I had of course for most of my life assumed that this would be the result of my outstanding career as Charlton’s finest ever centre-forward. As the chances of that scenario tended to reduce through my thirties and forties, thoughts turned to having to buy the club in order to achieve my goal (one essential condition of the purchase being that I would make one sub appearance to get my name in the record books). That scenario too is looking less likely now. I should have known all along that the shirt was always there, just waiting for the Museum to take it away and put it on display. I could not wish for a better place for it.

Monday 3 January 2022

Serious Dent To Ambitions

First off, Happy New Year to one and all! Unfortunately the first question for 2022 is whether Saturday’s defeat against a top six side, our second in succession, truly kills off our chances of closing the gap on the play-off places in the second half of the season. The obvious answer is ‘no’, but the two games without doubt make a serious dent in our ambitions, especially when paired with points dropped in the away games at Morecombe and Shrewsbury. It’s unfair, and there are reasons behind the results, but there is now a clear contrast between the first five games under JJ – four wins and a draw, 13 points out of 15 – and the subsequent six – two wins, a draw, and three defeats, or 7 points out of 18. Also, a defeat at home rather puts paid to the notion that we might simply have a problem getting the necessary results away from The Valley.

It isn’t rocket science to pinpoint the factors behind the change in returns. Of the last six games Stockley dropped out of three for his suspension and a fourth, yesterday, due to a knock. Add in the three unavailable late in the day for Plymouth, before that Pearce being injured, plus Leko, in addition to the other absentees (Inniss, Lavelle, Matthews, Blackett-Taylor and Forster-Caskey) and we have been pulled up short. The squad is well covered in some areas but not in certain key ones and for that we have paid a price, especially as some of those on the fringe of the starting XI – Kirk, Morgan, Soare and now Davison – have not taken their chances.

It's reasonable to say that the style of play that Jackson wants the team to produce is demanding in terms of physical intensity; and when the team has been up for the challenge it has worked very well. But when they are off the pace, and short of options in key areas, it seems we can be found out, with presumably teams doing their homework on us. Without Stockley, Wycombe were able to crowd out the important areas, leaving no space for Washington, Lee or Gilbey – or indeed Leko - to exploit, and until Inniss came on as a last-gasp centre-forward we had no real alternative.

There are still too many points to play for to simply call time on the season and plan for the next campaign. But Saturday did feel seriously deflating, perhaps not just for the fans. I’m all for mutual respect on the pitch etc but there did seem to be an awful lot of mateyness out there once we had been beaten rather than desolation at losing a game against what we hoped would soon be a rival for a play-off spot.

For the record, I see that Wycombe have come in for a fair amount of flak from other Addicks over their tactics, but I’m not sure why. They neutralised our strengths and played to their own, which included the knowledge that in McCleary they had a player capable of producing some moments of magic and in Vokes someone likely to convert if a chance in the box came his way. Their time-wasting was excessive, but it wasn’t their fault the ref did nothing about it, adding a mere five minutes of stoppage time. Fact is that they produced the one moment of class in the first half – and those at the game may have been deprived of the interesting debate between Robert Lee, Steve Brown and Scott Minto over whether the bulk of the blame for it should rest with Dobson or Gilbey – and in the second half, although we hit the post, had the better chances, missing one or two which would have killed off the game.

If we wanted TS to spend all he had in the transfer window to bolster a continuing rise up the table it was not exactly what the doctor ordered. And as has been pointed out elsewhere, addressing our needs isn’t a simple case of going out and signing another centre-forward. Would that player be intended to be a straight replacement if Stockley is unavailable? In that event, if we can attract someone ready to be a second choice, Davison becomes very much surplus to requirements. How do we intend to use Leko for the remainder of the season? He is a different style of player to Washington and if he’s playing the midfield has to be able to adapt to that to get the best out of him. It’s reasonable to expect that we will bring in another forward during the window, but just what sort of player will say a good deal about how Sandgaard at least views the remainder of this season.

For now we have to pretend to be interested in the Papa DooDah thing. I hope JJ uses the game to try something a little different, just to experiment, especially if Stockley isn’t risked. After that, I’m aware that others attach more importance than I do to the FA Cup for a team in our situation. I hope we have an enjoyable game against Norwich but am far more interested in how we will be shaping up against Crewe and Cheltenham as quite frankly both now need to be beaten – otherwise even the seriously deluded optimists, including myself, will have to start planning for another season in this bloody division.