29 September 2012

Charlton 1 Blackburn 1

I haven't blogged many games this season. I didn't want to be dishonest but at the same time I didn't want to be negative. I was unsure whether the team was actually good enough to survive in the second tier, but hoped things would get better. In particular, the midfield looked outpaced a lot of the time, and that's something you can't easily put right.

But this evening I'm feeling much better. Charlton undoubtedly deserved at least the draw against a Blackburn team that's packed with well-known players, who were mainly in the premiership last season. Their performance must have dented their fans' joy at the departure of Steve Kean last night, and maybe they will realise it wasn't all his fault. Please, football gods, let Iain Dowie get the job, so they can see what a bad manager really looks like.

Of course, you can't expect things to turn around so quickly, but I think it was generally believed that Blackburn's players always supported Kean. Certainly there was no sign that they were happy he'd gone: they didn't play with any kind of flair or creative freedom. Fundamentally, I suspect, they're not a very good squad, with some players living off their reputations. Jordan Rhodes, who cost 8 million, was once again invisible; Michael Morrison really knows how to exclude him from a game.

Danny Murphy was booed by a section of the crowd. This is disgraceful. Everybody should have joined in.

And Charlton played the best I've seen them this season. This was a shock, given the line-up. Ricardo Fuller was a late loss, with a virus, and so BWP was playing alone up-front. Not his natural role, and too much of the play seemed to assume there was a tall man in a red shirt standing near him.

But it meant there were five in midfield, and they largely dominated the game, certainly after Blackburn's goal on 15 minutes. This was the result of a very skillful passage of play, and I feared the worst. Perhaps Blackburn really did have classy players. But the goal seemed to be the limit of their ambition, and all the creative play from then on was from Charlton. Everyone was playing well but special mentions to Salim Kerkar, who got better and better as the game went on, and to Danny Hollands, playing some very intelligent balls in the centre.

An action-packed afternoon for Johnnie Jackson, too. Looking better than he has so far this season, he missed a penalty, but scored the equaliser about a minute later, and only lasted 7 minutes of the second half before an injury saw him replaced by Bradley Pritchard, who fitted in perfectly, another player raising his game.

Charlton had chances; Blackburn didn't and were obviously happier with their one point than Charlton were. Charlton should have won, probably, but with only one striker it was always going to be difficult. The only dilemma now is whether Chris Powell should play five in midfield again: is the security that formation gives worth the price of losing goal-scoring opportunities? We'll probably find out on Tuesday, a game I'm really looking forward to.

02 September 2012

Tokyo calling ...

I'm old enough to just about remember the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games. It was the first Olympics since communications satellites were invented, and so we could see live, or nearly live, coverage as Mary Rand, Ann Packer, Lynn "the leap" Davies, and Ken Matthews (who I have to say I'd completely forgotten) won a respectable-in-those-days 4 gold medals.

But the technology was pretty basic. As I remember, we saw an awful lot of people sitting and nattering in a studio far away from the action. Every so often they'd get hold of a bit of footage of a Brit winning something, and show that over and over again. Or we'd have a good laugh at the freaky ladymen sexually ambiguous shotputters from eastern Europe.

Channel 4's coverage of the London Parlympics has taken me back to those days, and it's not a good nostalgia. For most of the time, we have two presenters in a claustrophobic studio, usually with a guest, and they talk and talk about what we're not actually seeing. The games themselves might as well be on the other side of the world, there's so little engagement with them. We get occasional, context-free, clips of British athletes, but very little continuous or live coverage.This morning was an example. The rower Tom Aggar was competing in the final of the sculls, and apparently had a decent chance in it. In the event, he came fourth. C4 showed a short extract from the race about an hour after it had happened, packaged up with a short interview. Meanwhile someone on Twitter commented wryly that while a C4 commentator had described the long jump competition as thrilling, no-one watching would have known as they had only shown two jumps.

A few weeks ago, we saw that people could become enthusiastic about all kinds of sports if they were just given the time to get to know them and to follow the drama of the events. People became instant experts on synchronised diving and dancing horses because they could sit and watch and get drawn in, not because someone in a studio told them about it.

I know this is the biggest coverage the Paralympics has ever had, but in practice it's so depressing. I don't much like Channel 4 anyway - although it shows some excellent programmes, its personality is obnoxious - but these games were a chance to improve its image. Unfortunately, it's taken a fundamentally wrong direction, and I think the problem is this: it's presenting the games as a display of triumph over adversity, rather than as a top-grade sporting event. It's not trusting the sporting action to speak for itself, which is not just ruining viewers' enjoyment but is actually quite patronising to the athletes involved.

Don't ever take the BBC for granted!