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30 April 2014

Charlton 3 Watford 1

Thank goodness that's over! The season, I mean. The game was terrific entertainment and for once I could have watched more. Watford were surprisingly competitive (by which I mean violent) given their league position, but Charlton finally put together a decent, full-length performance and thoroughly deserved the win.

It was especially good to see Callum Harriot get two goals. He's been so unfairly scapegoated this season by some individuals that you sometimes had to wonder if it would affect his confidence. But he doesn't seem to lack that commodity at all (by which I mean he's cocky) and he got a standing ovation when he was taken off with about five minutes to go - presumably the substitution was made precisely so that he got that ovation.

And once again Johnnie Jackson scored a vital goal at exactly the right time. Watford's equaliser - a rather lovely goal itself - might have a trigger for the kind of collapse we've often seen, but Jackson seemed to use sheer willpower to get the ball across the line.

After the game Jose Riga probably won over any doubters with a simple and moving speech, while Jackson embedded himself deeper into Charlton folklore with his few words. He specifically thanked the crowd for not getting on the team's back during bad performances. And it's true that the support has been exceptional even during the worst times. There has been a real connection between the fans and the team. Comparing this to the Pardew times, it's been clear this season that, to use a tarnished phrase, we're all in this together.

The past is awful, the future is doubtful, but last night was a time to live in the beautiful, glorious present.

27 April 2014

Charlton 1 Blackburn 3

For a while there, I felt I might have over-reacted. The unlikely recovery and win at Hillsborough on Monday, and the news that the club has applied for planning permission to completely renew the pitch, bringing in new-fangled doohickeys like undersoil heating and something called "drainage" (no, me neither) led me to believe that all is not lost. Basically, unless Charlton lose both their remaining games they should be safe, and that'll surely never happen.

But then Chris Powell went on TalkSport, the station that has to shave five times a day, and gave what I think is the fullest account yet of his experience of this season. Clearly, there are still contractual restraints on what he can say about Roland Duchatelet, but what he could say - and what he didn't - told a fascinating, angrifying story.

If you reassemble his comments into chronological order, it's like a descent into hell from the paradise of just two years ago. The first season in the Cham astonished everyone. Finishing ninth, Powell saw that this was one of those tides in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to ... a £2 million pound cut in his budget. Powell said he told the owners that with that budget they could expect a bottom-six finish.

So a season of purgatory began. The owners left him alone, with a barely adequate team and a totally inadequate pitch. But at least they left him alone. League results were OK, not great, but Charlton put together a cup run. A cup run! Even Danny Murphy realised how unheard-of that is.

But then January: lasciate ogni speranza voi che entrate. 

Here's what Powell wanted to say::
[it was t]he slough of unamiable liars, bog of stupidities, malevolent stupidities, and stupidities, the soil living pus, full of vermin, dead maggots begetting live maggots, slum owners, usurers squeezing crab-lice, pandars to authority, pets-de-loup, sitting on piles of stone books, obscuring the texts with philology, hiding them under their persons, the air without refuge of silence, the drift of lice, teething, and above it the mouthing of orators, the arse-belching of preachers. -
 
But, for legal reasons, he can't say those things. He allowed himself a moment of triumph to comment that Jose Riga isn't playing the Standard players either: "So, I was right". And you could tell that there had been "discussions" about this.

Essentially, nothing here contradicted my belief that Duchatelet was set on sacking Powell as soon as he reasonably could. He wanted to toss aside one of the most promising managers in the country, and eventually did.

So, to return to today's match. It was a performance typical of the season: a good commanding start, playing better than the opposition but lacking a finish. Blackburn scored with their first chance. It looked like Hamer should have saved it, and he clearly thought he should. And then the usual descent into incoherence. A missed penalty was at least a new way of avoiding scoring and while Sordell's goal was taken and finished with the air of a man with a point to make, Blackburn always looked like they could score another if they had to. 

Thanks to other results, with this defeat Charlton have probably secured their place in the Championship next season. But it felt like we'd been relegated. On the last day of every season television cameras have two favourite subjects: a young supporter, in tears as football teaches him or her how cruel life can be; and an old geezer staring blankly into the middle distance, numb.Yesterday, a week early, that was me. 

The slough of unamiable liars, bog of stupidities, malevolent stupidities, and stupidities, the soil living pus, full of vermin, dead maggots begetting live maggots, slum owners, usurers squeezing crab-lice, pandars to authori pets-de-loup, sitting on piles of stone books, obscuring the texts with philology, hiding them under their persons, the air without refuge of silence, the drift of lice, teething, and above it the mouthing of orators, the arse-belching of preachers. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19839#sthash.rjNaiX6z.dpuf
The slough of unamiable liars, bog of stupidities, malevolent stupidities, and stupidities, the soil living pus, full of vermin, dead maggots begetting live maggots, slum owners, usurers squeezing crab-lice, pandars to authori pets-de-loup, sitting on piles of stone books, obscuring the texts with philology, hiding them under their persons, the air without refuge of silence, the drift of lice, teething, and above it the mouthing of orators, the arse-belching of preachers. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19839#sthash.rjNaiX6z.dpuf
The slough of unamiable liars, bog of stupidities, malevolent stupidities, and stupidities, the soil living pus, full of vermin, dead maggots begetting live maggots, slum owners, usurers squeezing crab-lice, pandars to authori pets-de-loup, sitting on piles of stone books, obscuring the texts with philology, hiding them under their persons, the air without refuge of silence, the drift of lice, teething, and above it the mouthing of orators, the arse-belching of preachers. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19839#sthash.rjNaiX6z.dpuf
The slough of unamiable liars, bog of stupidities, malevolent stupidities, and stupidities, the soil living pus, full of vermin, dead maggots begetting live maggots, slum owners, usurers squeezing crab-lice, pandars to authori pets-de-loup, sitting on piles of stone books, obscuring the texts with philology, hiding them under their persons, the air without refuge of silence, the drift of lice, teething, and above it the mouthing of orators, the arse-belching of preachers. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19839#sthash.rjNaiX6z.dpuf
The slough of unamiable liars, bog of stupidities, malevolent stupidities, and stupidities, the soil living pus, full of vermin, dead maggots begetting live maggots, slum owners, usurers squeezing crab-lice, pandars to authori pets-de-loup, sitting on piles of stone books, obscuring the texts with philology, hiding them under their persons, the air without refuge of silence, the drift of lice, teething, and above it the mouthing of orators, the arse-belching of preachers. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19839#sthash.rjNaiX6z.dpuf

18 April 2014

Charlton 0 Bolton 0

Lucky old Bolton! Sitting 13th in the table, with no danger of doing anything interesting for the rest of the season, they played well within themselves today, and really that was all they needed to do.

Some sanity had prevailed in Jose Riga's selection, and Morrison was back where he should be. I strongly suspect we could have lost without him. The starting line-up also saw Morgan Fox come in at left-back, and he had a generally excellent game, marred by some wayward crossing and some lapses of concentration towards the end. Diego Poyet added to his repertoire by making a superb acrobatic save off the line. There appears to be no end to his talent.

Otherwise it was what we've seen so often. A basically competent performance, but no real threat. A few chances were weakly finished, but mostly the half-power Bolton had nothing to worry about.

Towards the end, Riga replaced Simon Church with Andy Hughes: the clearest possible indication that he thought a point was enough.

Maybe it is, but if Charlton or our relegation rivals are going to win any games, it will surely be against this kind of dead-season opposition.

Sorry, no jokes or vitriol today. But here's a picture of Johannes Brahms. He spent much of his youth playing the piano and writing music in a house of ill-repute. I don't know what made me think of him.

16 April 2014

Charlton 1 Barnsley 2

It would, of course, be ridiculous to even entertain the notion that the creature who walks the world as "Roland Duchatelet" was assembled in a lofty, gothick house in Croydon by a man with a creosote face and Robbie Savage hair and an enduring hatred for Charlton, but it's equally hard to imagine how Jordanstein's monster - created and trained with this single purpose - could have done a better job of ruining a football club.

As this Mariana Trench of a season reached a new low, at last my feelings have #movedon from sadness, but to anger, not acceptance. This time last year we were fancifully imagining a late, improbable and hilariously doomed foray into the playoffs. This year the best we can hope for is a late and improbable escape from relegation. After this result, who do we imagine we can beat in the remaining games? Barnsley were awful, and will be relegated, but they beat us and I'm pretty sure we'll be playing them again next season.

Who's to blame? The players? I'm a firm believer that players basically want to win. They are by nature ultra-competitive - if not, they'd never have made it into the professional game at all. It takes exceptional treatment to beat that out of them, to make them not give a toss about the result. That hasn't happened to Charlton since the great pardewing of 2008.

But there are plenty of ways to make sure the players don't give everything. Leave their contracts unrenewed, maybe. Prove your contempt by offloading three of the best of them. Sack their well-respected manager. Bring in loanees and reserve team players from some other club, saying, in effect that these people could easily do your job.

Bring in a management team, which, in its matching suits, is best understood as a Gilbert and George tribute act. What a dazzling stroke of conceptual art to field a team - for the most important match  of the season - without Michael Morrison. The bourgeoisie was well and truly épaté'd by that.

Of course, when the being known as Duchatelet collects his trophy from the Wreckers Club, he'll pay humble tribute to those who made it all possible: his parents, his creator, his accountant; above all his predecessors who apparently thought that global warming had made drainage a thing of the past, and who cut Chris Powell's already skinflint team budget with the mad-eyed glee of Iain Duncan Smith taking away a disabled child's benefit.

Unsurprisingly, we learned this week that season tickets will remain on sale at the current "bargain" rate until the end of the season. You need to be any kind of cynic to work out what that tells us about the number of renewals so far. You don't need to be Martin Lewis to suppose that the price is hardly going to rise.

So a weak team, a dodgy manager, and even less money. Next season will be such fun.

05 April 2014

Charlton 0 Reading 1

The man next to me came back for the second half with a cup of coffee. He was still drinking it at the end of the game. He must really like bitter dregs. Oh, I'm so depressed I can't even do the obvious joke.

Reading's goal keeper could have done the same. Damn it, he could have have a three-course meal in the second half, so little did he have to do. There was an occasional attack, but he'd always have had time to excuse himself, wipe any grease from his fingers, and deal with it, before returning to the table. No cold soup or soggy dessert for him!

He wasn't much busier in the first half, although Charlton were better. Another truly excellent performance from Diego Poyet; to be unwontedly pretentious for a moment, watching him play is one of those times when football becomes an aesthetic experience. It's so sad he'll inevitably be leaving in the summer, come what may. I hope he goes to a club that plays nice football. There are rumours that West Ham want him. If Fat Sam gets his hands on him, I may cry.

But it was a familiar story. Despite being the better team, Charlton didn't create any real chances. You could blame Simon Church, who looked dispirited from the start, or you could blame the decision to play him as a lone striker, a role that doesn't suit him at all.

Reading came out stronger in the second half. In the battle of managers-who-look-like-management-consultants Nigel Adkins won. He'd no doubt done his research and knew what to do. In any case, the recipe for beating Charlton at the Valley is simple: let them have all the possession they want; wait for a mistake; score a goal; relax; don't forget to tip the waiter. I've a terrible feeling that even Gary Johnson will be able to work that one out. And he'd never be mistaken for a management consultant. Which is perhaps the nicest thing I've ever said about anyone.