19 March 2017

Sheffield United 2 Charlton 1

My first Charlton game in months and, surprisingly, my first visit to Sheffield and my first experience of the Greasy Chip Butty song. Sheffield, it turns out, is compact and buzzing and Bramall Lane football ground is tucked in neatly, very near the city centre.

There was a crowd of 23,000 watching United's seemingly untroubled progress towards the Championship and when they sang together it was an impressive noise.

But soon after silenced, as Ricky Holmes - as in all the few games I've seen this season, outstanding -  scored within 3 minutes: a perfectly struck free kick from just outside the box. Charlton were dominant for the first ten minutes and looked more like the team that was walking towards promotion.

With their first attack, though, United equalised. A poor goal to concede with the first sign of how United would learn to take apart Charlton's defence. Declan Rudd is the scapegoat of the day, it seems. I don't know what his recent performances have been like but would have to agree he should have done better.

As the half went on, United attacked more, initially getting caught offside too easily. What looked to me like a clear penalty was denied them, and they figured out how to time their runs to avoid the offside. The last ten minutes of the half were perilous as they created and wasted chance after chance and Charlton fans were grateful when it was over.

After the break United simply picked up where they'd left off and quickly took the lead. From then they gave a lesson in how to do enough and no more. It was thoroughly competent, and none of the home fans would be complaining but by now they surely ought to be playing with a little swagger. Maybe that's a sign of how good Charlton were: United couldn't relax until the game was over. There were a few tweets circulating from United fans about how Charlton were strong opposition. Here's one I got:

Probably the best of the few Charlton performances I've seen this season. Much too late to make any difference of course and a loss is still a loss and the relegation zone is still too close.

01 March 2017

Too many coaches?

After a disastrous February for Charlton, here are some thoughts I've been having for some time. I haven't seen Charlton play this year so this is speculation on my part and I'd be grateful for comments from people who've seen the shambles recently.

The Charlton website lists four first team coaches supporting Karl Robinson.

Ritchie Barker is Karl's old colleague from MK Dons, and it's safe to assume they have a good working relationship.

Next listed is Simon Clark who by all accounts is a very promising prospect - a future head coach or manager in his own right.

Then there's Chris O'Loughlin. No-one's exactly sure of his role, but the general suspicion is that he's Duchatelet's spy in the camp, and a warning to Karl that he's replaceable any time Roland has a grumpy fit of indigestion.

And then there's the goalkeeping coach, Lee Turner. I've no idea if he's any good or not.

That's the formal team. We've also heard that Lee Bowyer and Robbie Fowler have played a kind of consultancy role - Bowyer was in the dugout last week. And Johnnie Jackson is supposedly taking a greater role in coaching these days.

To sum up: a whole lotta coaches. There may be more that I haven't heard of. And I've nothing against any of those I've listed - except O'Loughlin, obviously, but that's only by association. But with so many coaches there must be different opinions, different approaches, and different motivations. That could be positive: it can helpful for an established way of working to be challenged. But at Charlton, right now, I'm not sure it is.

There can't be a clear, unified message coming through, and it's hard to imagine that the players know what's going on anymore. Those who allegedly don't want to make an effort have somewhere to hide and those who do can't be sure what's expected of them. It's a perfect, Delia Smith-ish in its infallibilty, recipe for chaos.