Saturday 5 May 2012

'We've got our club back'

That was the chant of the Covered End in the middle of a eloquent speech by Chris Powell after the presentation of the League 1 trophy to Charlton at The Valley yesterday. Sometimes days of this kind are an anti-climax, but I enjoyed yesterday more than our last promotion, to the Premiership. It feels as if a dark cloud has lifted from The Valley. There are many challenges ahead, but they will be more exciting and worthwhile ones than in League 1.

Everyone is being very English and ignoring the smurfs on the adjacent escalator

At London Bridge, I had a large number of Hartlepool supporters asking me what train they should get, what the station was called and whether a travelcard was valid. They seemed more confused than the average crowd from up north, but also very friendly.

I got to The Valley by about 1.15 but already there were large crowds around. The attendance was 26,749 which I think is enough to give us our highest ever average attendance in League 1. I had to queue for some time in the club shop, soon to be taken over by Nike, to get my souvenirs.

The build up to the match was just superb. The singers were excellent, not least the South Korean lady. It was also great to see Charlton legend Richard Rufus whom my wife used to sponsor: we have a number of his signed shirts and gave one to the Rose of Denmark. However, the landing of the Red Devils on the pitch, one of them carrying the match ball, was simply superb. It must take real and courage to jump out of a small aircraft and land on what is, relatively speaking, a patch of grass surrounded by tall structures.

The Hartlepool players and the officials formed a guard of honour for the players. We started the match with a rather slow tempo, treating it very much as an exhibition or training game. It was nine minutes before we launched an attack that was worth noting and then it came to nothing. On twelve minutes Wiggins was forced to concede a corner to the visitors but the ball went over. Charlton won their first corner on 19 minutes. It was taken by skipper Johnnie Jackson, but the header from Wright-Phillips was caught by the former Glazier in the Hartlepool goal.

Good work by Wiggins led to a second Charlton corner but it was caught by the keeper. Wright-Phillips went on a run which ended with an unproductive Charton free kick. A mix up between Solly and Hamer led to a corner for the visitors. Johnnie Jackson had to be taken off, presumably because he had a knock or strain although I didn't notice anything. Haynes replaced him.

We paid the price for our somewhat casual approach on the half hour mark when from a Hartlepool corner the unmarked Peter Hartley was able to sneak the ball into net along the ground at the near post.

Wright-Phillips had a half chance at an angle, but he is not too good at those and the ball went just wide. Hollands challenged Scott Flinders in the Hartlepool goal and won the Addicks a corner. The visitors looked dangerous with some corners, but we went in at the break only one goal down. The backroom staff were recognised with medals. Alan Curbishley came on to the pitch and paid tribute to Chris Powell.

HT: 0-1

When Chris Powell was appointed as manager, some people argued that he was too nice to do the job well. He is a genuinely nice person and he doesn't throw the tea cups around, but that doesn't mean he can't be firm. No doubt he had a few things to say at half time and indeed he showed his frustration from the touchline during the game.

Whatever he said didn't have immediate effect and the usual suspects in the East Stand started to give vent to their frustration. Someone said to me in the pub afterwards that the crowd is very fickle and goodness knows what will happen if we hit a rough patch in the Championship. I was quietly confident that our quality would show through.

It didn't start well with a free kick on the D after a trip. The match was generally played in a good spirit and there were no cards awarded. Hamer saved the free kick but was then challenged and seemed to fumble but the move ended in an offside decision. Yann Kermorgant fed Wright-Phillips but his effort went over. Charlton won a corner taken by Dale Stephens but it was saved. The subdued Scott Wagstaff was taken off and replaced by Bradley Pritchard which made a real difference. As Steve from Petts Wood commented, the midfield had been flat and had not got forward enough.

Wiggins won Charlton a corner and Hollands was able to equalise with a decisive short. Then from another Charlton corner Danny Haynes made it 2-1 by nodding the ball in the net after Taylor had looped it in and the mood relaxed. The best was yet to come, however. Bradley Pritchard put in a good long ball to Yann Kermorgant. The angle looked completely impossible but the ball went in the net. I just wrote 'Fab!'. This is a goal I will remember for a long time.

Then on 86 minutes Gary Liddle scored a second for Hartlepool. It came from more or less nowhere but was really a product of sloppiness and over confidence on our part. It threatened us achieving the ton but we stayed in command for the four minutes of time added on and ended the season with 101 points.

Such was the excitement that the news that the Massives had been promoted as well was not recognised as it should have been by bowing in the general direction of Sheffield. Today the Football League Paper describes Wednesday as a 'huge' club: how many superlatives are there. Radio 5 headlined an interview with manager Dave Jones discussing whether they would go straight up to the Premiership. No thought of interviewing the unfashionable champions, although Sir Chris himself has warned us to be realistic.

On the Football League Show our match got cursory attention, while the presenters could scarcely contain their excitement about Wednesday, proclaiming that they would be the 'biggest club' in the Championship next year. That puzzled me a bit as either Birmingham City or West Ham United will stay down, the clubs that are likely to come down from the Premiership are not exactly small ones and nor are clubs like Cardiff City or Leicester City tiny. But never let the facts spoil a good story. The Football League Paper had a front page taken up entirely with a photo of Miguel Llera surrounded by adoring Massives with the strapline 'Salute the Heroes'. We can already see what the media agenda for next season is.

The players were given their medals by the chairman of the Football League and a mini skirted director of sponsorship from nPower. It was good to see the loan players recognised. The trophy was presented, the players paraded around the pitch and Chris Powell made the eloquent speech that showed how he is Charlton through and through.

I went to the pub afterwards and two Hartlepool coach went past and we applauded them as they waved back. They played their full part in the day with their Smurf costumes. I finally got back to Leamington at 9 p.m.

Match analysis

Ivy the Terrible was delighted to award another Silver Bone to Yann Kermorgant not just for the goal but for his contribution throughout. The point was made in the programme that it was the acquisition of the Breton that really completed the side as we needed an aerial threat. His work rate and commitment has been tremendous and it was great to see him wearing part of the trophy as a berry after the game. From his knowledge of him at Leicester, Chris Powell was able to see that he was a real talent who had been sidelined because of a penalty miss.

The Bloke Behind Me is always quick to spot what he sees as any deficiencies in a Charlton player and he thinks that Hamer panics. He does fumble sometimes, but I wouldn't particularly blame him for the two goals yesterday. I certainly don't see a new keeper as a target for the summer. Morrison has been an ever present in the side and once again yesterday he showed that he is usually Mr Reliable who can also get forward when that is required. Taylor was brought back in and he was competent, although it would be interesting to look at his positioning for the two goals. He provided the assist for the second goal. Wiggins has been an ever present and a great acquisition. I voted for him for Player of the Year because I wanted him to get a place. Solly will be named as Player of the Year tonight and it was another excellent performance. According to the programme Stephens is regarded as one of the best players outside the top flight and certainly yesterday he was very energetic and even seemed to have recovered some of the skill he had shown before his operation. Hollands scored an important goal and it was great to see the triplets in the parade. Jackson was playing well before he had to be taken off. I thought that Wagstaff was not very involved and it was the right decision to take him off. He can be very inconsistent. Bradley Wright-Phillips seems to have lost his scoring boots and I think we need to bring in a striker. Haynes displayed energy and no little skill. Pritchard more than played his part when he came on. It was nice to give Euell a cameo to conclude his Charlton career.

Rescue cat Reg has given the Hiss of the Match to the East Stand linesman. One wag shouted out, 'last season is it lino?' He made a very strange decision over a throw in.


  1. I think you might find it was "We've got our Charlton back"

  2. I would just like to thank you Wyn for another season of great blog reading.
    Best wishes

  3. @Kings Hill Thanks, one can get these things wrong when one is enjoying the moment and stopped taking notes.