Thursday 31 December 2020

R.I.P. Tom Morris

I was deeply saddened to hear today of the death of one time club photographer, Tom Morris.  He died suddenly at the age of 76. Tom started covering Charlton in 1969.

Tom was a fellow pupil at St. Margaret's Church of England Primary School, although a couple of years ahead of me.   He lived very close to me in Ennis Road.

Rick Everitt summed it up well: 'news today of Tom's death is a terrible end to a rotten year. He was both a good friend and a great photographer. Tom leaves us a rich legacy of CAFC images covering decades.'

That will be a very fitting and continuing memorial.

Rick's obituary is here:

Garry Nelson tweeted from a former player's perspective: 'So talented and so unassuming.  Always took our endless teasing with patience and good humour.'

Gills in for Oshilaja and Levitt's future in doubt

Dylan Levitt's future at Charlton is in doubt, and in my view rightly so given the salary cap.  He hasn't coped too well with the rough and tumble of League One:

It looks as if Manchester United may recall him anyway as they are dissatisfied with his lack of game time which could jeopardise his chances of joining the Welsh squad for the European championships [shome mishtake shurely, ed]:

Interest in Deji Oshilaja from Gillingham is being rebuffed for now by Charlton.  Many Charlton players have, of course, taken the short train trip to the glamorous Medway town.   'Gillingham front, Maidstone rear' the down fast trains used to say in my youth.

The quality of the ownership, the management and the temporary stand need no further comment.

In any case, Richard Cawley has tweeted: 'Charlton not prepared to consider it. Feeling is that Oshilaja is good cover - can play number of positions - especially with heavy fixture schedule ahead.'

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Charlton 'sweat' over Doughty interest

The Athletic is running a story this morning on Alfie Doughty.   They do have a discounted subscription offer at the moment.   The full story is available on their site.

'Charlton Athletic are sweating as they try to fend off interest from Champions League teams.'

'“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind year for him really,” Charlton assistant manager Johnnie Jackson tells The Athletic. “We worked with him a lot on his technical work in pre-season, and you saw vast improvements. He went from a young lad dipping his toe in the first team to training like he was one of the senior lads. By the time he got injured, he was an integral part of the team.”'

Clubs in for Otzumer

Attacking midfielder Ehrun Otzumer has been a gas at Bristol Rovers but other clubs are interested,  smiling supremo Lee Bowyer has told the SLP:

He is a free agent at the end of the season so lettimg him go now would help with the salary cap dilemma.

Charlton are not going to rush a decision on the loan status of Akin Famewo with talk of a 'circuit break' for football being a factor:

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Happy 80th birthday to a Charlton stalwart

John Window with the Herminator

At a time when we have had a lot of sad news about Charlton stalwarts, I would like to commemorate the 80th birthday of John Window.

John Window was born in Didcot, but at an early age his family moved to Catford and he soon developed an Addicktion.   Sam Bartram was a particular hero and I know that John took particular pride in a spell in goal in a post-season kickabout at The Valley.

John started life as a gas fitter and I have photo of him as a young man tending a motor bike with a large patch of oil underneath it on a Catford street.

Starting with one horse on a waste piece of ground, in 1966 he established Mount Mascal Stables in Bexleyheath which is still run by the family:

Through the stables business he was an active sponsor of Charlton in the years after the return to The Valley.   John always talked horse sense about Charlton.

One of my memories of John is when Charlton went to play FC Roda in the Netherlands during the Premier League years.  We found ourselves in the same hotel and John offered us a lift in his very smart car.   When we arrived at the ground, John wound down the window and said 'Charlton directors' and we were allocated a special parking place.

On another occasion we stayed in the same hotel in Totnes for friendlies in Devon.   The manager knew I was there as an Addick, but he seemed to be strangely deferential to me.  It took a while to work out that he thought I was the owner of John's car (if not a Rolls, it was a Bentley) in the car park.  

A Charlton fan has now sent me a picture on Facebook that suggests it may have been a red Jag.  Certainly the poshest car I have ever been in, even counting the one laid on for me to go to Brenda's place.

John has had some health challenges in recent years and I haven't seen him for a while, but I know he remains Charlton through and through.

Sell on clause for Lapslie

Charlton will insist on a sell on clause in any deal for George Lapslie: 

This is a sensible precaution as he is not lacking potential even if his skills need honing.   This is one area in which Katrien Meire was not always on the ball.

In other news, Lee Bowyer has said that Andrew Shinnie is still not right and they will not rush him back:

Monday 28 December 2020

Farewell, then, George Lapslie

George Lapslie has been granted a free transfer by Charlton.   He could well join Mansfield Town where he has done well:

I am sorry to see Lapslie go as I think had potential, but the salary cap imposes some real constraints on Charlton.   One Charlton fan commented: 'Good luck to Lapslie, but he's not good enough for us.'   Another Charlton fan with good judgment said: 'I like George, but he's not shown enough.'

These realities are reflected in a tweet by the SLP''s Richard Cawley: 'With regards to Lapslie, this is just the reality of Charlton having their noses pressed up against the League One salary cap. For them to do business in this window they are going to need to move players on.'

Sunday 27 December 2020

Will the season be completed?

On the Football League show this morning the pundits expressed doubts about whether League One could be completed.  For example, Sunderland have 13 players currently out because of Covid-19.

The pundits suggested that all League Two games were on yesterday because clubs there were struggling to pay for the tests and advised players just to go home and isolate if they were feeling poorly.

They also said there was a talk of a so-called circuit breaker.   I cannot offer epidemiological comment, although there is a certain irony that the person I worked with on a study of cattle diseases is now a leading member of SAGE.  I think one lesson I took away from that project is that once a disease is endemic, controlling it is very difficult.

Finishing the leagues last year on a points-per-game basis understandably upset the likes of Tranmere Rovers, but the alternative might be three games a week for some teams.

If you are interested in my former colleague's insights he offers informed comment @GrahamMedley

'Not so bad' says Gunter

Like football fans generally, Charlton fans have high expectations.   Overlooking the summer turmoil that has affected the Addicks ever since given the salary cap, nothing less than an automatic promotion place will do.  In turn that means that every match must be won.

Let no one have any illusions.  This is a very competitive league at the top.

Goal scorer Chris Gunter probably won't win many friends by bringing a touch of realism to the situation:

The Welsh wizard told Richard Cawley: 'We’re close, but not close enough. You can have a couple of these where you draw at home, play quite well and should win.   Overall it’s been an okay half of the season. And if you’re saying it is okay being inside the top six then it’s not the worst position to be in.'

In the next couple of weeks, I have to predict Charlton's final place this season for the West Sussex CASC Badger League.   I will wait to see what happens with transfers, but my best guess at the moment would be 5th.  

Bowyer defends Pratley

After yesterday's game Lee Bowyer's main critics singled out Ben Watson and Darren Pratley for their blame game.  For once I in part agreed with the likes of Desmond from Deal because I did think that Watson had a poor game and made some costly errors.

I was less critical of Pratley and besieged boss Lee Bowyer has come to Pratley's defence, explaining why he plays him at centre back rather than using Deji Oshilaja there:

Saturday 26 December 2020

Defensive errors cost Charlton

Conceding two poor goals in the first half in a rather scrappy but open game meant that Charlton could only manage a 2-2 draw at home to Plymouth Argyle at The Valley this afternoon.  As with last week the result meant two points lost.    Nevertheless, Charlton were able to sneak into the play off places at 6th and do have a game on hand on teams above them.

Alan Curbishley said before the game that was a big game for Charlton as they could lay down a marker.  Afterwards he said that Charlton could be pleased at coming back from 1-2 down.  The goal from Marcus Maddison was certainly the best of the game.

Lee Bowyer said that he thought it was a good game with two different types of play.  His concern was that two soft goals were given away again.   He thought that Aneke and Williams did not look themselves, although they had trained well in the week.

'We're not at the peak, but we're not far off.  We need to nail down that clean sheet.  I see us moving in the right direction and it coming together.'

SLP interview here:

Plymouth showed intent and Charlton had to snuff out an early attack.  After some good movement by the Addicks, Plymouth were given space on their left.  No one followed the runner and Jephcott, Argyle's leading scorer, put in a scuffed shot that crept under Maddison.  The visitors were 1-0 ahead and it came out of nothing.

Steve ('he'll never let you down') Brown commented that Charlton's build up play was good, but they needed to be quicker.

After Watson gave the ball away, there had to be a last minute tackle at the expense of a Plymouth corner.  Steve Brown said that it was too easy for the Pilgrims.

A Plymouth free kick led to a Plymouth corner, but Amos collected comfortably.

Pratley conceded a free kick, but Aneke was able to clear.  Nevertheless, Plymouth were getting the better of Charlton.  Washington drew a save.   Around twenty minutes Charlton delivered their first period of sustained pressure.  However, Plymouth were able to follow a strategy of defend and counter attack.

On 31 minutes Charlton won their first corner.  Aneke caused problems and Gunter showed good anticipation to make it 1-1 from two yards out.

Plymouth looked dejected, but they were soon back in the game.  A rather generous free kick was given to Plymouth for a foul by Pearce on Jephcott, although Curbs said afterwards it was a silly foul by an experienced player.   The ensuing goal for Plymouth by Jephcott was worse than the first one with no marking.

Amos had to claim a corner in the two minutes added on.  A fierce shot from Maatsen, who had a good game, hit the crossbar.

HT: 1-2

Charlton still looked open in the middle of the park.  Aimson received a yellow card for a handball, but it was outside the box.  The Aneke free kick went into the wall.

Aneke received a yellow card for a foul.  Charlton needed to showed more composure, they were rushing too much.  On 64 minutes Maddison and Morgan came on for Watson and Williams.   Morgan didn't get very involved.

Two minutes later Maddison got past his man and with the ball on his left foot made it 2-2 with an excellent goal.  It was singled out for praise on The Football League Show.   It was noted that they had been showing goals like that from him for five years and now he was starting to do it for Charlton.

Maatsen rode out two challenges on a run leading to two subsequent yellow cards for Edwards and Macleod.  The latter injured himself and had to be taken off.

Forster-Caskey was not able to make use of a Charlton free kick to score.  On 78 minutes Bogle replaced Aneke.  In a last throw on 87 minutes Smyth came on for Washington. Amos fumbled the ball and only got it at the second attempt.

The five minutes added on saw a strong Argyle finish and Amos had to save from the impressive Camara.

Bowyer said it was going to be crazy at the end of the season.  Curbs said there could be three or even four games a week and the squad was vital.

Why am I a super sub?

Chuks Aneke has been an impact player from the bench this season, but is not sure why:

He was quite sceptical about Covid-19 before he had it.   Apart from th effects of the virus, he is beset with multiple injuries all over his body.  At least he doesn't need to wear specs to see the goal.

Probably he is too diplomatic to say that he thinks he might come on from the start as many fans would prefer.  However, I doubt whether he can last more than 60 minutes after having Covid-19 and until the transfer window opens, there aren't many options in terms of other impact subs.

However, he is starting against Plymouth today, so what do I know?   Pre-match Curbs said he regarded Aneke as a finisher rather than a substitute.   Would he be the same when the started?  Curbs would prefer to bring him on.

Argyle resume their pilgrimage

Plymouth Argyle have made the long trip up from Devon to play Charlton at The Valley this afternoon.  According to a recent edition of The Football League Show Plymouth is in Cornwall which was news to a lot of us.

Argyle are, however, the best supported club on the Isles of Scilly, in part because of the training they provide for isolated local youngsters who are not enthused by the two team football league.  Before I was sacked as mainland football correspondent of Radio Scilly, I was told to focus on the Pilgrims so I should know something about them.

I will try and share some of this knowledge later, but I am running behind as I am on media duty for the festive period.   Normally this is very quiet but France24 asked me to go on air late on Christmas Eve and then woke me at 5.30 the next day.

Plymouth do much better at home than on the road.   They have only lost two games at home and won six. Away from home they have scored just seven goals, won no matches and lost six.  Should be favourites today then.

The CAS Trust preview reminds us that we last played Argyle on Boxing Day sixty years ago when the scoreline was 6-4:

My Christmas Charlton quiz will be open until New Year's Day.   The email address has been corrected and should now work:

Thursday 24 December 2020

Sponsors start to return.

It is pleasing and important to see Axis Europe back as sponsors at The Valley:

They have responded positively to the new regime of Thomas Sandgaard and it is to be hoped that there will be more sponsorship successes,.  A successful commercial strategy generating more revenue is key to the club's future.

What the club has absolutely no intention of doing is selling the naming rights to The Valley.

It is hoped to make more of an impact in Asia, particularly in India which is seen as a largely untapped market.   However, football is only just starting to make an impression there with cricket still the big mass sport.

As far as China is concerned, the big global brands have a great advantage.  It's really chicken and egg.  When we were in the Premier League, I was watching a football programme in Kunming and suddenly there was a really rather good analysis of how Curbs and Keith Peacock worked together.

I was talking to someone in the commercial department at a less well known Premier League Club and they said their strategy was to get people in China to adopt the club as their second club.  I'm not sure how that would work.

There is some puzzlement about the reason for franchising out the club shop and the club will work with Hummel to improve the offering, believed that it was too biased to clothing.

Smyth returns

Paul Smyth will be in the squad for the match against Plymouth Argyle on Boxing Day, although the implication is that he will be on the bench: 

Andrew Shinnie will be the next player back from injury in 10 days or so.

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Christmas quiz

Like many families we won't be able to meet up in person this Christmas, but we will meet up online and have been enjoying a family video quiz which brings in the family branch now living permanently in Spain.  I thought that I would devise a Charlton Christmas quiz.  

The person who gets most questions right has a choice of prizes.  You can have a free copy of my forthcoming book which states in the opening paragraph: 'I recall catching the Number 53 bus from Plumstead Common at the age of six with my parents, walking with the crowds through Maryon Park and standing on the huge East Terrace at The Valley, the home of Charlton Athletic.'   The cover has Charlton and Millwall Subbuteo figures having an exchange of views.

However, it won't be out until June and you may prefer a choice of a Charlton shirt from the Curbishley era.

Here are the questions:

1. The attendance at Charlton v. Wolves on December 25th 1956 was a disappointing 15,968.  What was the explanation offered at the time?

2. Why did Charlton not play a completed game from 22nd December 1962 to 9th February 1963?

3. Charlton played Plymouth Argyle at The Valley on Boxing Day 1960.  What was the score?

4. There was a home and away format at Christmas time in the 1950s. In which year did Charlton last play a Christmas Day match?   What was the last away fixture played under this format?

5. When was the last home fixture on Christmas Day at The Valley and against which team (the second half was broadcast on radio by the BBC)?

6. Finland is known for its Father Christmas experiences in Lapland (we took the grandchildren when they were little rather than paying mortgages).   I travelled to northern Finland for a summer Charlton friendly when Jonatan Johansson played for us.  What was the city?

7. Which language did JJ customarily speak at home when he was growing up?

8. Trains used to run on Christmas Day, enabling the team to return from an away fixture and there were even restaurant cars.   What were the Charlton team alleged to have done  on one such trip?

9. I was born in early January 1947.   My father went to The Valley for a FA Cup game and then to the hospital at Greenwich where I was born around 7.30 pm. (You can actually see my astrological chart online). Who were Charlton's opponents?

10. My father had supported Charlton since the early 1920s.   In 1972 my parents retired to the town my mother's family had originated from.  Hence I watched the town's non-league team at Christmas with my father at their Bickland Park ground.  The Cornish pasties at half time were superb.   The football wasn't bad either as they won the Rothmans Western League four times in succession from 1974/5.   Name the team.

Send your answers to:

Argyle in fine financial fettle

Saturday's opponents Plymouth Argyle have a generous owner who has put in another £3.5m to keep the club afloat:

Whatever storms hit Plymouth, or the club's many fans on the Isles of Scilly, they should be able to keep afloat financially.

The Green Army have also been loyal in terms of buying season tickets.

Before I was sacked as football correspondent of Radio Scilly, I was told to give priority to covering Plymouth Argyle along with Truro City so I got to know quite a lot about them.

The changing rooms at the Garrison Field

With the islands Covid-19 free the traditional veterans versus youngsters match should be able to go ahead at the Garrison Stadium on Boxing Day.   The two club football league is also playing and had a rare draw recently.  Unfortunately, Vodafone are no longer streaming games.

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Seasonal greetings

At this time of year we should extend seasonal greetings to fans of rival clubs.   I actually have a soft spot for Brentford.  

My paternal grandfather's family settled in that part of London when they moved up from Cornwall, building a house called 'Pendennis' in memory of their Falmouth origins before my grandfather eventually saw the light and moved to Plumstead Common.   My father and mother eventually retired to Falmouth and the last football matches I saw with my father were at Falmouth Town (pasties to die for).

A friend of mine is a Busy Bee, having lived in the same house in West London all his life.  I was delighted when he was chosen to be one of 2,000 to see the Bees play in their new stadium.  I sure it is a step forward, even if Griffin Park was a special place - not if you wanted leg room in the away end, but good for a pre-match shandy.

I have a DVD of the pre-war film The Arsenal Stadium Mystery.   This has quite extensive footage of Brentford playing at Highbury.  Anyone who can solve the current mystery of the form of the Woolwich Rejects is invited to write to silent Stan Kroenke.

While we are in North London, we can move from Islington to Haringey.   'So near, yet always so far' should be the slogan of Tottering Hotspur.   Referees are so unfair to the Special One.

A special shout out to Millwall fans spending Christmas in Maidstone as guests of Her Majesty.   Please share the pain of Nigel 07 of Croydon.

We have lost a number of prominent Charlton fans this year, including fellow blogger Ketts who was also much better informed than I was.   He had great contacts and was really a de facto sports journalist.

Nene Park, the home of vanity club Rushden and Diamonds.   The ground was actually in Irthlingborough.

I owe him a posthumous apology for making bad jokes about Kettering.  'What has he got against Kettering?' he asked one of my Charlton friends.   The answer was that until Leamington got going again Rushden and Diamonds were a second team for a while.   Their neat Nene Park stadium has now been demolished.   Somewhere I have a picture of Curbs watching Charlton reserves playing them on their training pitch.

Kettering's rather splendid (for a non-league team) stadium in Rockingham Road has also been demolished and, having for one season played at Nene Park, are now in Burton Latimer where they will face Leamington in the FA Trophy.

So an apology for calling their ground Rocking Horse Road and using a scatological version of their name the Poppies.   However, congratulations to the people of Kettering in being the first British town to launch a do it yourself space mission.   It went to Uranus in the hope of finding intelligent life there as there was none in Kettering.

I hope that all Charlton fans, and indeed all football fans, have a safe and happy Christmas.


Tribute to Derek Ufton

Unfortunately I missed the 7-6 win over Huddersfield because we were Christmas shopping in Woolwich. However, this is surely an appropriate time for a tribute to Derek Ufton, one of the Charlton team I admired in the 1950s:

Derek often suffered a dislocated shoulder, but he is still going strong at 92, even after some ups and downs in his life.

He came from an era when in the summer quite a few players also played cricket (or baseball) while others earned a crust doing maintenance work on the ground.   Wages were reduced in the summer and in any case were no more than a skilled worker would earn which is how owners saw them.

Derek played 277 games for Charlton, scoring 14 goals.

Monday 21 December 2020

Over at the New Den

Millwall have low losses by Championship standards and plenty of financial backing.  Players receive an average wage of £9,000 a week:

Saturday 19 December 2020

Charlton fail to hold on to lead again

A 89th minute equaliser from Swindon saw Charlton draw 2-2 at the County Ground this afternoon.  Once again there was a lapse of concentration late on following a failure to manage the game.   It felt like two points lost rather than one gained.   Charlton stay 7th, just outside the play off zone.

In the studio Alan Curbishley said that he did not feel comfortable with the last 10-15 minutes and I have to agree with him.  He felt that perhaps the substitutions and the change of shape as Charlton went to a back five may have helped Swindon to get back into the game. 

Swindon are something of a bogey team for us and I would have taken the point before the game, but what became evident was that the Robins are in the relegation places for a reason - poor quality.  But then we don't show much quality, or at least not for long enough spells.

Some fans will blame the absence of Williams and there is no doubt that he has a fans' favourite, but Lee Bowyer is able to observe him at the training ground all week.   Others would like to start with Aneke rather than Bogle, but it has to be remembered that Aneke can only last 60 minutes.  Bogle did manage to score in the first half, but then missed a chance to make it 2-1.

Another frustration was that the Addicks got caught offside several times.   I don't think Swindon were particularly playing an offside trap, rather Charlton players managed to get themselves into an offside position.

Charlton appeared to start off with the diamond.   Gilbey crossed into the box, but there were no grey shirts there to take advantage.   Swindon were under some pressure, but managed to defend just above well enough, managing to avoid a Charlton corner (which did not come until past the half hour mark).

Washington put the ball wide, emphasising that we need more composure in front of goal.  Watson had to make a great stop.

Swindon decided to apply some pressure and made it 1-0 on 24 minutes through Jayesimi.   The goal was largely the result of some poor defending with opportunities to get the ball clear not being taken.

Following the two first Charlton corners, a poor Pratley header went well wide.  On 36 minutes Bogle, who had not received particularly good service, just about managed to get round the keeper to make it 1-1 in front of the Buzz Gym Town End.   As already noted, he then missed a chance to score his second.

A Swindon free kick led to a Swindon corner but the ball was blasted over.

HT: 1-1

At the break Aneke replaced Bogle.   Swindon won a corner too easily with Gilbey largely at fault.  I didn't think that he contributed much.   Forster-Caskey received a yellow card for a foul.  Aneke was caught offside again.

On 60 minutes Charlton managed to spring the offside trap, or at least the officials were happy that they did.  Washington turned provider for Aneke who tapped the ball in to make it 1-2.  Swindon immediately swapped strikers.

Forster-Caskey was replaced by Purrington, probably because he was on a yellow card and the referee seemed to be watching him.   The difficulty was that Charlton then started inviting Swindon to come on to them rather than rocking the Robins.   For example, Swindon were given too much space to win a corner.  In a spell of driving wind and rain Pratley had to put in good defensive work.

Maddison, who had not particularly impressed, was replaced by Matthews, although apart from one run forward, he was disappointing.   Gilbey shot well over.

Purrington received a yellow card and Amos had to punch out the free kick.  He then claimed the following attempt.   In general he commanded his area well.

When Charlton get a corner, I don't expect it to result in anything and that was the case throughout this match.  When the opposition get a set piece, I get worried.  Swindon got a corner on 89 minutes and somehow got the ball under the bar with substitute Brett Pitman nodding it in off the bar.   The reaction of the home fans told you everything you had to know.

In four minutes added on Charlton had a late flurry but to no effect, although at least it avoided a 3-2.

Two consolations: Palace lost 0-7 at home and my non-league team, Leamington, beat Wrexham 6-5 on penalties at the Racecourse Ground in the FA Trophy.

Lee Bowyer told BBC London: 'Hugely disappointed. There's no way we should be leaving here with one point after the chances we created. Second-half, we should have scored 3,4 goals. Our decision making has cost us today.'

The shell shocked supremo added: 'There's no way we should let them off like that. We weren't clinical in front of goal and if you don't take your chances, then that can always happen. From nothing, we were comfortable and we just have to see it out. Again, we've dropped two points.'

From Bartram to Amos

Ben Amos has been Charlton's most consistent performer in my view this year and he could be in line for his first promotion with the Addicks:

Sam Bartram my number one childhood hero and ever since I have been interested in goalkeepers.  Bartram's play was a bit eccentric by the standards of his day which is perhaps one reason why he never broke through into international football, although a Portsmouth fan of my acquaintance dismissed him as a 'showman'.

Ever since I have taken a special interest in Charlton's keepers.  My favourite of modern times was Dean Kiely.  His parents lived just down the road from me.   I bumped into him once at Leamington FC and introduced myself as a Charlton fan and he couldn't have been more courteous.

Actually, former Leamington keeper and barmy binman Tony Breeden was also someone I saw as being in the Bartram mould.   Not only a penalty taker (I saw him score against Wolves at Molineux), he also managed to score with free kicks and goal kicks.   Unfortunately, he blotted his copybook by breaking the nose of the captain in training.   Now playing for Nuneaton, he was sent off the other week.

The hallmark of Ben Amos's play is that of the thorough competent professional, but one who also makes some superb saves.   He is a free agent in June but he hasn't made any decisions about his future.   I think if we got promoted he would stay with the right offer which we are now capable of providing.

He also has confidence in the team in front of him.  He told Richard Cawley: 'With the squad we’ve got and strength in depth, we all know we’ve got the ability in the team to do it,” I wouldn’t say there is a feeling of pressure, it’s just what we expect of ourselves and the standards we set. We’ve blown a bit hot and cold at times after that consistent streak where we won six on the bounce. Hopefully we’ll go on another run now.'

Friday 18 December 2020

Sandgaard gets the full sp

Lee Bowyer is phoning Thomas Sandgaard on the day before matches to advise him on the tactics he plans to adopt: 

It's magic roundabout time

Charlton are off to Swindon tomorrow.   The Rocking Robins are something of a bogey team for us.  A play off defeat comes to mind, but also an occasion when I bought a sponsorship hospitality package at The Valley and we lost 0-1 to Swindon against all the odds because of a rare Dean Kiely error.   What's more, one of my guests (an Addick) was from Swindon.

A friend this week referred to watching Charlton as 'entertainment'.   When you have been watching them as long as I have, suffering might be a more appropriate term.

None of our fans can go tomorrow, but as Swindon is Tier 2 there will be 2,000 from Wiltshire to cheer their team on.

Even if it is not currently in use, at least they have covered their away end.  I remember getting soaked there and serenading Johnnie Robinson with 'we're singing in the rain'.  At least we won that day.  In a burst of late middle aged hooliganism, I drove through Burford on the way back blasting out Valley Floyd Road with the windows down to the bemusement of the Cotswold posh set.

On our last visit to Swindon in 2016 we lost 0-3:

After their 2-1 defeat at Doncaster on Tuesday, manager John Sheridan wants his players to be more clinical in front of goal:

Swindon are currently 22nd, having lost their last four games.   They have lost seven games on the road, but do better at home, having won four and lost five.   Inconsistency is their hallmark.  However, they are the only team in the EFL and Premier League to have beaten a current member of the 92 in a competitive fixture at some point in their history (including Barrow).

I know it's a cop out, but this does strike me as one of those games that could go any one of three ways and could turn on a few incidents.  If pushed, I would say a narrow win for Charlton.

Posh game off

The Charlton game at Peterborough on December 29th has been called off as one Peterborough player has had a positive Covid-19 test.  Don't ask me why this is sufficient to call off the match, but then Sunderland have called off three matches.

Football fans are notorious for moaning or whingeing about their players.   Writing a programme article about football at Christmas 1920, I notice that the term 'croaker' was in vogue.

Solly bares his soul

Richard Cawley does some great Charlton interviews and this one with Chris Solly is particularly good:

Of course, Solly is giving his version of events, but it is clear that he is not happy with Lee Bowyer and Steve Gallen who warned him in January that his Valley career was coming to an end.   As he puts it, 'There are still a lot of people at the club I've got a lot of respect for.  The likes of Keithy Peacock, Steve Avory and Chris Parkes - some of the best people I know are working at that club.  I'm grateful and thankful for people like that, who did so much for me.''

For him, Chris Powell was the best boss he played under and Yan Kermorgant was the best player he played with.

Solly is trying to rebuild his career in the non-league at Ebbsfleet United.   I have seen players do that in their early twenties at my non-league club and go on to play in League One or Two, but it is more difficult when you are 29.  Solly has had to postpone his wedding.

I hope this loyal servant of Charlton is able to rebuild his career, but I also respect the right of those in charge to make difficult choices.

Dane on his way

According to Richard Cawley, Ronnie Schwartz is coming to Charlton in January:

My view is that if we are going for the automatic promotion places we need another striker.   The play offs are just too much of a lottery.

Some fans, however, think that the real need is for defenders.  We can't have both because of the salary cap..

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Danish striker coming?

Richard Cawley has tweeted: 'Think you'll find that is FC Midtjylland striker Ronnie Schwartz sat to the left of Charlton owner Thomas Sandgaard at Saturday's game against AFC Wimbledon. Deal didn't happen on deadline day but looks a strong possibility for next month.'

Out of the play off places

Charlton are now 7th behind Doncaster Rovers on goal difference.   This will give moaners something to complain about.

In fact the results didn't go too badly for us.   Hull City lost at Blackpool.   Shrewsbury Town won at Lincoln, their second win a row against leading opposition.  Our draw with them doesn't look so bad now.  Portsmouth and Fleetwood had a 0-0 draw and Peterborough could only draw at MK Dons.   Sunderland were held by mighty AFC Wimbledon.   Ipswich admittedly did contrive to beat Burton Albion 2-1.

No one is going to run away with this league.  It will be competitive at the top until the final game. 

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Sandgaard put £11m into Charlton

Thomas Sandgaard had a 40 minute interview with Jim White and Simon Jordan on Talksport today starting at about 12.20 pm.  To be fair to the Orange One, he did make some intelligent interventions, although Sandgaard's parting shot was 'Crystal Palace, we're coming for you.'

Sandgaard said that he has put about £11m of working capital into Charlton.  He spends five hours a day on the club.

He was asked about the various individuals who claim to be the real owners of Charlton.  He dismissed this as 'entertainment', noting that Roland Duchatelet would not have granted him a fifteen year lease if he was not in control.   Roland had a 'big legal team' who would have spotted anything awry.   He said, Nobody is messing with Charlton any more.'

Over the fifteen year period he did not rule out moving to a new stadium if that was what was needed, but bearing in mind the example of West Ham, he was aware of the need to take the fans with him.

He had taken a serious interest in Wigan and also looked at Coventry and Sunderland, but decided that the problems at Wigan were too great and they could have ended up in League Two.

He was now 'living the dream'.   In some ways relegation from the Championship had done him as a favour, giving him a breathing space to build up the club.  Otherwise he would have faced strong Championship teams coming out of the gate.

Charlton would get to the Premier League, but not as an 'elevator' club.  It would be a case of building everything up.

Sandgaard was full of praise for Lee Bowyer, the way he had coped with the pressures at the club and how he had got all the new players to gell into a team.

The Talksport link is here:

Match off

Tonight's game with Bristol Rovers has been called off because of an outbreak of Covid-19 in the Bristol camp.

Gas in confident mood

In an interview with Richard Cawley, Lee Bowyer has said that a five minute loss of defensive concentration cost Charlton on Saturday.   Fortunately, we were able to recover against a young Wimbledon side late criticised by their own manager as naive.

Unfortunately with Ryan Inniss and Akin Famewo out for a long time, I am concerned that we have more fundamental problems in defence.  Ben Amos is first rate, but he can't stop everything.

One positive from Lee Bowyer's perspective is the improvement in Marcus Maddison's performance:

Bristol Rovers come to The Valley tonight having won their last three matches.  They are only four places behind Charlton in the form table.   They have won more games away from home (three) than at home and have only lost twice on the road, having scored ten and conceded ten.

Their first two goals against Plymouth Argyle on Saturday came from a failure to defend left-wing corners.  Charlton often look shaky when defending from set pieces.

New boss Paul Tisdale, who replaced rookie manager Ben Garner. seems to have a made a difference to the Gas.  He left Exeter City after twelve years as manager and a record of solid achievement.  His spell at MK Dons was less successful.

Majority owner Wael Al-Qadi made the club debt free by capitalising £18.4m of loans and waiving £2.1m of interest.

The Gas are in confident mood ahead of the game:

Tisdale has settled on a narrow diamond 4-3-1-2 shape, with Ed Upson playing as a single pivot – allowing Josh Grant and Zain Westbrooke to push forward with more regularity as number eights supporting Erhun Oztumer (obviously not playing tonight) or Luke McCormick at the head of the diamond.  Upson divides Rovers fans, but is a technically gifted player.

2010 is the last time that Rovers beat Charlton (2-1).

Valley crowd may be the last for a while

Lee Bowyer can't wait for Thomas Sandgaard to experience a packed Valley:

Unfortunately, that could be some way away.  Tonight could be the last time fans are at a game for some while.

For what it is worth, my epidemiologist friend who is on SAGE (we worked together on a big project on cattle diseases) thinks that closing things down is not targeted and hence not very effective.   What does work is quarantine and isolation, but that requires a fully functioning test and trace system.

Saturday 12 December 2020

Charlton's five goal stormer

Charlton beat AFC Wimbledon 5-2 at The Valley this afternoon in front of 2,000 fans.   After going one goal ahead, defensive errors saw the Addicks fall 1-2 behind at half time.  But it was a storming performance in the second half particularly after Aneke and Williams came on as subs, both of them scoring goals.

It will have been a treat for Thomas Sandgaard who says he likes to win games 5-2 rather than 1-0.  Charlton have gone up to 5th.

Gunter had to make a superb defensive intervention in what had up to then been a rather tenative first half.  The Addicks were undone by a deflection.

On 36 minutes a move that started off with an offside free kick saw Jason Pearce put in a slide rule pass which Washington took advantage of with a curling shot to make it 1-0.  It was his sixth goal for the club.

A misunderstanding between Maddison and Bogle allowed Wimbledon to break  Pigott was given too much space.  Controlling the ball well, he put in a great shot to make it 1-1.

Ben Amos had to save at the near post with Charlton's defending again in question.

Wimbledon recovered from a corner to enable Csoka to take advantage of a free header to make it 1-2 at the break.

HT: 1-2.

Watson drew a save from the keeper following a Charlton free kick.   Maddison put a good ball into Bogle, but he couldn't get it out from under his feet.  On 52 minutes Aneke and Williams came on in place of Bogle and Gilbey.

Aneke got a yellow card and then the keeper Truman tested the referee's patience too far and got one for time wasting.

After good work by Washington, Gilbey set up Forster-Caskey who scored the equaliser.

On 64 minutes Gunter set up his Welsh colleague Williams to make it 3-2.

On 84 minutes Washington did well to keep the ball alive.  Purrington, who had just come on in place of Maddison, put the ball across to Aneke who made it 4-2 with a workmanlike goal.  All of Aneke's six goals have been scored as a substitute.

Wimbledon continued to threaten and Oshilaja replaced Washington.

Maatsen had a great second half and did well to keep the ball alive in time added on.  Williams passed to Purrington who made it 5-2.

Unfortunately it looks as if Famewo is out for nine weeks after his freak training ground injury.

Lee Bowyer told Richard Cawley: /From start to finish we were very good, apart from a lack of concentration for five minutes - they went bang, bang and scored two goals from nowhere.'

Bowyer told his players not to panic at half time:

Bowyer was delighted with the reaction of Williams to his Shrewsbury substitution:

Morgan's hard graft

Albie Morgan made a 10kg weight loss in lockdown to prove a point to Charlton management.  Negative remarks were not pleasant at the time but helped him to mature as a player.  An in depth interview:

Wombles strong away from their native heath

AFC Wimbledon come to The Valley today and they are only two places below Charlton in the form table.   They have only lost two games on their travels, winning three and drawing three:

Their current mid-table position has been achieved with a small squad with a young average age.  11 players were released in the summer, suggesting a tight budget as they moved into their new stadium.  Four Four Two had them finishing 23rd, stating that 'anything other than a relegation scrap will come as a big surprise.'

Former Addick Joe Pigott has contributed to their relative success, scoring nine times already this season.

Pigott reckons that he was not well treated at the club because of the chaos surrounding Roland's ownership and the succession of managers:

Friday 11 December 2020

Solly joins Ebbsfleet

Chris Solly has joined Ebbsfleet United:

Quite what happened with Solly is a bit of a mystery to me.

Great Dane meets the fans

550 Charlton fans took part in the question and answer session with Thomas Sandgaard last night and CAS Trust has published online the questions and the answers:

In the longer run he may involve other investors, as much as for their expertise as their money, but in the short run life would be easier without too much outside influence.

As for the various chancers who have tried to make something out of the club, Sandgaard said this had been the one negative aspect of his involvement with Charlton: 'I’m spending half of my time on legal battles, most of them involving the characters who were involved in the club before, including their friends and family, who asked for extreme amounts. I’m spending a lot of time and money on multiple law firms to try to explain to these people that it’s not just a big smorgasbord and you can’t just take whatever you like. You’re not messing around with Charlton any more.'

Doughty unlikely to stay

Richard Cawley thinks that Alfie Doughty is unlikely to stay at Charlton despite the club offering him a new agreement:

From 1st January he will be able to sign pre-contract terms with overseas clubs.

Celtic have also been chasing him for some time and have got his measurements for a kilt,

Bowyer confident about Williams

Lee Bowyer is confident that Jonny Williams will deliver for him this weekend and assesses the League One campaign so far:

Thursday 10 December 2020

Lapslie not returning

Lee Bowyer does not expect George Lapslie (or Ehrun Otzumer) to return in January:

Lapslie has scored four goals in twelve outings with the Stags, including an excellent volley from distance at the weekend.

I would not expect Mansfield to let him go, given what I have seen of his contributions on The Football League Show.  Perhaps a more appropriate question is whether we want him back.

Bowyer says patience needed with Wombles

In his Thursday press conference, Lee Bowyer has said: 'Wimbledon are difficult to break down. They beat Peterborough the other week. They’ve got Pigott up top who is a handful, they have a lot of energy in midfield. We’ll have to be patient on Saturday. That’s the word I’ll be using to the players - "patience"'.

'They’re well-organised, no one is going to run over the top of them. But we’re at home, we’ll have our fans there and it’s a game I expect us to win – I expect us to win every game – but we’ll have to do the right things. We’ll have to be at it.'

The sorrowful supremo stated: 'I set the bar too high for the fans at the last game because I’m so used to The Valley rocking, so I apologise for that. It’s difficult to get an atmosphere going in the circumstances. Thomas will be here on Saturday so I hope he gets the hero’s welcome he deserves.'

'I will never accept not winning – especially the way last week played out. We should be sitting third. We’re still in a bad position, taking into account some of the injuries, sixth is a fair place, but I want to be higher. I’m disappointed we’re not in third.'

'If you have to keep chopping and changing every week, it becomes difficult, and we didn’t have to do that during that run in October. When we went on that run, we had a defensive partnership that was playing together regularly – the important thing now is to form another partnership because Ryan Inniss is going to be out for a while.'

'Dylan Levitt, Deji Oshilaja and Marcus Maddison have all trained this week. Andrew Shinnie is not ready yet. He’s still struggling with his thigh.'

'It was good to have Pearcey and Akin back last weekend. I thought they did really well, especially when you take into account how long Pearcey had been out. We had to manage him carefully.'

Bowyer is confident that Famewo will be available despite a fall in training:

Because of the salary cup Charlton can only do limited business in the transfer window:

Roland played hard ball with Sandgaard

VOTV editor Rick Everitt has conducted an interview with Charlton owner Thomas Sandgaard who will be attending Saturday's match with AFC Wimbledon. He says of Roland Duchatelet and his sidekick LDT, 'Very tough business people with very high expectations - their negotiating style is to play people out and see who is the highest bidder, then turn them down at the last minute. No one could ever deal with that.'

Richard Murray has been removed as a director of the two companies that Roland controls, Charlton Athletic Holdings and Baton Ltd. This is essentially a tidying up exercise. Murray Mints has not played an active part in Charlton affairs this year.

You can order your copy of Voice of the Valley online at Your copy will be delivered in a discreet plain envelope for you to enjoy in the safety, comfort and privacy of your own home. It will not be on sale at The Valley.

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Injury update

Dylan Levitt is still suffering from the effects of Covid-19:

I haven't been that impressed with him and I am more concerned about the return of Ryan Inniss whom we have really missed.  Bowyer was told it would be 12 weeks as the result of an unusual injury, but he is hopeful he will be back sooner.

Marcus Maddison was ill at the weekend, but is now back.

Sunday 6 December 2020

Amos one of 'the best keepers in the league'

Shrewsbury manager Steve Cotterill was full of praise for Ben Amos after yesterday's match: 'There were some great saves from their goalkeeper.  The one from Ollie Norburn from the edge of the box, was I thought a brilliant save.'

'I think he's a top-class keeper, one of the best in the league.  I think that would go past quite a few other goalkeepers, but it was a brilliant save from Amos.'

Saturday 5 December 2020

Last minute penalty heartbreak for Charlton

Shrewsbury Town equalised through a penalty in the last minute of time added on to deny Charlton victory in a 1-1 draw at Montgomery Waters today.   Charlton have slipped back to 6th in the table and are 9th in the form table.

Such a result should not come as a surprise given that Shrewsbury Town are home draw specialists.  However, Shrewsbury usually concede in time added on.

In the last quarter of an hour Charlton looked nervy after going ahead on 71 minutes through Ben Watson.  The home side piled on the pressure and Charlton lacked composure.  It was an individual mistake by Albie Morgan who created the scenario for the penalty conceded by Gunter after he had sliced his clearance.

The first half was scrappy.  There was a lot of long ball and no real chances of note for either side, although attempted shots by the Shrews lacked accuracy.  The pace was fast.

Maatsen put in an early cross, but there was no one there to connect.  An Aneke shot was blocked.  Gilbey put in a good ball to Aneke, but he was just wide of the post.

Gilbey got a harsh yellow card for what was an unnecessary challenge.  Pugh was the second home player to get a yellow card and walked away moaning.

Aneke shot straight at the keeper.  He then got a yellow card, the bearded referee having been urged on by the 2,000 crowd and the home management team.

HT: 0-0

Charlton tried to be positive as the second half got under way, but there wasn't much creativity and Aneke lacked service.

The home crowd maintained some ragged clapping.

On 60 minutes Gilbey and the utilitarian Forster-Caskey were replaced by Morgan and Williams.

Bogle replaced Aneke on 68 minutes and soon showed his worth.  Good work by him on the right set up Williams who released Gunter.  The ball fell to Watson and his shot took a slight deflection to put Charlton ahead.

Sloppy work by Charlton saw Amos tip the ball on to the crossbar and Pratley had to clear.

Matthews replaced Williams.   One could see the case for bringing Matthews on as Charlton needed additional protection on their right but it was harsh on Williams who admittedly had lost his man a couple of times.  Gunter, who was tiring, should have been withdrawn.

Bowyer told Louis Mendez afterwards that he was 'fuming that Charlton didn’t manage the game at the end there. Says he hauled Jonny Williams off just 22 minutes after he came on because he pulled out of a challenge and you don’t do that in one of his teams.'

Maatsen received a yellow card.  Amos got a touch on the ball when he saw a shot late.

In the four minutes added on, Amos made a great save and then caught the corner.  However, there was nothing he could do to save the powerfully struck penalty.   We had made Shrewsbury look good.

Moaners are saying that Bowyer will lose the dressing room and the fanbase, but that is an over reaction to disappointment.   However, I think that criticisms of players are better made in private.

Seething supremo Lee Bowyer gave his reaction to the result to the SLP:

Charlton's reliance on match day income

The Financial Times publishes some data today on how much clubs are reliant on match day income.  The average figure for the Premier League is 14 per cent, for the Championship 17 per cent and for League One/Two 32 per cent.  The latter figure is incomplete as some clubs at this level take advantage of a loophole in company law to publish shortened accounts.

The Pink Un's figures show that only two clubs in League One and Two rely on match day for over 50 per cent of their income: Charlton and Portsmouth.

The lesson to be drawn is that the club needs to boost commercial income as Thomas Sandgaard is intending.  Many potential sponsors were, of course, put off by the Duchatelet regime and subsequent 'owners'.

New supremo settling in at Shrews

On a very special day for Charlton, the team heads to Montgomery Waters Meadow today to play Shrewsbury Town.  Remembering the play off semi-final defeat, they could be seen as something of a bogey team for us.

Manager Steve Cotterill comments: 'Charlton have predominantly been playing out from the back and have been very good this season. Charlton will be strong for sure in this league. They’ve kept a lot of players that have played in the Championship for them. They are one of the top clubs and top teams in the division.

“Having the fans back is huge. Having them the other night encouraged the lads. That definitely helped them but we have to build on that. It’s a two-way thing. We need to do things to get them off their seats.'

The new supremo who replaced Sam Ricketts after being out of management for two years is taking things one game at a time as he tries to get the team used to his style of play:

Second from bottom Shrewsbury have not won any games at home, but have drawn four and lost three, scoring 8 and conceding 11.

In three of their last four games, the Shrews conceded in injury time which used to be a Charlton problem:

After our solid performance against Ipswich last Saturday, I was mistakenly confident about the MK Dons game.  Surprisingly, MK turned out to be better than Ipswich while we were much worse.   I hesitate to make a prediction about today, but against home draw specialists that could be the outcome.

Friday 4 December 2020

More injury blows

Paul Smyth is out for a month and the fact that he is a loan player appears to be an additional constraint: 

Andrew Shinnie also looks unlikely to be available for Shrewsbury.

Thursday 3 December 2020

Bowyer backs down

Lee Bowyer has issued a qualified apology or at least a clarification for the remarks he made last night that upset many fans.

He told Richard Cawley of the SLP:  'They play a massive part and I wasn't trying to have a pop at them. The relationship I've got with them is unreal.'

He continued: 'There are not many managers who have a relationship like I do with our fans. I've only ever spoken highly of them from day one. People took what I said last night as negative.'

'They had nothing to do with the performance, absolutely zero. We lost 1-0 and deserved to lose. They [MK] looked sharper all over the pitch.'

Bowyer gave a 'long, passionate answer' when Richard Cawley asked him if there was anything more he wanted to say:

Darren Bent's Charlton memories

 Four Four Two asked Darren Bent to pick his perfect eleven.   One choice was Scott Carson: 'He spent 2006-07 with me at Charlton and that was the best single-season goalkeeping display I've ever seen.  We were relegated in the end, but probably would have gone down in January were it not for Scott.'

On managers he chose George Burley but said 'Ideally I'd have to include Alan Curbishley as well.  He believed in me and brought me into the Premier League.'

He also mentioned Darren Ambrose, but in an Ipswich context.

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Valley of frustration

The last time Charlton had fans in the ground they lost to Doncaster and tonight they went down 0-1 to MK Dons.  They nearly equalised in time added on, but Pratley's shot came off the underside of the bar.

It cannot be said that the result was an unfair reflection of the game.  The visitors were fluent and moved well.  They were strong in the counter attack.  The Addicks lacked movement and were often too slow.

One question that arises is whether squad rotation means that the players are not familiar enough with each other and cannot anticipate moves.

The visitors started brightly and Fraser proved to be a danger man.  Watson was turned twice by Fraser and Amos had to make a good save from him.  Jerome was allowed to drift inside, requiring superb defending by Amos.   Visiting manager Russell Martin got a yellow card.

Fraser went down and was less lively for the rest of the half.   Pratley put in good defensive work.  Charlton were giving away too many fouls.   They were often sloppy in their own half.

Pratley got a yellow card.   On 38 minutes Charlton had the best chance of the half when Matthews put in a good ball but Washington was unable to make use of it.  Gilbey put in a good cross, but Washington was unable to connect.

In the three minutes added on Charlton applied some pressure, but then Amos had to make another save.

In the first half MK had six shots to one from Charlton and three of them were on target.

HT: 0-0

Maddison replaced Shinnie after the break and he did add some quality.  Charlton appeared to move to a 4-3-3 formation.  Amos had to make a couple of good saves.   On 59 minutes Bowyer made a double substitution, Aneke replacing Bogle and Williams coming on for Morgan.   

Seven minutes later Famewo replaced Watson.  It was good to see him back as he did add some stability to the defence.   Richard Cawley said that it was the only positive of the night.

Matthews was taken out and Lewington received a yellow card.  Charlton attacked well, but the ball fell to Pratley who put it over.

On 75 minutes Fraser put the visitors ahead.  It was a great finish, but followed some poor defending.

Maddison put a good ball in, but Aneke was unable to make use of  it.

In time added on Maddison put in a good ball, Aneke did well and it looked as if it was going in but it came off the underside of the bar from Pratley.

Charlton are fourth in the table, seven points behind Hull in first place.

Shell shocked supremo Lee Bowyer told Richard Cawley: 'It was a tough night. Everything we set out to do first half it worked. We knew they'd play riskily from the back, we knew we'd win it but we kept messing up that last pass or cross.'

He continued, 'We could've gone top two, being at home - everyone would be expecting us to win. But these aren't a bad side. They take risks but if they beat the press they can hurt you up top. Fraser is very good. Jerome is still a good player.'

He added, ''m pleased to see the fans back in. I'd have liked it to have been a bit more positive for the fans. They've been away for so long I would've liked them to pick the lads up when it's not going so well. I'm glad they are back in. I wish they were a little more vocal.'

I thought the crowd was quite subdued, but it's difficult when just 2,000 people are socially distanced. Bowyer's remarks have not gone down well with fans.

Charlton content in new book

My book on football with Agenda Publishing won't be out until next June, but as well as calling for a properly constituted independent regulator, there will be plenty of Charlton content.

The state’s presence in professional football has been ad hoc and inconsistent. Football has been largely exempt from the development of the regulatory state and has been left to govern itself. However, new media have raised the profile of the game and globalization has created new pressures as clubs become pawns in the ambitions of states and wealthy individuals. Clubs offer an important sense of identity for fans, but the impersonality and distance of ownership can set up new tensions. In addition, corruption in the international governing body has been a significant problem and the sport’s symbiotic relationship with gambling is a concern.

Wyn Grant examines the political economy of football and its uneasy relationship with the market. There are no off-the-shelf solutions for regulation, he argues, but the complexities of the game and its economic size require more attention from government.

Fans return to The Valley

MK Dons have won only once at The Valley and if Charlton can beat them tonight in front of 2,000 fans they can go second in League One.   Let's hope things go better than they did against Doncaster.

The Evening Standard has a feature article on the return here:

The exclusion of away fans is no great penalty as the Franchisees are reckoned to have the worst ratio of away fans to home fans in the EFL.

Inevitably manager Russell Martin got his excuses in first, designating it 'a tough game'.  He elaborated: 'They are a brilliant side and expect to go into games being dominant. They are very aggressive and very intense, with a lot of energy and athleticism. Their mentality is strong, they’ve got a lot of experienced players with Championship and Premier League experience.'

Chuks Aneke and Alex Gilbey are, of course, former Dons players:

MK Dons are currently 18th in the table.  Away from home they have won one, drawn two and lost four.  They beat Barnet away 1-0 in the FA Cup at the weekend.

Fans rate Russell Martin highly, one telling Four Four Two: 'Very, very good.  He breathed a new lease of life into the team and the club after taking over from Paul Tisdale, with better football going to the "MK Way" we enjoyed for so many years under Karl Robinson.'  Presumably 'Gobby' was able to talk the talk, even if he didn't always walk the walk.

'Superman' Sandgaard

Our owner is the subject of a feature article in The Guardian