A Promising Start

Very promising indeed. Despite the optimism that had been generated over the close season, the bottom line is that none of us actually knew if we had just a squad of players, or a team that could play together. In fact a trawl of the Bournemouth message boards and forums on Friday revealed that they believed they were playing us at exactly the right time, i.e. before our squad had time to gel.

Oh how wrong we all were. Astonishing to reflect that this was the first real competitive match for this team together ... although in retrospect I now believe that the Millwall game was a good idea due to the competitive nature in which it was played ... certainly helped 'blood' the team.

Bournemouth played some very attractive football at times, and knew how to pass ... but in the end it was to no avail. The statistics state that Bournemouth had 61% of possession ... not sure that I accept this, but it's of no consequence anyway. It's what you do with the ball when you have it that matters. It has been said elsewhere ... in particular by the Bournemouth manager ... that the score flattered us. To be honest, having watched the highlights, we could have had more. BWP would definitely have scored on another day, and the shot by Wiggins was a scorcher ... pity he didn't score as the abuse he received from the Bournemouth fans was a joke ... nice to hear the Charlton faithful cheer every time this happened.

Another pleasing aspect was the size of the crowd ... third year in division 3, a lot of people still on holiday, and we broke 16,000 ... most of the teams in our division ... and a few in the division above ... will be happy to do that just once this season. And with season ticket numbers virtually matching last season, it's fair to say that our core crowd base has increased significantly over the years.

And with performances like this, it can only go up. Fair enough, it's just one game, but you can only beat the opposition in front of you. Furthermore this will send warning signals throughout our division... everyone knew we had spent well ... now they know we can also play. Chris Powell's attempt last season to play an attractive passing, attacking game, was never going to succeed with the squad we had ... with this one, the signs are positive.

There is a hunger in the team that we have not witnessed for some time ... passion and the will to get the ball ... incidentally perfectly exemplified by Dale Stephens, my man of the match.

The players all know that no-one's place is guaranteed ... we have some very good players who didn't feature in the squad, let alone appear on the bench. Plus most are young and feel they have something to prove. You only have to read the interview with Dale Stephens in the programme, or listen to the Charlton Live interview with Danny Green to know how much this team wants to succeed ... and just as importantly, how highly they rate each other. Already we can see the camaraderie and the evidence that they are a team and not a set of individuals.

I'm not going to get carried away with the result ... with 45 games to go that would make no sense. But my initial pre-season optimism has received a boost and it's only fair to assume that this team should get better the more they play together. The defence looks tight, and has the ability to close down attacking runs, despite a few wobbles Robbie looked fairly assured in goal ... and I was as surprised as anybody that he started ... the forwards are already developing a good partnership, and the midfield looks like it has goals galore in it.

Tomorrow night will be very interesting ... how will we fare against a decent Championship side? I'm not at all bothered about a cup run ... the league comes first and promotion is the only prize I want ... but it can have the significant advantage of boosting confidence especially if you manage to beat a team from a higher division.

Saturday will be the more important game ... Notts County achieved a three nil away win which has to be applauded ... so it will be a good chance to see how we measure up against such a team.

Rating individual players from Saturday seems a little unfair ... although I'm still going to do it ... because it really was a team performance which, bearing in mnd it was their first league game together, deserves an overall 8/10. In normal circumstances I'd have given 7/10, but the occasion raises the rating.

So on to the players themselves:

Elliot - had a good game. Not called upon too much in the first half, but covered well when needed to in the 2nd half. There were a couple of times when I was nervous, but you can't complain about a clean sheet. 7/10
Solly - seemed a little nervy in the first half, and I was a little uncomfortable about his play. But came into his own in the 2nd half, in particular interacting very well with Wagstaff ... these two look very good together down the right wing. 7/10
Morrison - like the look of him ... strong and intimidating. Not afraid to get stuck in and a powerful tackler. 7/10
Taylor - combined well with Morrison, and I can see these two being a good combination. Good skill and not afraid to bring the ball forward. 7/10
Wiggins - showed a little nervous reation to the Bournemouth abuse at the beginning, but rose to the occasion with a stunning long distance effort that the keeper had to work to save. The best is yet to come, and he is a good counter-balance to Morrison and Taylor. 6.5/10
Wagstaff - apparently he only played because Green was suspended ... don't know how true that is, but if so, then Scott took advantage, topped up by what may be a contender for goal of the season. Superbly controlled volley. Deserves to keep his place and has already given Powell a slight selection headache. 7.5/10
Stephens - seemed to be everywhere ... totally committed, skilful, energetic ... my man of the match. Annoyingly, I mentioned to my son before the match that Stephens would score the first goal ... aaargh 14 to 1 and I didn't back up my words with money. 8/10
Hollands - looks good ... definitely strengthened the midfield ... Racon / Semedo - who they ? ... very comfortable on the ball and worked well with the other midfielders. 7.5/10
Jackson - good start for our captain. I feel very confident with him in the team, and he took his penalty well. 7.5/10
BWP - very lively and involved himself in the game far more than last season. He is becoming more than just a goal-scorer and had a hand in two of the goals. Could easily have scored himself, and rather unfortunate not to do so. 7.5/10
Hayes - wasn't sure about him at the Welling game, but I have a different view now. Strong, attacking, self-assured, and enthusiastic. He will definitely get a few goals this season. 7/10
Benson - not on for long, but still made an impression. Very happy he stayed with us. 6/10
Pritchard - OK, you can't say much based on a few minutes but we may have unearthed a diamond here ... looking forward to seeing much more of  him. 6.5/10
Doherty - surprised he is still with us, but totally unfair to judge him on a couple of minutes. n/a

As for Chris Powell ... hiding away in the tunnel ;-) ... he chose the team and sorted out the tactics. It worked ... and he did a great interview afterwards. 8.5/10

The crowd were in fairly good voice and I do enjoy watching 'bouncy-bouncy' in the Covered End.

A final word for the officials ... can they please return again as I thought they were way better than most of the dross we get at this level.


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2011 / 2012

A new season ... so probably not a bad time to start blogging again ... didn't realised how long it had been!

It has certainly been a very eventful time at the Valley since last season finished in May with a dismal mid-table final position. Did we expect anything else? Well, probably. Now we are at our 3rd year in Division Three, it's very clear that the club ... and the bulk of the supporters ... made the mistake of believing we were far too good for this level and would get promotion if not the first time, then definitely at the 2nd attempt. Many clubs, of an equal size to us ... and bigger ... have made that mistake over the last few years.

This is not an easy division from which to escape if you have the mentality that all you have to do is turn up and the other teams will automatically acknowledge that Charlton rightfully belong in a higher division and will allow us to return back there. It's always simple in retrospect, but there is no doubt that as well as having a reasonable squad and manager, you also need the right mind-set. If you want promotion, then get out there and work for it ... be a team not a set of individuals ... and fight to be competitive. Again, retrospect is easy, but it's obvious now that we had too much 'dead wood'  ... as long as they were paid, nothing much else mattered.

So ... what's changed? Almost everything to be honest. We have a manager who will be starting his first full season, new board members also about to experience their first full season, and a very new squad on the playing field.

According to the latest on Charlton Life, we now have 31 players on professional contract, 15 of which are new, with 15 having been sold or released, a pretty hefty turn-around.

Most of the new players are on the young side and have been given 2-3 year contracts ... definitely a positive sign that we are looking to move ahead with a solid base and squad.

As for the new owners ... everything we hear is good and appears to suggest that we have an exciting future. OK, it may all be illusory and if we don't achieve promotion within 2 years, we may be unceremoniously dumped. But at least they've given us the possibility of another couple of years ... which may not have been the case otherwise.

There is concern about the ownership ... naturally when 'the truth' is hidden, it is a valid reason for concern. But I'm going to ride with it for the moment. If they get us back to the top as we all want, stay one further season then take the money and run ... well, who can blame them? And you never know, they may decide they like it and stay longer. We still have a club and a team to follow ... my son can still attend games with me ... and in a few years, hopefully my grandson will also join us. That's good enough for me at the moment.

So how will we do this season? As always, I am optimistic ... but perhaps this time, I have good reason to be so. With the current infrastructure, 'hungry' players in the squad, healthy season ticket sales (wonderful to see), and the sun currently shining ... it's easy to predict a top-six finish.

But I've decided to invest some money with Paddy Power and expect us to be automatically promoted.


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