Friday, July 31, 2009

Best Team in Europe

"You say it best when you say nothing at all." (Ronan Keating, 1999)

I think it was Richie Benaud who said that a skilled TV commentator should only speak, if his words would add to the action the viewer could already see.

I’ve felt similarly about blogging about Charlton recently, which partly explains my two week absence.

At least there’s finally been a sense that decisions are being made at the club, although drawing conclusions on what they potentially mean for the status of the pending takeover for the club, is far from straightforward.

The ongoing lack of information from the club, whilst perhaps unavoidable, is doing nothing to mend this strained relationship with fans.

Criticism of the Board is widespread, but much of it unfair. In my view only two decisions in the past three years (albeit rather large ones) should reasonably be criticized, and not merely with the benefit of hindsight.

The first is the appointment of Les Reed on a ‘permanent’ basis, and the second was the way the full-time appointment of Phil Parkinson was managed (although not necessarily his appointment per se).

Both led to effective leadership vacuums for eight games, at a vital time during what turned out to be relegation seasons.

It is not clear the team would have survived either season under different circumstances, but the Reed decision was just plain poor, whilst the Parkinson one was handled poorly.

I don’t criticize the Board for their appointments of Dowie and Pardew; both were amongst the best realistic options available at that time, and based upon information known at that time.

Certainly as club fiduciaries however, the Board should surely have questioned the pair’s transfer strategy in more detail.

It is Board ‘intereference’ to tell the manager who to buy, but it is merely good practice to diligently question the background and valuation of each potential recruit, and the manager’s assessment thereof.

”So Alan, tell me more about this Izale fella…” doesn’t constitute unemotional managerial oversight in my view.

Does this week's recruitment of an assistant manager imply the takeover is likely off, and the current Board is moving on with stabilizing the team as best they can on a limited budget?

Or does it imply the takeover is firmly on with Parkinson given assurances about his future, and the green light to bring in a no. 2?

Given the conflicting ways to assess this announcement, specifically as a potential source of information on the status of the takeover, it was as much use as a chocolate teapot, and indeed today’s website statement on this very topic confirmed as much.

Signings continue to be free ones, with Christian Dailly the latest recruit. Given that the Scot is only two weeks younger than me, I can only hope his body hurts less than mine after he trains.

He is well-known for his taste for ‘Indie’ music, which may lead to some interesting team bus debates with some of the squad’s younger members.

Whilst hardly one for the future however, I think these types of signings are sensible (Richardson too), and it’s their type of experience and leadership which should at least ensure a third relegation in four seasons is avoided (a non-negligible probability previously in my view).

The club is reportedly also looking at veteran Tunisian defender Radhi Jaidi, a prodigious header of a football, a key trait in both boxes given the loss of the likes of Mark Hudson and Andy Gray.

With Dailly's arrival, at least there is a semblance of an experienced back four, but it’s getting a quartet of virtual strangers to gel and organize, which is the real challenge.

Given that we often defended last season like the opposition forwards had swine flu, it is to be hoped that Breacker’s background will be additive in this regard.

However once again, we will be competing largely with teams with substantially more prior togetherness, if not perhaps the same talents.

With only eight days to go until the opening day, our midfield remains intact and perhaps surprisingly so given rumoured interest about all five likely starters.

Whilst the use of Nicky Bailey on the left side unbalances the side somewhat, there is a real goalscoring threat right across the park, in what will surely be the comfortably the strongest midfield in the division.

With the underrated Jose Semedo, Grant Basey, and Matt Spring also in contention, and winger Wade Small still on trial, we have plenty of options here, more than can be said for our dwindling forward line.

Given Jonjo Shelvey’s ability to play like a deep-lying second striker, we can probably just about survive August without any further additions upfront, but we are desperate for a true target man.

Behind this rather threadbare squad, lies a group of talented but untested youngsters, some of which will surely play a role this season, but hopefully only when a modicum of much-needed confidence and optimism has infiltrated the entire club.

For those seeking just such 'green shoots', an Ipswich side inspired by the memory of Sir Bobby Robson beat Valladolid 3-1 tonight. Meanwhile, Charlton triumphed 2-1 over Ipswich just three days earlier, making us three goals better than Valladolid.

As recently as April, the mighty Barca could only beat Valladolid 1-0, which makes us two goals better than the Champions League winners. Hey pessimists, stick that one in your pipe and smoke it.

I head back to London next week, and all being well I’ll be taking up my seat in the Upper West Stand on Saturday, outstanding value at just £25 to see the finest team in Europe.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It's A Wrap

It's been another fascinating week in the life of Charlton Athletic. Here's a wrap-up:

House of Fraser

Just a day after I'd written, "...we don't have a recognised senior right-back..", the club confirmed the signing of Fraser Richardson. Coincidence? You decide.

It's taken a while to sink in that our free transfer signings will no longer be the likes of Paolo di Canio or John Barnes, but thankfully at least we now have Wikipedia.

He has (limited) Premiership experience, and at 26-years old he still has plenty of seasons left in him. And in a team dreadfully lacking leadership quality, he brings experience as a former captain of the division's 'biggest' club.

This no doubt however ends any hope that some of us hold, that we might again see Yassin Moutaouakil's potential fulfilled in a Charlton shirt.

The Frenchman hasn't even been mentioned on the club's website since 1st May, a ridiculous situation for a player still under contract, and who arrived for a not insubstantial fee only two years ago.

Who knows if rumours about his moody nature are true, but there's a genuine talent hiding there waiting to be prized out.

Indeed after I witnessed his first couple of appearances, I predicted he'd be snapped up by Arsene Wenger to join his French legion.

On a different note, happy 23rd birthday for Saturday, Yassin. Bet the club doesn't send you a card.

First Class Mail

The Mail on Sunday may be more right wing than Lloyd Sam, but its Charlton connections are impeccable thanks to the sports columnist and fellow Addick, Patrick Collins.

Thus if readers weren't already shocked enough by the paper's inevitable stories about limitless immigration, the shock news that Charlton were on the brink might have pushed them over the edge.

Whilst acknowledging the credentials above, two aspects of the story struck me as somewhat odd.

Firstly, the claim that the club has debts of £40million was not reflected in its most recent accounts. At 30 Jun 2008, the auditors signed off on the opinion that the club had total long-term debts of £21million, of which £15million was owed to those Directors that participated in the bond issue.

Since the date of the accounts, the club sold Madjid Bougherra (£2.5m), Marcus Bent (£1m), and Mark Hudson (£1.1m). It also sold the training ground and other property, back to the Directors.

The only players bought for cash have been Nicky Bailey (up to £750k) and Matthew Spring (undisclosed). Thus it is hard to see how the debts could have nearly doubled in the space of a year.

Second, I find the idea that a consortium of 'local businessmen' was willing to invest £30m to buy the club to be a little far-fetched.

Given the state of the economy, and the inherent dire fundamentals of running a football club, how many 'local businessmen' are likely feeling flush enough to pour capital into such an enterprise?

Moreover, surely any wealthy 'local businessmen' (and perhaps fans too) with an interest in financing the club would already have come forward, during the good times? After all, the financing hurdle to win a place on the Board in the past, had not been set particularly high.

Unless of course it's a particularly large consortium, but I don't think even Peter Varney's that popular.

It may have been pricier to have got involved in say 2001, but the prospects were brighter too.

Bid and Offer

Finally the club has spoken: "Over a period of months, there have been approaches from interested parties. One such approach, an offer for the football club (through an acquisition of some of the assets and liabilities of Charlton Athletic plc), is being progressed, and the board will make a formal announcement at the appropriate time."

After weeks on tenterhooks, the club's eventual statement to 'supporters and shareholders' was decidedly vague, and indeed even cryptic.

Trying to read between the lines here, has brought back uncomfortable memories of my accountancy exams. That's not a place I want to return to, but I'll do my best to interpret it.

As the latest accounts show, whilst we tend to talk generically about 'the club', there is infact a 'Group' comprising a holding company ('the Plc'), and two subsidiaries ('the football club' and a 'property holding company').

The accounts of the subsidiaries must presumably be available at Companies House, but they are not openly disclosed.

The assets of 'the Plc' (Charlton Athletic Plc) at 30 Jun 2008 were limited to the investments in the two subsidiaries, some cash and a large (£45m) receivable from its subsidiaries.

The main assets of the (consolidated) Group consisted of freehold land and buildings (presumably mainly The Valley). It is not clear whether these are held by 'the football club' (Charlton Athletic Football Club Ltd), or 'the property holding company' (Charlton Athletic Holdings Ltd), but they are not held by 'the Plc'.

I don't recall why the club was set up in this way, except perhaps to avoid a repeat of 1984's near liquidation of the club, by making the subsidiaries 'bankruptcy remote' from the holding company.

The £15million in debts owed to the Directors via the bond issue however, are owed by 'the Plc', not the subsidiaries. All of the other long-term debts however are held at the level of the subsidiaries.

I'm too tired to think about this properly, but I guess the wording of today's statement implies to me that the Directors are potentially willing to write off both the value of their equity (in 'the Plc') and their debts (at 'the Plc' level).

The £45m intercompany debt will be cancelled too I guess, although this is just an accounting entry effectively.

They obviously cannot force the other creditors (mainly bank loans of £6m) to write off their debts too, so these will be taken on (or repaid) by any buyer at the subsidiary level.

The interested purchaser may thus be intending to purchase the two subsidiaries from 'the Plc', rather than buy 'the Plc' itself (including its subsidiaries).

If completed, 'the Plc' will cease to have any material assets or liabilities, and will presumably be liquidated.

I'm not smart enough to work out why exactly it would be structured like this, except to assume that there may a) be tax benefits to those involved, or b) it may ensure there are no retrospective legal rights accruing to either party.

It remains to be seen whether any deal is consummated, or who the potential buyers are.

However whilst the write-off of any equity value is probably just simple financial realism, this is less true of any debts owed which must have some substantial recovery value, including via a liquidation (perish the thought).

Thus it would be an incredibly generous gesture (indeed gift) by the Directors to the club (and indirectly its fans), if they were contemplating this route.

Indeed, I'm sure the reason why the Directors structured the March 2008 fundraising as a bond rather than an equity injection, was precisely to protect their own personal interest and ensure they ultimately got repaid.

If my thesis is correct, it'll be the Directors who deserve a lap of honour at The Valley, not the players.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Holiday Villa

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about adopting a Premiership club.

Any fears I had about causing grave offence to fellow Charlton fans, were dispelled by the eleven comments I received. Indeed I've always viewed double figures as the blogging equivalent of an Oscar.

I promised to go away and consider my choice between Everton and Aston Villa. In the meantime, I was even promised a free season ticket by a West Ham supporter who emailed me, and asked me to reconsider my final choices.

I was attracted to both clubs by their proud history, interesting stadia, outstanding British managers, and inoffensive financial backers. These can thus be taken as collectively given.

It is worth noting that both my potential adoptee clubs briefly dominated domestic English football, just as I was a highly impressionable youngster obsessed with football (as opposed to the mature adult I am today, currently writing a late-night blog about two clubs I don't support).

To begin the debate however, and returning to the theme of history, I wonder if Villa ever received the plaudits that their 1982 European Cup victory deserved. This is of course a prize which the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal are still to get their hands on.

Everton's hopes of replicating Villa's success in Europe however, were curtailed by the European ban put in place after Heysel in 1985. The First Division titles they won in 1985 and 1987 were not flukes; they were 13 and 9 points clear respectively.

Their failure to build on this mini-period of dominance can be put down in some substantial part to being shut out of European competition.

From a logistical standpoint meanwhile, Villa wins hands down. Everton is a further hundred miles up the M6, even if the new toll road allows one to avoid the joys of the Fort Dunlop building, usually viewed from bumper-to-bumper traffic. Indeed, I've never made it to Goodison Park.

Everton have until recently been better supported than Villa, both at home and on the road (a negative in my book given the importance of ticket availability).

However Villa have been energised by the O'Neill/Lerner effect, and their home crowds have exceeded Everton's in both of the past two seasons, despite finishing below the Toffeemen.

In terms of 'beer-drinking company at matches', I have a friend who supports Villa and lives in London (perhaps handy longer-term), whilst my sole Everton-supporting friend lives in New York (handy now).

My Villa friend has actively been cajoling me during recent weeks, giving me the hard sell.

The Everton friend meanwhile simply told me 'not to do it'. They are too similar to Charlton in their pomp apparently; average players greater than the sum of their parts, thanks to the prompting of their outstanding manager. And we all remember how that one ended.

In terms of famous fans, it's vital to know who one might be rubbing shoulders with at matches.

Villa seem to attract a combination of the establishment (Prince William, David Cameron, Mervyn King, Jacqui Smith), and eccentric nutters (Nigel Kennedy, Ozzy Osbourne). I'd like to think I lie somewhere between those two extremes.

I feel I have more in common with Everton's more earthy types, from Sir Paul McCartney to John Parrott, and from Dame Judy Dench to the late Leonard Rossiter. I'd quite happily accompany Amanda Holden to some games too.

As part of the deal I struck with the devil, I promised not to purchase any adopted club merchandise. However, I've always liked the claret and blue of Villa, colours shared of course with West Ham, Burnley and Scunthorpe. Blue on its own is a bit too Millwall or Gillingham for my liking.

Indeed, it poses an interesting question as to why those claret/blue colours (now represented by 15% of next season's Premiership) are so rarely seen outside of England?

From a Charlton connection perspective, one cannot escape the fact that Alan Curbishley played 36 times for the Villans. Conversely, I can't easily forgive the fact that Villa beat the Addicks 11-1 in 1959.

Their current squad meanwhile includes Luke Young, perhaps one of our most underrated players of recent times, albeit one who had to arrive in the Midlands via brief sojourn in Middlesbrough.

During the years I've been supporting the Addicks, notable players linked to both Charlton and Villa include Paul Mortimer (one of my all-time faves), Paul Elliott, and Carl Tiler (also an Evertonian incidentally).

Unfortunately Everton are £2.3million richer thanks to the money we paid for Marcus Bent, an absurd purchase which did Curbs no credit, and is a hard one to overlook.

We have fonder memories thankfully of Graham Stuart thankfully, although that former Everton FA Cup winner spent two years at Sheffield United, before making over 150 honest appearances for Charlton.

Moving on to more serious matters, Everton cannot easily escape the accusations of racism that have long hung over the club, rightly or otherwise. No smoke without fire and all that.

This contrasts neatly with the heartwarming story about Villa's players refusing to give a Nazi salute during a post-season tour of Germany in May 1938. Instead they stuck up two fingers, much to the fury of both the FA and unbelievably, the Foreign Office.

Indeed on the continued theme of standing out from the crowd, who cannot be touched by Villa's decision to shun a lucrative shirt deal, in favour of a charity?

And not just any old fashionable high-profile charity like Unicef (worthy as they are), but a local hospice (Acorns) - there's just absolutely no cynical angle you can find on that one.

Meanwhile, Everton is sponsored by a beer, one of the things in life I don't need to be advertised to about the joys of.

With the 'big four' seemingly shunning young English talent, it's been left notably to Villa, Everton and Spurs to provide a showcase for many of the country's international hopefuls. However Spurs are not on my shortlist for adoption (and never will be).

In Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor, the Villans have two of the most exciting English talents, meanwhile whilst no spring chicken, upfront is our favourite national battering ram (Emile Heskey).

Meanwhile young Agbonlahor is doing plenty of scoring off the pitch too, reportedly getting three different women pregnant at the same time. It was his good looks, intellect and sparkling personality apparently.

Elsewhere the likes of Milner, Davies and Shorey are knocking on Fabio Capello's door, if not exactly knocking it down. Indeed Villa have historically produced more England players than any other club.

Despite their greater recent success however, it seems Capello (like me perhaps) would prefer not to drive those extra hundred miles or so to Goodison Park.

Messrs Lescott, Jagielka, Neville and to a lesser extent Baines, have enjoyed some defensively-minded recognition, but it's not clear what more Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert have to do to win an England call-up. Clearly playing over 150 games for England's fifth best side is not enough it seems.

The heart-wrenching search for a Premiership club to adopt is thus over. It's a process I've taken seriously because the stakes are high.

I'm not embarking on a love affair, but a deep platonic friendship. On 18th August, when Charlton kick off at Leyton Orient, and my adopted club kick off just three miles down the road at Upton Park, my heart and body will only be at the former.

I'm hoping it's a fleeting friendship too, like that nice couple you meet on holiday that you promise you'll stay in touch with, as my true love Charlton rapidly finds a way back to the top flight.

I sense sadly that this may well not happen again in my lifetime. Until then, see you at Corley services.

NY Addick adopts: Aston Villa

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Wrap of the Week

After an uncomfortably quiet summer on the Charlton front, the news engine has finally kicked into gear.

With apologies for the tardiness of my responses, here's a wrap of the week:

Ambrose to Palace

A decent deal for the player; a questionable deal for Crystal Palace; an indifferent shrug of the shoulders from Charlton fans.

Ambrose is a fine example of the way that one can not easily predict a talented young player's development. A fact worth remembering when we think of some we would like to keep (Shelvey), and some we have recently let go (Wright, see below).

Already valued at £1million at the tender age of 19 (and surely more in truth, given Ipswich were in administration at the time), if he had developed in a linear fashion, he'd be on the fringes of the England squad by now.

Infact he's merely a Championship player, and an average one at that. Something is clearly amiss in the player's make-up, because he is blessed with considerable flair.

His body language does not suggest any semblance of arrogance, so perhaps he's just happy in the comfort zone. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it's a potential factor worth considering when seven-figure bids come in for our own youngsters.

Hudson sold down the river

Our skipper's departure for a hefty initial £1.075m probably signals the final time I can use the Hudson River pun, which as a temporary New Yorker is a terrible shame.

When the phone rings at The Valley, there can be few more welcome first words than, "Hello, it's Peter Ridsdale and I'd like to bid for one of your players."

Given he signed for a free transfer only a year ago, it seems outstanding business although one should bear in mind he was probably paid around half of that fee in wages, to captain us to League One.

His Charlton career got off to a dream start, scoring just minutes into his debut. But putting aside any inherent limitations (lack of pace etc.), his ability to inject some leadership qualities was curtailed somewhat by a myriad of defensive partners, and of course the managerial shambles he reported to.

Nonetheless, unlike some of Pardew's signings, at least you could understand the rationale, even if it didn't quite work out as planned.

Chris McGinty to Man Utd

It's rare that a Charlton player leaves for Manchester United, especially a 15-year old you've never heard of. Even Ralph Milne had to go via Bristol City before ending up at Old Trafford.

Not much to say here really except to welcome Richard Murray's confirmation that United behaved 'entirely honourably'.

I'm always slightly surprised at the vitriol Charlton fans reserve for Jermaine Defoe. He was only 16 years old when he left the Addicks (so it was hardly his own decision), whilst we ended up getting £1.4million in compensation.

The fact that he went on to earn considerable success is somewhat irrelevant, since this was hardly guaranteed (see Ambrose above).

I've no idea how good McGinty is, but his decision to join United whilst easy to understand, is not obviously the right one longer-term.

For every Paul Scholes or David Beckham, there's a Ronnie Wallwork and countless others we never even hear of.

Unfortunately situations like this are simply an inherent potential cost for Charlton, when running an efficient Academy.

It's worth acknowledging the fact that Jonjo Shelvey agreed to sign professional terms, despite presumably having other offers. This may be ultimately be a good thing for Jonjo, but at some level it's also a free gift to Charlton, for which we should be grateful.

Josh Wright joins the Iron

As a 19-year old with only three first-team appearances to his name, Wright certainly ignites a disproportionate amount of debate amongst fans.

On the one hand, there are those (like me) that see a talented young player who may lack pace, but who has considerable composure on the ball.

Moreover he was willing to not only knuckle down on three separate loan deals, but to have earned some considerable plaudits in the process (not least a hand in two promotions).

On the other hand, some are uncomfortable with his penchant for the tabloids, whether comforting his friend Jack Tweed, or planted stories advertising his availability to interested clubs.

His rumoured fallout with Phil Parkinson meanwhile was viewed (probably rightly), as a premature show of insolence for player who's not achieved anything yet in the game.

However putting aside any inherent biases, the bottom line is that we've let a 19-year old with 44 senior appearances under his belt and England honours, leave for nothing and he's already been snapped up by a respected manager at a higher level.

Somehow, that just doesn't feel (w)right. I was quite taken by the lad, so I hope he proves the club wrong.

Q&A forum cancelled

Regardless of the outcome of any takeover talks, the way the club has handled the situation has frankly been appalling.

Either there are no talks ongoing, in which case why on earth would the clubs lawyers have recommended a cancellation (hence unlikely)?

Or what is stopping the Board from issuing a brief statement (several weeks belatedly), on the lines of "..negotiations with one or more parties are ongoing, which may or may not lead to an offer for the club."

It is decidedly vague, but such announcements are not only common amongst publicly listed companies, but required by law.

The regulations that govern non-listed companies may be less robust, but as 'captive' customers (and in many cases shareholders too), we deserve far better than this continued game of smoke and mirrors.

Assuming something productive is indeed going on behind the scenes however, what might explain the delay?

One can't speculate upon the motives or finances of any potential buyers, except to note the shambolic process that Southampton have gone through, which happily for them had a satisfactory ending.

However, with the SLP reporting that Murray is willing to sell his equity for nothing, and perhaps even write-off his debts, then therein lies an obvious stumbling block.

The equity frankly is effectively worthless in my view, notwithstanding the 'greater fool' theory ie. there will always be another fool to buy you out at some later date.

How else can you value a club with barely positive book value, most of which represented by a stadium and players of questionable value, and with an operating business that continues to bleed cash? So for possible reasons for the delay, perhaps one needs to look closer to home.

The interests of the directors are represented by a combination of equity and debt. The relative interest of each individual director in each of these parts of the club's capital structure, may determine their willingness or otherwise to follow Murray's lead.

There are also the qualitative aspects of their involvement. How much are they willing to put the club before themselves? And more importantly, how much can they afford to do so?

For example, according to the most recent accounts, Bolstrom Ltd (Murray) 'only' contributed £504k to the £14m debt issue, but Messrs Chappell and Hatter contributed £4.1m and £3.1m respectively.

Meanwhile, Murray owns seven times more equity than Hatter, and nearly three times more than Chappell.

The timing of each director's investment is relevant too. Some have enjoyed eight seasons of Premiership hospitality; others have known only managerial stress and relegation.

I'm not smart enough to predict how all of the above might play out, except to note that it likely suggests the main owners may be acting based on individual incentives, rather than in unison and in the supposed best interests of the club. And unfortunately perhaps, rightly so.

The new kit

I've reviewed the timeline of Charlton's home kit, and I can see little evidence of a random white stripe having sentimental value.

The new kits of Everton and Man Utd may look ridiculous, but at least they're steeped in some vague commercially-minded view of history.

I happen to look quite good in red. Red screams anger, passion and love, which just happen to be the three feelings most Charlton fans are experiencing right now. If I want 'White Stripes', I'll buy their latest album.

Why do kit designers feel an obligation to exercise some artistic license? I want a red shirt, not one that looks like I've simultaneously been shat on by a bird and spilt mayo down my front. I won't be buying it; I'll wait for the blue away kit.

Chicago Addick has had an annoying recent habit of stealing my ideas. He obviously doesn't have much work on. When that baby comes along, let's see how prolific his blogging is.

As he quite rightly pointed out with unnatural promptness, if I was a building society, I wouldn't be describing myself as 'innovative' right now. How about 'conservative', 'boring' or 'unimaginative'?

However there's finally something truly Charlton-like about finally having a local business on our shirts (well, Chatham), as opposed to a speculative Spanish property developer, or a chav High Street fashion brand.

With assets at 30 Sep 2008 of £2.3bn, it's not a minnow and indeed comparable with the Dunfermline Building Society that was saved by a combination of the government and the Nationwide.

And with provisions of only £5m against those assets, they must be uniquely gifted underwriters.

Anyhow with its top three executives taking home over £300k each, you'd have to hope they're suitably incentivised and credible not to go the same way. We could do without another new shirt.

Welling 1, Charlton 1

The result is meaningless, but the 22-man squad we utilised was far from encouraging, with our over-resourced central midfield merely emphasising the lack of defensive options.

It's certainly great to have a centre-back called Mambo ('Mambo No.5' anyone?), but who fancies starting a League One season with the additional likes of Youga, Semedo and Basey as partners for new signing Llera?

Meanwhile we don't have a recognised senior right-back, with Yassin Moutaouakil clearly not having shown the type of promise that a coach could eke out for this level. It's no wonder France are so unsuccessful at international level.

Upfront meanwhile, we are similarly lightweight lacking a true target man (assuming Gray moves on), leaving only Deon Burton plus three unproven potential partners.

How's this for an opening day line-up? Elliot, Solly, Youga, Llera, Semedo, Shelvey, Racon, Bailey, Sam, Burton, Fleetwood. Subs:Randolph, Basey, Spring, McLeod, Dickson. Confident? Neither am I.

Zheng Zhi leaves

As Chicago Addick predictably pointed out, he could ask Jessica Biel on a date but she'd probably say no (but virility is a very attractive trait you know?).

Anyhow, as the Captain of a country of 1.4billion people, it's fair to assume he can play a bit, enough at least not to have to partner Matt Spring in midfield on a wet Tuesday night in Hereford.

Rumours of some sort of marketing-led deal that would see us retain Zheng were clearly and not surprisingly flawed, so we bid him farewell.

As a player he was quite good at everything, but not very good at anything. Kind of like the Tim Henman of the football world.

The peak of his Charlton career coincided with the first half of the 2007/8 season under Pardew, scoring nine goals by mid-January and putting us in promotion contention.

However the goals dried up as our season fell by the wayside, and he leaves us with the fond memory of a 25-yard pearler at Molineux in March. Hao yun as they say in China.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Is Murray a Charlton fan?

There's only been one question on the lips of expectant British tennis fans during Wimbledon Andy Murray a Charlton fan?

He's been spotted at The Valley on more than one occasion during the past couple of seasons, hardly the most glamorous London fixture to choose for a mere neutral with an interest in football.

Why not just join the myriad of assorted celebrities at Stamford Bridge or The Emirates?

A quick visit to Andy's official website reveals the truth.....his fitness trainer Matt Little is an Addick, and more importantly is trying to convert his charge too. It's right there on his official website!

Murray is only two wins away from an extraordinary achievement, that will catapult him to untold fame and riches.

The Google hits will mount up by the million, and lo and behold (and not surprisingly), the search engine directs straight to it.

He must know what's written on his website (he's increasingly media savvy after all), and by definition he must be comfortable with the implication above and doesn't mind that the world will know it.....HE MUST BE A CLOSET CHARLTON FAN!

Dig a little deeper, and you can see the attraction. He was forced to move away from home to achieve his potential, much as Charlton were.

And now having worked hard to achieve some considerable success, he still finds something to moan about.

Thus he must feel very comfortable sitting up there in the West Stand, and when he queues for a half-time pint he'll recognise the frustration....occasionally the service can break down.

And finally when the game's over and the crowds are dispersing, he can avoid the eager autograph-hunters by popping into the boardroom to see his distant uncle, Richard.

But wait, what's this? A suggestion he might also be a Wolves fan, happily parading the gold and black shirt before his victory at Queens Club? Surely he's not a turncoat already.

As I recently wrote myself, I consider it appropriate to adopt a Premiership club, now we're in League One.

This is clearly what Andy has done; it's notable he's waited until our respective relegation and promotion was confirmed before displaying his adopted colours. Classy.

It is well-known meanwhile that 5-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg is a Charlton fan.

Interestingly much like his beloved club, Borg also only had about seven good years before going completely off the rails.

However if Murray does triumph on Sunday, I hope Sue Barker poses the question on everyone's lips....Andy, how does it feel to be the first Briton to lift this famous trophy for 73 years, but only the second Charlton fan?