Wednesday, 27 May 2009

What do you do?

So it's one of those years.... You know, the type of year that most football supporters dred... the ones where we are faced with a football-less summer....

I have just dug out an old article from the beeb about "end of season blues" that I remember reading a few years ago. It highlights what we have to put up with during these dark, soulless times and I thought it was right on the money!

"Those close to football supporters should look out for signs of depression, lethargy, inability to converse and a feeling of hopelessness - feelings which may also be common during the season, if their team is not faring well." I love this paragraph.... sums it up perfectly!

The most annoying thing about the summer, especially summers like this one, is that we are going to be bombarded with 'talk' all summer. So and so is on the brink of signing a record deal with so and so, and such and such a manager is leaving because he wants more control over the transfers. Then there will be the endless stream of photographs in OK and Hello of the footballers we pay to see each week sunning themselves on luxury yachts and hanging out with all of their other celebrity mates at Bungalow 7 or the Kensington Roof Gardens....etc etc see where I'm's just all talk and no poo.

Can we not just fast forward to the start of next season?

So what I thought I would do is to get a bit of banter going between us football supporters (or obsessive as my missus would call me) as to what they do over the summer when there is no footie on the tele!
  • What do you do over the summer?
  • Do you ignore the press?
  • Are you a member of the press who writes these articles?
  • Do you suddenly start going to church in the hope that Lionel Messi will see the light and see that South-London is wonderful and that its full of t*ts, fanny and Charlton and sign for the Addicks?

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Next Season: Season Tickets

In the first in an occasional series, and in an effort to banish memories of the 2008/09 season, I'm going to look ahead at what is in store for us next season. A few pints with a fellow fan led to discussion about a lot of things related to Charlton for the forthcoming season: match attendance, who will be managing us, which players will still be left, away days to look forward to etc. You get the idea. So I thought it might be worth getting some thoughts down and see what is on the mind of the fellow Addickted.

One of the things we both remained uncertain of was whether we were going to renew our season tickets. Judging by those I chatted to around me on the final game of the season, and the comments being left on a lot of the blogs, it's pretty obvious that this a subject of uncertainty for a lot of fans. There is only one week to go to renew existing tickets though so it really is decision time.

Don't get me wrong, I really want to renew my ticket. In spite of the team's best efforts to put me off this season, I still love watching Charlton play football. I also love having a regular seat and knowing that I'll see the same faces and engage in some good natured conversation every other week. But there are a few things which are making me wonder whether it is going to be worthwhile.

Firstly, as has been widely discussed, the reduction in price came as somewhat of a disappointment. When you take into account the fact that I am not usually able to make the mid-week games, and there are always a handful of weekend games I will unable to get to, it is not looking like such a sound investment. There are a few away games I'd like to attend so it could make sense to buy my ticket on a match-by-match basis and spend the spare cash on away trips.

I would be lying if I said that the man chose to manage the side did not have an impact on my decision. If Phil Parkinson is in charge then my decision will pretty much have been made for him. Granted, he got Colchester promoted from League One but his track record at Charlton is abysmal and retaining him as our manager would show the lack of ambition to push me, and I expect others, away. I want to support my club financially but would also like some reassurances that the revenue is being well spent. Evidence over the past few seasons has been to the contrary and our failure to move on from the Pardew/Parkinson era would not help me to believe this has changed.

Finally, superstitution may make me give up my ticket if nothing else does. I had been attending matches regularly prior to it, but I bought my first season ticket during the 2006/07. Yup, that was the season Dowie pitched up and it all went wrong. The following season wasn't much to write home about and the season just gone needs no explanation. So a little bit of me wonders if I have cursed the team and that if I give the season ticket a miss next season, it might all be OK. Yes, that was the sound of me clutching at some straws.

So in summary, I have no idea if I'm going to renew my season ticket. I'll probably leave it to the very last minute and the determing factor will be whether there is enough cash in my bank account to do it. I would be interested to hear what others are thinking and whether they are facing similar indecision in what should be a straightforward choice. Help!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

1 To Go....What Does It Mean?

Well … for those sides struggling at the foot of the Premiership Table, this is the last chance saloon and the reality is that for some, it may be their last chance at playing (or managing) in the Premiership again.

For clubs, the ramifications of relegation are profound ... emergency boardroom meetings, contingency plans, player negotiations and heated conversations will be common place. For fans, staring down the barrel of relegation is a crippling and gut wrenching feeling, one that I felt for the first time this season with Charlton. It was a weird feeling, one of emptiness and helplessness, as we watched the side squander countless first half leads. The Championship's relegated sides this year were all in Britian’s top flight five years ago which I guess is testimony to how difficult life in the Coca-Cola Championship can be, especially if the relegated sides are not able to bounce back up while they are still receiving parachute payments.

Out of the sides that are scrapping down at the bottom of the table, the most surprising is Newcastle United. I think at the start of the season people expected them to struggle, but I certainly didn’t think that they’d be in the bottom three on the last day of the season, that’s for sure. They are a funny side, a side made up of world-class players, prima donnas and absolute no-marks and one that has just not been able to settle or gel together. They often look like a bunch of individual players who have never been on the same pitch together; there is no ‘connectivity’ between the players and certainly no telepathy!

There are those out there that will say they’ve been unlucky, but I don’t think luck has anything to do with it. The club have been a shambles since Ashley took over and despite him ploughing £250m of his own fortune into the club, they remain the laughing stock of the league.

The hiring and firing of five managers since May 2007 has to take a significant portion of the blame for the situation that the club find themselves in. The hiring of ‘King Kev’ was one of the most random decisions I’ve ever seen in football, and it highlighted the fickleness of the Geordie faithful. The man was running a soccer circus in Glasgow or something that like and confessed to not following the Premiership or watching the Premiership for several years before turning up to St. James' Park and being unveiled to thousands of Geordies who hailed the return of the King to the Toon, only to see him disappear after 21 matches as manager of the club.

To the unbiased supporter, it was a shocking decision to remove Sam Allardyce and to replace him with Keegan in the first place. Allardyce had a record of 8 wins, 6 draws and 10 defeats during his time on Tyneside, that’s an average of 1.25 points per game, which isn’t great admittedly, but at the same time, it's not relegation form, rather mid-table mediocrity. The issue with Newcastle United and with the Toon faithful, is that they think they are better than they actually are. History doesn’t lie. Newcastle United are, at best, a mid table side whose trophy cabinet has remained bare since their 1955 FA Cup victory and with the Championship a real possibility, things do not look all fine on the Tyne.

Monday, 18 May 2009

37 Down, 1 To Go.

I must admit, I feel slightly fraudulent sitting at my key board typing this message after a 3 month absence from A Red Divided; sort of like I don’t belong here because I wasn’t here when the shit really hit the fan for the Addicks and for that I do apologise!

Unlike Richard who has an excuse for his absence, I don’t really have one. It’s been a season where I’ve fallen back in love with football, only for us to fall out and reconcile and after a honeymoon engagement period, to find myself moping around like a broken hearted adolescent after being dumped at the altar. I’ve just read the above analogy again, it makes me sound like a glory seeker, but what I am trying to say is that I’ve been through the whole spectrum of emotions, with jubilation, ecstasy, frustration, sadness, annoyance and pride all prevailing throughout the season. It’s weird, because although I am ‘heartbroken’ I do have an electric feeling of pride running through my veins.

So where do I start.....

It’s got to be with Liverpool and what I am hoping will be a second placed finish in the premiership this season. It’s been a real roller coaster this season, emotionally, mentally and physically. As I stated a few months ago, this is the first time in a number of years that I’ve not followed Liverpool to the majority of their home and away’s both in the league and in Europe and it has really wrecked my head. Getting used to being an “arm chair supporter” has been a lot more difficult than I thought. Having to put up with dozens of super-fans and whoppers in pubs like the Famous Three Kings that show most of Liverpool’s matches thanks to the miracles of satellite technology has frustrated the hell out of me and towards the end of the season, if the match was on Sky or Setanta, I stayed in and invited the lads around to mine rather than go out and if it wasn’t then 9 times out of 10, I’d listen to it on the radio instead.

I’d by lying if I said I was happy with second place. I genuninely believe that we should have won the league this year. I’m not sure that we will have as good a chance as we did have this season, next season. United started the season slowly and were poor for much of the early part of the season, as I am sure their fans will agree, but throughout the important periods and through the winter, they turned up the heat and they dismissed the lower league sides that we struggled to finish off.

It’s quite clear where Liverpool lost the league this year; it was the number of drawn matches against lower opposition such as Stoke, Hull, Wigan and Everton that killed us. Trying to breakdown these matches and to look at why we couldn’t win these matches is difficult. The easy answer is that we didn’t have ‘Nando fit, or that Steven Gerrard was injured, but the more honest appraisal is that we didn’t have the depth in the right places to kill these games off.
It's made all the more gutting by the results we had against the top 4 sides which were fantastic. The double over both Manchester United and Chelsea, a win and a draw against Villa and two draws against the Gooners are good results. The double over the Manc's was brilliant and being home for that match at Old Trafford was immense! The atmosphere was electric and just goes to show the ups and downs of football, when you are high you are unstoppable, 4 past Real Madrid, 4 past United, 5 past Villa....

Robbie Keane was a complete and utter disaster, who, as a £25million striker should have been imposing himself on matches against these poorer sides from the first minute and not getting arsey when he was being substituted in the 60 or 70th minutes after contributing f**k all throughout the match. Given the decision to sell him or not again, I stand by my original comment that we should not have sold him though. Although he didn’t score much for us (ironically, I was actually at the match he did score for us against West Brom), he did get the odd goal, which is more than N’Gog or Babel (his ‘replacements’) have done in his absence. We all knew that he could score goals and that he could win you games, it’s just a shame he didn’t do it for us. What is more concerning though, is given Rafa’s policy of playing with one up-front and with Stevie G playing just off him, I think he is going to struggle to get a world-class striker who wants to play what will be a bit part role depending on when Nando is fit or not.

However, it’s not only the strikers who need to take responsibility for not being able to kill a game off; the midfield needs to take their proportion of this responsibility. For all Dirk Kuyt’s work and for all his running and effort, he isn’t a winger and he never will be. He needs to be replaced with someone who can create goals and who can offer that speed down the flanks that we have craved for so long. Yossi Benayoun did a cracking job in the final third of the season playing out wide, scoring some important goals and chipping in with several assists, which is more than can be said about Ryan Babel who after two seasons with the Anfield outfit, has failed to justify the £11m price tag and whom has failed to make a position his own, often playing down the left, instead of in his natural up front position.

But, with that all said, and I think it’s clear how gutted I am about us not winning the league this year, I want to say how immensely proud I am this season. How proud I am to be Scouse, how proud I am to be associated with Liverpool FC and how proud I am to have Liverpool in my blood. We’ve come a long way this season; we’ve challenged for the title all year, we’ve been top of the league and we’ve produced some hugely spirited performances; I think we have scored more goals in the last 10 minutes than any other team this season which is testimony to the heart of the team.

It’s been 20 years since we lost 96 of our own who went to watch a footie match and who never came back and I think that the club, the fans and the city did them proud this year. Stunning performances against Real Madrid and Chelsea (on the eve of the anniversary) will have had the 96 smiling down at the team and fans refusing to surrender. Standing on the kop red and blue side by side, they’ve reminded us that we’re one city and that although football is important, it’s not everything and that there are more important things in life.

Justice for the 96

Hillsborough Family Support Group

The Hillsborough Justice Campaign

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Alemannia Aachen 1-0 Kaiserslautern

One of the reasons for the lack of updates to A Red Divided has been my work commitments in Germany for the past few months. Of course, spending so much time in the country makes it difficult not to get at least a little bit interest in the Bundesliga and German football in general.

Knowing that I am football fan, one of my German colleagues asked me if I wanted to go and watch his team - Alemannia Aachen - take on the once great Kaiserslautern in a second division match yesterday evening. The answer, of course, was an unequivocal ‘yes’. Aside from the fact that it meant I could leave the office at four o’clock, I was also keen to find out how the German match day experience differed from that in England.

Ahead of yesterday’s game Allemania Aachen sat one point behind Kaiserslautern in sixth place both teams still able to make the promotion. With all still to play for and a sold out Tivoli stadium (just shy of 22,000 attendance), it certainly felt like a good place to begin an initiation into German football.

The set up was similar to something I would have expected to find in England a bit before I was born - standing room only, no cover (we survived with just a light shower), a fence between the spectators and the pitch, smoking and drinking both permitted in the stands, and a lot of flags being waved. A lot has been made of the demise of the traditional English terrace atmosphere and this game showed me what has been lost in terms of atmosphere. However, looking at the way the stadium was set up, it was also a reminder of how things could go so badly wrong if not properly marshalled.

The game itself was fast paced and certainly comparable to the standard of Championship football. Alemannia should have been ahead at half time but failed to capitalise on the chances that Kaiserslautern were allowing them. After the obligatory half time beer and currywurst, the second half started at a similarly frantic pace with Florian Müller’s pace down the left finally forcing a Kaiserslautern own goal. Benjamin Auer should have added a second when clean through on goal, but hit the post leaving Alemannia to hold on for a nervous few final moments.
One of the bizarre yet most memorable moments of the evening came after the match had finished. Alemannia are building a brand new stadium next to the old one, ready for use at the beginning of the 2009/10 season. For some reason, by luck or intention (I couldn’t work out which), the construction site was left unlocked leaving Alemannia fans to walk freely around their new stadium in a half finished state. It is an impressive one tier stadium and one which the fans, who were all terribly good natured, will enjoy watching their team playing in for seasons to come.

Is it safe to come out yet?

Cough, cough. That's the sound of me brushing the cobwebs away and resurfacing from a three month absence. Kelvin and I had a call to arms today and realised that it was time to get blogging again and get some chat going ahead of what is going to be an interesting season and unknown territory for many fans.

As per last season, this one ended on a high with a good victory over an admittedly very poor Norwich side (anybody who Deon Burton scores a hat trick against falls into the category) who we will be meeting again next season. Whilst it might have put a slight spring into the step ahead of the summer break, it couldn't disguise a complete sham of a season.

The Championship was hard to get out of (at the right end) and I think League One will be even tougher to be honest. There is the opportunity for a fresh start however and the chance to visit some new grounds.

No summer tournament means that the majority of the football press will be focusing on the movers and the shakers. In that respect, there are a lot of unanswered questions at Charlton. Is Parkinson staying? Is Shelvey staying? Who do we actually want to get rid of? How many people will be renewing their season tickets?

So no football for a while but plenty to chat about. Most Charlton fans will be sick of the game right now, but somehow you just know you'll be feeling differently come August ...