November 1st, 2004: Brotherly advice

Three straight defeats, a sacked pitch announcer, an £11m profit, an announcement that tickets to see Chelsea will be £45 and an attack on the board by the manager’s brother – just another routine week at The Valley!

The alarming bells were ringing after Saturday’s defeat by Middlesbrough and rightly so, although the performance itself wasn’t disastrous. It was a great deal better than the listless display against Crystal Palace in midweek.

In both games the obvious positive was the performance of winger Jerome Thomas, making his first senior starts for the club. However, it would be unfortunate if too much expectation is now piled on his shoulders.

As someone who has always enjoyed poking fun at Palace, I have some sympathy with PA man Brian Cole, but I also recall how angry Charlton fans have been in similar situations at away grounds in the past. It’s a public order issue and couldn’t be ignored.

Announcing the club’s highest-ever admission price on the same day as trading figures bloated by the sale of Scott Parker was a rather stranger thing for the club to do.

The board argues that the £10 increase on last year’s Chelsea tickets is necessary to offset the £15 charged for the recent Blackburn game.

However, higher prices don’t necessarily mean increased revenue.Chelsea are likely to sell out their allocation regardless, but Charlton have sometimes struggled to sell home-area tickets for big games at £35.

This isn’t because of a shortage of demand, but rather that the controls necessary to maintain segregation severely limit the number of people able to buy the seats.

Thankfully, concession prices have not been increased, but my brother’s feeling is that the risk is not worth the potential damage to the board’s reputation.

As for myself, I couldn’t possibly comment . . .

November 8th, 2004: Worthwhile at White Hart Lane

Hundreds of empty seats in the away section told their own story about the Charlton fans’ view of their team’s prospects at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

The prospect of paying an excessive £34 for the privilege of witnessing another capitulation had evidently been too much for some – and who could blame them?

Football’s enduring appeal lies in its unpredictability, however, and there weren’t many Addicks in attendance who didn’t feel they had received value for money by 5pm.

Apart from the drama that followed Shaun Bartlett’s red card, reasonably awarded for one of the best saves likely to be seen in the Premiership all season, the tenacity and quality shown by the visitors was heartening.

Tottenham looked rudderless until the sending-off, but that shouldn’t detract from the sparkling nature of each Charlton goal. Even the deflected third, a deserved reward for Jerome Thomas, was preceded by an extended passing sequence in the Spurs half.

Two individual errors in an otherwise robust defensive performance allowed the home side back into the game, but the only real quibble was the failure to replace Jonatan Johansson as soon as the team was reduced to ten men.

The Finn doesn’t have the physical presence to operate as a lone front man in that situation and by that stage of the game he didn’t have the legs either. Jason Euell had to be a better bet, but by the time he was introduced the Addicks were hanging on.

Of course, the cynics will say it’s all set up for Norwich City to gain their first Premiership win at the 13th time of asking on Saturday.

With eight draws in 12 matches, not to mention striker Matt Svensson making his return to The Valley, they may yet pose more of a challenge than Spurs.

November 15th, 2004: A caning for the Canaries

Even before the cheers had died away after Saturday’s 4-0 thumping of Norwich City, the search for some perspective on the afternoon’s events was underway.

The Canaries had failed to win any of their 12 previous Premiership games, after all.

Such an emphatic dismissal of relegation favourites was no more than we should expect, surely?

A flick through Colin Cameron’s statistical bible, Home & Away with Charlton Athletic, suggests otherwise.

Even working on the assumption thatNorwichare destined for the drop, their defeat at The Valley was by no means a foregone conclusion.

Fourteen relegation-bound sides have travelled in hope to SE7 over Charlton’s five completed Premiership seasons, the fixtures yielding eight home wins, five draws and a single away victory – by Leeds United in 2003/04.

Admittedly, just Leicester City and Sunderland out of this group have escaped with draws in the last three years.

However, only ManchesterCity, in the first match after Charlton’s second promotion, have lost by more than two goals.

While the Addicks have scored four at Highbury, Maine Road, Molineux and Villa Park in the Premiership, this was only the seventh time they have managed to do so at The Valley.

And three of those occasions were against West Ham, rather than serious opposition.

You have to go right back to the opening home game of 1998/99 and the 5-0 crushing ofSouthamptonto find a bigger win.

In other words, let’s not be churlish. Many of us turned up on Saturday half-expecting Charlton to trip over their own bootlaces following the fine result at Tottenham.

Next calling point for the rollercoaster is Old Trafford, but with 18 points from 13 matches Alan Curbishley’s side has now established a solid foundation for the season.

The best advice is to relax and enjoy the ride.

November 22nd, 2004: Dennis not our leader

Charlton supporters have come in for a bit of a kicking in recent weeks.

According to Mick Dennis in the Daily Express last Wednesday, Addicks fans are “know-nothing dunderheads” whose support against Norwich was “lukewarm at best and at times disgraceful”.

He also lectures us on our club’s history. Unfortunately, he conflates the 1984 winding-up and move to Selhurst Park 18 months later into one event and puts the court hearing in the wrong year, which rather undermines his claim to know it himself.

Some of us have a long enough memory to recall Mick rubbishing the return to The Valley, and describing the Selhurst years as “a golden age” for the club.

Leaving aside that a majority of current fans can’t be expected to recall the mid-1980s, because they weren’t supporting Charlton then, it’s evident the media take their cue from the club.

The mildest hint that people were scratching their head about Danny Murphy’s contribution produced a batch of stories claiming he was the victim of boo-boys.

A solitary unsavoury incident in the car park involving Jason Euell was turned into a security crisis. The team being jeered off after losing to Middlesbrough was removed from the context of a spineless preceding display against Crystal Palace.

In my experience, Charlton fans are remarkably tolerant and fair-minded people.

Describing the Valley support as “at times disgraceful” is obvious nonsense when compared to the odious behaviour of the Spanish crowd against England last week.

Our fans may be right or wrong on occasion, but they too have played a large part in Charlton’s success. It wouldn’t be healthy if every decision made by the club was beyond criticism.

Indeed, I’d argue that Addicks supporters have a particular duty to keep an eye on things, because the chances of serious scrutiny by the national press are evidently zero.  

November 29th, 2004: Empty seats tell a story

There were 750 unsold seats at The Valley on Saturday and that statistic, as much as the scoreline, should give the Charlton directors food for thought.

The board claims it charged £45 for an adult ticket to balance out the £15 price against Blackburn Rovers in September, conscious of the annual rate already paid by season-ticket holders. Events would suggest the club miscalculated demand.

It’s probable the only reason that Charlton made any extra money from increasing Saturday’s adult price is because, amazingly, Chelsea sell all their away tickets at full price - even though league rules oblige home clubs to offer visiting fans concessions.

The Addicks’ failure to sell 750 home tickets – about a quarter of those available after season tickets - will have cancelled out much of the additional revenue.

To be fair, it’s not just Charlton who have got it wrong. Indeed, it’s the fact that they have got it so right for so long that makes this misjudgement so startling to the board’s many admirers.

This coming weekend Crystal Palace are charging both clubs’ fans £35 for a televised fixture that has tribal appeal but is unlikely to attract purists. Concessions for kids are £21. I predict the outcome will again be empty seats and reduced revenue.

But there is perhaps another reason why the Charlton directors should think again. The club has itself argued that the widening gap between the biggest clubs and the rest poses a threat to the future appeal of the Premiership. The Chelsea game epitomised the problem.

I don’t know why any Charlton fan would pay £45 to watch a non-event like Saturday’s match or the recent one-sided defeats at Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool.

And if I had, I don’t think I would make the same mistake again.

Voice of The Valley is part of the Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet (click logo for more details)

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