Strangely, I'm not very angry about this result. Strangely, I'm not all that surprised by this result. Sadly I think we have been treading water since we played West Brom on 15th December. We lost that game and at one point I think it could have gone either way. I'm not saying we were unlucky, but we did let in two late goals. Since then we have really failed to look like we have the ability to put a run together. I know we've beaten Stoke and Palace, but Stoke was 1-0 and Weaver made a last minute save and Palace have demonstrated since then that beating them was no great achievement.
I am not angry with Pardew, although I would suggest that he refrain from asking us fans to make long journeys at great expense (relative to the incomes non-football millionaires earn) for the foreseeable future. Especially after the team has been sunning themselves in Spain during the week we were all hard at work earning the money to pay for the trip. I am disappointed that we look like we are going to struggle to get out of this division at the first attempt. We are now just one point (with a worse goal difference) above Ipswich, and we have to go there in a few weeks, and Hull are two points behind us with a game in hand.
From memory Pardew was facing the sack at West Ham if he failed to get them into the playoffs the year they were promoted. They snatched 6th place on the last game of the season. His inability to win these types of games has followed his career. The season West Ham sacked him he had beaten Arsenal at home, and 'his' team beat Man Utd a few days after he left, but they lost 4-0 at Bolton. I don't know what his 'problem' is, but clearly there is something missing. Not that it's time for him to be relieved of his duties. Pardew inherited a rubbish squad and a level of indebtedness that meant that he had to sell anything with a value, and release players with ability that were a little bit too expensive to pay. The re-building process at West ham was a massive task and to be fair they were lucky to win promotion when they did, not to mention the FA Cup run that elevated Pardew to heights that were always a little bit exaggerated, but without that play-off win they could well be where Leeds are right now.
The other team that could have gone top with a win back on 15th December now find themselves on a bad run with six points to second place (all be it with a game in hand and ridiculous goal difference). West Brom were rightly hailed as a great footballing side. Now I know they have had a cup run, but it is telling that the two (I insist on including us) best footballing sides in the division are forth and sixth with twelve or thirteen games to go. The 4-5-1 with Big Chris up front was slated by many, and at home didn't seem to be too successful. However, I have now come to realise that The Championship is no place for nice football. I don't want to be like Stoke, but I had come to the conclusion a few weeks ago that we are not going to play struggling teams off the park away from home.
I really didn't want to have to increase the percentage of 'workhorses' in our team as they will have no value if we go up, but I suddenly have this terrible fear that if we don't sort this out before August (assuming we don't win the play offs) we could be holding a fire sale in the summer of 2009 which would force us to completely re-build the team again. ZZ, for example only signed a two year contract. What will he be sold for next January if we are not in the top two?
I've always thought that to be successful in the play-offs you need to storm into the top six with a last gasp run. You need form on your side, and it's difficult to pick yourselves up after losing out on a top two place, so maybe dropping to seventh or eighth before winning the last three or four games of the season would be ok. I also believe that as we have really only struggled against the lower teams we should be ok for three games against teams that finished third to sixth. All we have to do now is secure as many points in the next twelve games as the seventh best side out of the Premier League. Shouldn't be too hard, should it?
One last point. Watford are third and Sheffield United are fifteenth (twelve points behind us). It is clearly not easy to win promotion after relegation, and I would much sooner be us than Watford, and I can't even begin to imagine what this season would have been like if we'd 'enjoyed' Sheff Utd's results.
It's not all over. We may well still have a great day out at Wembley. Keep the faith.
Up the Addicks!