Sunday, 30 March 2008

Charlton 2 - 3 Wolves

Well I asked for some goals and I saw five. I asked for wingers getting to the byline and Thomas crossed for our opening goal. I asked for balls over the top for strikers to chase and Lita scored a goal from a long ball forward. I also asked for us to score more goals than Wolves, well three out of four ain't bad.

Seriously though I thought we played well yesterday. I thought that after a poor start we found our feet and if ever there was a goal scored against the run of play it was Wolves second. Pardew said in his program notes that games could be won from the bench. ZZ's introduction at half time seemed to be just what we needed. He did tire after about twenty minutes (justifying him not starting, but not Ambrose doing so) but for that spell we looked by far the best team.

Wolves second goal effectively finished our season if not the game. We haven't scored anywhere near enough goals, despite paying out over £5.5m on strikers, signing Todorov and Iwelumo on frees and loaning Lita. With two goals needed in nine minutes plus injury time it was all over.

So, where to from here?

Having given up hope of reaching sixth place two weeks ago this is not as much of a disappointment to me personally, but right now I am very fearful for the future. Many have suggested that we have lots of young talent, and we possibly do, but let's be honest we have seen little of it this season to suggest that without major surgery we do not have enough in the squad to pick an eleven or sixteen that would expect to win enough games next season to have us anywhere near the top of the division.

I feel cheated. The Andy Reid sale aside, which I agreed with at the time and cannot, therefore, complain about now, the board have given Pardew absolutely everything he has asked for in the fifteen months he's been here. £2.5m for Bougherra; Ben Thatcher after all the adverse press he'd had in the six months previously; £3.65m on two strikers that had clearly never played at this level before; almost £1m for two young French players that have managed just eight starts between them; Phil Parkinson, despite the fact that we already had two coaches at the club; new changing facilities at Sparrows Lane; mid season breaks to train in Spain.

I'm not saying I disagree (or agree for that matter) with all or any of these decisions, but I just can't see how the board could have possibly given Pardew more. The only thing that he has been refused was a complete rebuilding job at The Valley to put home fans in the Jimmy Seed stand, and he has mentioned it several times and blamed it for poor results since his request was denied.

I've also been hugely offended by the suggestions that poor performances were down to the support from the home crowd at The Valley. I think I am not alone in voicing my displeasure at this as Pardew has started making all the right noises about how the support has been fantastic this season. I somehow doubt that Jose Mourinho would have the nerve to criticise the fans if his team managed to win eight, draw six and lose seven games at home. And if you look back over the period that the fans have 'suddenly' become less supportive we have now won 4 in 20 and 1 in 10. If we'd won just ten in the last twenty (won six that we lost) we would be five points clear at the top of the division now.

This has probably been the easiest season to get out of this division for years, and we have failed to even get close. That is why I feel cheated. It's like asking a financial adviser to look after you family's future then discovering a year later that even though you continued to give him more and more money he has managed to lose most of what you worked for your whole life, but comes back and says that it might be ok if you put everything that you have left on a horse race, only for your horse to fall at the first fence.

This time last year we still had a month left to buy our season tickets for 2007/08 not knowing if we would be watching Premier League football or Championship football, but even if it was the latter we would almost certainly be getting two seasons for the price of one. Ha!

I paid £475 for my season ticket. I paid in April 2007. We haven't sold out this season and all tickets have been £20 with at least Preston being discounted to £10. Thus if I'd kept my money I could have seen all the same games for £450 and paid on a weekly basis. By the time we play Coventry the club will have had my money for over a year, and I will have paid £25 more than the 'occasional' fan that chose to attend every game this season.

I would suggest that the pricing of season tickets for 2008/09 takes into account how the club has 'cheated' it's most loyal customers. Otherwise thousands might just not bother and then that £450 will likely be more like £350 when they decide to watch the games played at 5:20pm on a Saturday evening in HD in their front rooms, or just give games a miss if the performances and results shadow this season.

Even though I am probably one of those that will renew my season ticket irrespective, something tells me that there could well be less than 10,000 that feel the same way, and it could well be as low as 5,000. It is shameful that paying up to twelve months in advance for something that never sells out should cost more than paying as you go, especially as what has been served up this season has been so poor. I think that those setting the pricing and incentives for next season should recognise that they are (shock, horror) in the entertainment business. That means that the spectators pay to be entertained. There are lots and lots of other things that the 17,000 current season ticket holders could do with their money and their time.

Anyway I am getting off the point. Wolves looked like a good outfit. McCarthy is a decent manager and has spent some money. Ebanks-Blake is clearly who we should have signed in January, rather than Andy Gray, and he was the difference for them yesterday. Clearly that was what we were hoping for from Gray, then Cook, then Lita and then Sinclair - Halford? No idea. Maybe McCarthy is just luckier than Pardew, maybe he is better at spotting talent. Maybe Wolves will not go up and Ebanks-Blake will score two goals next season before disappearing into the lower leagues. Irrespective, we have failed miserably to sign anyone that has provided that kind of impact since we were relegated.

Over all I thought we played well, I thought we passed the ball more (not much better to be fair) and tried to play football and use the wings (particularly in the second half when Ambrose went off), but the squad, despite it's size, is not good enough. I have no idea what the situation would be if Andy Reid had stayed, but we have been falling down the league since he was injured (then left) and have only won four games this season without him from a total of twenty. If the rumours that I've heard are true, and they may well not be, then the money for Andy Reid has all gone on Andy Gray and four loan signings that will not be here next season without further investment (transfer fees and signing on bonuses). Thus the gamble hasn't worked. Still you have to speculate to accumulate I suppose.

I think this summer will have to be much more cautious than last. We already have ZZ with just one year left, and you cannot really offer long term contracts to players when you have just one year of parachute money left. No decent player will want a one year contract, and we can't justify paying a transfer fee for a player that can leave for free the following summer. Clearly some players will have to leave. I would think that Bent and Faye would be released to get them off the wage bill as it's likely no one will pay us anything for them. Thatcher, Todorov and Holland must be coming to the end of their careers, and the former showed his true colours when making the bench for the first time this season and then publicly stating that he wanted another contract. I have reservations as to his ability to justify another one based on what little we've seen of him since his arrival. Andy Gray was signed to replace Todorov (who has been injured on and off for years) and Holland has looked less and less able to influence a game. However, even if those five leave, we still need to reduce the squad by something like five more players before we bring more in, especially bearing in mind another failed season could well see us with no parachute money and less than half the season ticket holders we've had this season.

So do the club (the board) gamble one last time and give Pardew another £10m in the hope that with another twenty or so players he can find the right formation and starting eleven to get us promoted next season or do we take this summer to consolidate and further reduce the overall running costs to prepare for a prolonged stay in this division?

I have no idea, or say really as clearly the club is being bank rolled by the directors now. After the season we've had, coupled with England failing to qualify for Euro 2008 all we need now is three months of rain and cold weather and we will have all the ingredients required for a really depressing summer.

On that happy note I'm off to play on my PS3. At least I can make Charlton win game after game on there!


Anonymous said...

What an abysmal underachieving season this has been. Only 15 wins from 41 matches with 14 defeats. The board and the fans deserve answers form Pardew. If I were Richard Murrey I would be pulling what little hair I had left out of my head. The board supported Pardew and allowed him to spend the most money of any club in the Championship. All we got for our money is a load of overrated, overpaid, underperformers. We have strikers who cannot strike, we have defenders who cannot defend, and we have coaches and administration staff who quite frankly haven’t got a clue. With 5 games to go Pardew and the coaching staff still don’t know the best team or indeed the best formation to play.


Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting piece. I hadn’t done the season ticket calculation, but I’m very pleased you have and equally outraged!! I shall also renew my (four!) season tickets but with a lot less enthusiasm now I know how badly ripped-off I’ve been!! On the Reid sale, I too felt I understood the logic but if you are right that the proceeds have been “blown” on Gray and the loan signings then I’m afraid that shows staggeringly poor judgement by Mr Pardew.

On our way back from the game yesterday, one of my sons remarked that it had been a wasted season. What he meant was that Pardew hasn’t given his young players the opportunity to learn and develop and that looks a real shame given the challenges that next season will now present. Moutaouakil has only made seven starts, for example. How can that make sense? I heard a Bristol City fan on 606 last night say that WBA and Charlton are the two class teams he’d seen at Ashton Gate this season. Racon started that game and by all accounts did well. By my reckoning he’s been on the bench just once since and now it seems he’s doing well at Brighton where he will spend the rest of the season. That makes no sense either. Surely, if he needed experience he should have gone on loan much sooner. Both Racon and Moutaouakil must wonder what on earth is going on. Varney looks useful, but even he has been used only sparingly. McLeod has been disappointing but he actually looked promising in the two Cup games against West Brom and at home against Blackpool. So what happens next? He goes out on loan!! If I were a real cynic I’d suggest that Pardew knows that players learn more at other clubs than they do at Charlton and therefore sends them off for some decent coaching. His comments about the benefit to Kelly Youga of spending time at Scunthorpe were perhaps a little tongue in cheek but it seems that his return to Charlton has seen him regress!! I’m not cynical so I won’t make that comment, but Youga is another example of a young player who should now play every week. With all due respect to Ben Thatcher, the sight of him at left back yesterday was symbolic of all that has gone wrong this season; a pedestrian performance from a player who is not part of the future but who is playing at the expense of someone who is . I thought the season had turned with the home Cup game against West Brom. Moutaouakil, Youga, Mcleod and Varney all played in that game and so did Lloyd Sam. Injuries have played their part, but I simply don’t understand why Pardew abandoned that bright future. Perhaps he was so keen to do something in the window that he just got completely muddled, but I’m afraid that every move he has made since the decision to sell Reid has been counterproductive; it hasn’t helped the club’s promotion prospects or the chances next season. In my view the Board need to continue to back their manager but he now has a lot to prove in my eyes.

Wyn Grant said...

What you say about season tickets is interesting, especially the figures you produce. But - a season ticket is what economists call a 'bundled good'. I can't make every game, and may well go to fewer next season if we don't start playing football rather than hoofball. Nevertheless, with a season ticket one is also getting the convenience of not having to buy a ticket, a seat with people you know - and in my case since I have had the seat since shortly after the East Stand opened - a good seat.

Kings Hill Addick said...

Wyn, I agree about the benefits of the actual seat, and, of course, the price was potentially based on Premier League football or a free ticket if we won promotion. I just think that moving forward the club need to recognise that when ever a business tries to secure up to twelve months advanced (and therefore guaranteed) payments it usually comes at a discount, not a premium. With Championship football pretty much guaranteed for next season (and it will be by the time the deadline for applications arrives) the club have nothing to use as an inducement other than price. With less than 15,000 (a lot less I believe) season tickets sold next season you will be able to choose any stand for any game. Not the conditions I would suggest to price a season ticket above that of individual games. Clearly I don’t want to force the club to raise match day ticket prices above what the occasional fan will pay, but a sustained period in this division will only be financially viable if the nucleus of season ticket holders continue to buy a whole years attendance two or three months before the season starts.

Anonymous said...

Another terrific post 'Kings Hill'I think i'll have to start a fan club for you!
Whatabout the nonsense of claiming an attendance of 23,000+ It was obvious there was nothing like that amount of people in the ground. Nearer to 18.000 i would suggest. You probably know the club count all season ticket holders as present, wether they are or not. It makes a mockery of attendance figures as i have told them. Frankly it's embarrassing! Still, next season when the ground is virtually empty, they will be claiming 10,000.