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!