Well it wasn't good was it?
To be fair to Pardew there is not much you can do if you go a goal down after two minutes, and the second, like the first, came from a set piece. His suggestion that we were missing someone big and strong at the back is more than credible, after all the third goal came from a free header at the back post.
What worries me though is that it was no surprise to me that Barnsley looked to take advantage of set pieces. After the money that has been spent, particularly on forwards that don't seem to be able to score, we shouldn't be needing to rely on a 35 year old, half fit defender that we only have on loan for three months.
Ambrose was probably at fault for the second goal, but it was evident again yesterday that our biggest failing is our inability to win the second ball. The first two goals came from our inability to clear the ball after we had won the initial header. I have to assume that this must be due to the players not carrying out their duties properly. Then you have to ask yourself if that is because Pardew gives them the wrong instructions, fails to teach/coach them properly, or do they just ignore him.
Both of Macken's goals were well taken but there was clearly a lack of defending on the edge of the box. I have read in various places that Curbishley was obsessive with directives. He would tell all the players exactly where to stand for all different types of situations. The current side seem to be allowed to make that call for themselves. This causes the lack of cohesion that often means that we will win the tackle, then fail to get the second ball. Some teams have so much quality that they can be allowed to play how they want to because they are just too good for the opposition. Maybe West Ham and Reading were a little bit like that, but we are not.
In this modern day everything needs to be catered for. Nothing can be allowed to chance. I think we have allowed way to much to chance and are where we are as a result. Thus either Pardew needs to go and we need to replace him with someone that is much more organised, or we need to bring someone in to work alongside him. I remember the boring disciplined football that Curbishley served up in his last season. We had started that season on fire, but when we lost the creativity we had won games with, he changed things around and we clawed out goalless draws and won close games 1-0. That kept us up in his last season. It was not pretty, but it worked. I seriously doubt that Pardew has the skill set for a campaign like that. The evidence at West Ham is that when the going gets tough he doesn't have the acumen to turn it around.
Pardew thinks that the answer is another loan player. I have played many football games on the computer or the PlayStation, and the answer is normally to get in better players. I'm no football manager, although in the virtual reality of computer games I can hold my own, but in the real world we have seen that approach fail miserably. Maybe it's a bit unfair but it is beginning to look like that is all Pardew has in his locker. When things go wrong he changes the players, when he has run out of players in his squad to bring in he signs more players. If you follow this approach in the end you will either find a winning formula (Reading) or you will run out of time and get sacked (West Ham). The outcome of this season could well define Pardew's career and his financial security. Sure he has earned some serious money, but I doubt he has saved much of it (few of us do) so he can probably not afford to walk away from us and never work again. So the pressure on him right now is massive, and when that happens we all tend to go back to what we know best - in Pardew's case he 'needs' more players.
I can't think of any of the players that are better for Pardew's tutoring. He doesn't seem to bring the best out of players neither in long term development or match by match motivation. The young players in our squad have developed on loan then after a run in our side they seem to go backwards.
All in all I have serious doubts as to the long term benefits of having appointed Pardew back in December 2006. Not that I was anything but vocal in my praise of the decision at the time. Clearly I have the hindsight to be able to make that bold statement now, but it is difficult to come to any conclusion other than that we are further away from starting a season in the Premier League now than we were when Pardew arrived. I'm not blaming the manager for all that, but sadly we have got further away from that goal almost every month since the start of 2007. Relegation this season is unthinkable, but genuinely possible.
The long term future of this great club will, I believe, be determined by the season ticket sales next summer. Already the club (I'm deliberately avoiding pointing the blame at the manager, board or the admin staff) has instilled huge resentment by making the bold statements about the free season ticket before going on to sell players. Even if we avoid relegation this season I think many of those paying customers will not be willing to buy a season ticket at the current price structure (still one of the lowest in our division). If relegation, or even a serious threat of it next season, is a factor then we could be in real trouble. It is no wonder the board were so willing to recommend the Zabeel offer. If things carry on as they are that £20m debt (most of it to the current directors) will have to be written off.
I think it is probably time for us to accept what Richard Murray (and I) was keen to deny in the summer of 2006. Frankly just about all of our success in the last fifteen years has been down to Alan Curbishley. I don't need hindsight to say that I was more than happy with the dire football that kept us in the Premier League, or the collapse that we ended our season with once safety was pretty much guaranteed. I am fed up with continuing to say that I will give Pardew until Christmas as I am convinced that by then it will be too late. I am assuming, of course, that things don't improve between now and then.
I know this will not be popular, but at the Bloggers meeting in June Richard Murray said that he still regards Curbishley as a friend, and still talks to him from time to time. I think we should be approaching Curbishley to see if he wants to come back. Maybe, ironically, as a Director of Football. Maybe he could add something to Pardew's management team; maybe he could replace Pardew's management team.
Either way I think the time for bringing in new faces to the playing squad is gone. Pardew has been given, I believe, massive support from the club. We have spent more on players than just about every other team in this division; we have taken more loan players from Premier League clubs than just about every other team in this division; we have not looked like getting anywhere near the top two positions in this league since 2007; we haven't won back to back league games for eleven months.
I may be wrong, I often am, but I now believe that if the board do not act soon (immediately would be my preference) they will have missed what could be the last chance for Charlton Athletic FC to avoid a decade in the wilderness. We have players on Premier League wages that are not good enough for the Championship; we have five of our senior players on contracts that end in the summer; we will probably have to sell just about everything that has a value to continue to pay those players whose wages are so high we literally can't give them away.
A new face, an improvement on the field, and a genuine belief that next season will be better are the minimum requirements that will be needed to sell enough season tickets to keep this club afloat. I must reiterate that I am not blaming Pardew but I believe that, like many of the players he has signed, he doesn't have the ability to get us out of trouble.
I'm sad to have nothing more encouraging to say, but I fear that without a change we are far from rock bottom. Dreams of returning to the Premier League have now been replaced with fears of relegation, administration and who knows what else?
I am now ready to join the Redvolution.
Up the Addicks!