I was tempted to 'advertise' this game as 'The FA Cup' as I still have a passion for the competition. It was a little dulled during our Premier League seasons as we played exciting games every week (baring a few) but now it has become what it used to be for me.
Clearly our relegation battle is exciting, and our new managerial situation is interesting (more to follow) but the FA Cup is still the most famous football competition in the world. The beauty of the opposition is that this is a winnable game. I am ignoring our recent form for obvious reasons, but despite the fact that the bookies will have a favourite, this is a game that either side could win without it being a major news headline. I am going, as I think I have already mentioned, and I am really look forward to it. It is a winner take all (unless it's a draw, or course) and despite not knowing what the next round will bring, it is a possibility that we could end up at Man Utd or Arsenal, which would be nice.
We have to make a few changes bearing in mind the loan players that have gone back or have been refused permission to play, but I think this should be treated as an opportunity to win a passage into the next round, rather than to give a few fringe players a run in the side. Having said that I would not be disappointed if Hudson was given a rest as a booking could rule him out of the Forrest game next week, one that I would rather win than this one, even if the 4th round is away at Old Trafford.
I think I would be inclined to stick to Rob Elliot in goal. I have been impressed with him, and I just love his long kicks. I can see them being a real threat moving forward, especially when the forwards become used to where the ball is going to land.
At the back I would have thought that (possible yellow card withstanding) we would play Hudson and Fortune. The full backs are more interesting. I like Mou2, but it does look like Parkinson doesn't, so I suspect we will see Semedo at right back with Basey as left back - Parkinson also seems less than convinced with Youga.
Across the middle I cannot see any alternative to Sam and Bouazza playing, with two from Holland, Bailey, Semedo (if not at right back) and Ambrose. I doubt we will see Wright or Shelvey involved. Under different circumstances I would have thought this a great time to give them a run, but due to my lack of confidence that we will be challenging the top of this division anytime soon, they will soon enough be good enough to play in our league games, never mind a cameo in the FA Cup.
Up front is more of an issue for me. I would think that Burton would get a run out. As we have just signed him and he is, at 32, not one for the future, he should be expected to play on days like this when Waghorn is not available. Todorov, has for me, been overlooked so much that I think we need to accept that he is not going to be involved in any major way for us. McLeod has been given very few chances, but when he has played he has looked so much out of his depth that I can understand why his chances are so few and far between. Andy Gray has had a lot of criticism, some of which is difficult to argue against. From the limited information I have picked up it would seem that since we signed him he has had personal problems. Thus I think the issue with Andy Gray is should we have signed him in the first place. If we had left him at Burnley (on a quarter of the wages, from reports) his personal problems would be someone else's, and we would have had the budget (transfer and wages) to sign someone else. Either way he might start with Burton. I have always preferred a target man and a fast striker for my front two. If you can get a fast target man all the better, so I would prefer not to play these two together.
That only leaves us Chris Dickson, who wants to go, and who can blame him (another rather untried striker) or Ambrose (or Bouazza) in a more forward role.
Thankfully it is not my call, but I think moving forward - starting tomorrow - we need to concede fewer goals. If we can keep a clean sheet then we (obviously) only need to score one to win. This would be a good place to start as one is about as much as we can realistically expect to score based on recent evidence.
I am optimistic of a win tomorrow. I know this defies logic, but I am putting it down to 'The Magic of the Cup'
It would be remiss of me not to add a comment to the latest managerial 'change'. I have made my position on Parkinson clear. I do not believe that he is capable of achieving the minimum that I would consider acceptable. The minimum is to avoid relegation. Anything less than that is, in my view, unacceptable.
The appointment of Parkinson was announced in such a way that it leaves me wondering if they did approach other alternatives and discovered that the 40 or so applications were from people that thought we would pay them c. £1m a year for a guaranteed three years? When these applicants discovered that they would earn a lot less, have no money to spend, and have to keep our current back room staff they perhaps lost interest. This is also before you factor in that when they applied we were probably forth from bottom with all the rubbish (excluding ourselves) in this division to play in the upcoming six games.
Anyway we are where we are. The board, who I have defended time and again have made themselves look incompetent. They could have given Parkinson the job permanently when Pardew left, or on 12th December (when they gave him until the end of the year) or they could, of course, have relieved him at any of those points or this week. I hope I'm proved to be wrong, but I think it is going to be a massive struggle to the end of the season, and failing a fantastic run in we face relegation and/or a massive reduction in season ticket sales.
I genuinely worry for the future of the club beyond this summer.
As the directors have converted their loans into stock it is likely that they will not be able to go into administration without it costing them a lot of money. however, if things turn as bad as I fear, it might just make sense for them to sell all our players, the training ground, possibly The Valley and let the club go bust. I know the directors love the club, but they have a lot of their personal fortunes invested in a failing business that may well have running costs significantly higher than income from June.
If the only alternative to stripping out the assets and waling away is to pump more money into a bottomless pit we, as fans, cannot complain - particularly as the fans are likely to become more and more critical as the weeks go by. If Parkinson fails to win another six games (a possibility, sadly) the fans will be calling for the board to resign. I suspect the chants will get more personal and more spiteful too. One does not invest millions of pounds of their own money to he called names in public by hundreds of their most loyal customers, but, sadly, I can see it happening.
From that pessimistic outlook I would like to join those that have put out a call to arms. The club needs us more than ever. It is our club. The board might own the shares, but it is not their club, it is ours. Love them or hate them, the directors have made their decision. For the sake of our club let's put our displeasure on the record and then get behind the team.
Oh, and Happy New Year.
Up the Addicks!