Monday, 26 January 2009

Next... Palace at home

Last February we entertained Palace on a Friday night in what was quite possibly the most exciting game of the season. I had been to the 1-0 win at Selhurst, and went to the 1-0 defeat this season, but the game was built up and didn't fail to deliver for the Charlton fans.

Sadly that win was just about the last that season and we went on to win just two of the fourteen games before we beat Coventry on the last day. Sadly two wins in fourteen looks fantastic compared to our current run.

The point still remains, however, that despite league form we did manage to win this fixture last season.

The goal hero that night was Luke Varney. The official web site proclaimed that "...Luke Varney etched his name into Addicks legend." Strangely, he also managed to become a legend in my own family when he scored the first goal that my son saw when he scrambled in the opening goal against Sheffield Wednesday in September. For these two reasons, despite his shocking performances at times since, he will always be remembered in the Kings Hill household.

My son only managed one more game before the whether changed for the worst, and his Mummy decided that he would be better off waiting until the spring before he went again. It has only recently become apparent that Charlton have not won a league game since he last went. For those of you that have forgotten, as it was such a long time ago, it was Ipswich on 4th October.

From about the middle of March last season (after a 2-0 defeat at Portman Road) I decided that the season was 'lost' and I would approach each game as I used to when I was a young lad. I took on each game as an event in itself, rather than an opportunity to enhance our league position.

I have made no secret of the fact that I cannot see us escaping relegation now, I hope I'm wrong, but the results required, compared to what we have achieved since December 2007, make it virtually impossible. Thus I am taking each game as it comes.

That means that if we lose a game it is just one defeat. The upside of this is that there is nothing more to lose than a game. However, some games are more important than others.

I have only ever really known one Palace fan. He used to be a Millwall fan when he was a child, but had transferred to Palace as he grew older and had a number of friends that used to go. I worked with this chap for a couple of years, and was working with him when we drew 2-2 and relegated them.

I never sought to take any enjoyment from this man, as he is a genuinely nice bloke, and his football knowledge is second to none. In fact during less busy times at work we used to hold football quizzes and there is nothing about the FA Cup that this man doesn't know. He doesn't only know the the scores and goal scorers, he can also tell you the minute the goal was scored. He was a legend.

He retired and moved abroad a few years ago, but I will be sending him a text before the game to wish him bad luck, No doubt there will be a lot of texts going in one direction after the game, and very few in the other.

As I don't know any Palace fans, save for someone I like and respect, I don't have any banter before, or after, these type of games. It has now been over sixteen years since we played at Selhurst Park but Palace still remain the club I hate the most. This is the team I most want to beat. I can still remember being in the members stand at one of our 'home' games and watching Palace fans being ejected with looks of anger on their faces. Now, nearly twenty years later, I have some sympathy for them. If Charlton were to ground share now I would hate having to look at someone else sitting in my seat.

Anyway, all of that is well in the past (although there is no guarantee that ground sharing will not come back) but the mental scars that I have from that time will probably ensure that there will never be another team that I want to beat as much as this one.

I'm sure my story is similar to many others, and the events on a train in September 2007 are probably worse. I seriously doubt that what happened that day is in the slightest characteristic of all Palace fans, but it does add to the local rivalry, and therefore the tension.

So, back to the game. Sheffield United was, by all accounts, a better performance than the 4-1 hammering the week before, but there were still several reports that we were patchy and only looked good in the latter stages of the game. This can be attributed to the gung-ho attitude of us having nothing to lose, and United merely wanting to hang on to be in the draw for what looks a winnable 5th round tie - for them, not for us had we won.

Thus we are where we were when Pardew was sacked. We have not seen a settled side, and each bad result causes another change to the starting line up. Then change back again the following week when we lose again. When Phil Parkinson came in there were bold statements that he didn't like 4-5-1 so it was going to be 4-4-2 all the way [To be fair I'm not sure these were direct quites from Parkinson himself]. Clearly there comes a point when nothing seems to work and the whole 'rule book' needs to be rewritten.

Tomorrow we will start with a goalkeeper and ten outfield players. That is all I can be sure of. I suspect that Murty will play and, assuming he can cope with it, so will Soares. There is little point in loaning players for a month and not playing them. That is what we did with Scott Sinclair last season, and what he achieved at Palace when he left us made us look stupid. I suspect that Parkinson will want to stick with Burton too, as he signed him, coupled with fact that however much you rate him (or not as the case may be), he is the best forward we have right now to play the loan striker.

Other than that we have entirely too many players that do not seem to deliver enough for the whole ninety minutes, so it's almost impossible to choose between them. Some of that is down to ability, some down to attitude and a whole lot of it down to confidence.

The form table suggests that we will lose, but then when you are clearly bottom of the table every team is above you and should, therefore, be able to beat you. Football is, however, "A funny ol' game, Saint".

I'm not going to make a prediction, and I have also steered away from discussing the consequences should we lose, but at the very least it will be a cracking atmosphere, an exciting game and probably have the smallest difference between attendance, and the actual number of fans in the ground, between now and the end of the season.

If we are ever going to win another league game, please let it be this one.

Up the Addicks!

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