Friday, 17 April 2009

Next... Blackpool at home

Last season we won this fixture 4-1. I'd love it if we could manage that again, but I guess I'd take a 1-0.

I'm a little strange in that I like to keep clean sheets. I like to see games with very few goals. I know you are wondering why, and if not then jump to the next paragraph. In a game that finishes 5-4 there is lots of excitement when a goal is scored, but the value of the individual goal is diminished. One of my favourite times watching Charlton was the run we had in 1998. After we beat Forest 4-2 at the end of March we went to the end of the season, plus two play off semi-final games without conceding a goal. We had one 0-0, but won the other eight games. During that run of nine games we scored eleven goals. We won six of those games 1-0. Thus those six goals were massive. They were winning goals. Towards the end of that run we all knew that one goal meant a win. If you are going to have to score five goals to win it makes all of the goals less significant.

Thus I would be more than happy with a clean sheet tomorrow. I know that we are probably going to have new defenders next season, and Ward, in particular, is on way too much money for us to keep him. In fact Richard Murray made this point at the EGM on Wednesday. It was recognised that we would like to keep him, but not only does he have a good wage now, if/when Wolves are promoted he gets a pay rise to, I guess, Premier League money.

Still, even if we will have different players I would like to see some more clean sheets than this season. I suspect that the safest approach next season (rather like Birmingham this season) would be to concede very few goals, to control the games with strength and determination, and to set out to win games with few, but significant, goals. Last season Palace (with three of our current defenders) had the meanest defence in the Championship with 42 goals. Leicester were second with 45 goals. They finished 22nd. Hull and Wolves were the only other two teams in the division that conceded less than 50 goals. It may mean nothing, but I'm more than happy to follow Leicester's example following relegation - with three games to go they have conceded 37 goals in the third division. If you can do that you must stand a fare chance of being near the top of the table.

So, a clean sheet tomorrow and, in fact, a transfer plan than builds us up to be very, very tight at the back suits me. Having said that if we can score four goals tomorrow I will be likely to go home very happy.

Blackpool are virtually safe from relegation and we have a lot to play for at home in front of fans expecting to see us relegated. If we win tomorrow, I believe it's unlikely we will be relegated. I think that Forest stand a chance of getting something at home to Coventry, but I suspect that Barnsley will lose at Reading. Either way I don't think Southampton will win at Wednesday - and they still have a ten point penalty to be considered anyway.

What I think is more likely, however, is that Norwich will get something on Sunday at Ipswich and we will be relegated when we are not even playing. Either way it is likely that our fate will be known before we play Derby at Pride Park on 25th April. Having said that it is, on reflection, an achievement that after being so far behind we will could still make it though the third from last Saturday with our Championship status still intact. How we got into that mess in the first place shouldn't be forgotten, however.

I am going to The Valley tomorrow full of expectation that we will see a win, and against the kind of side that I expect us to face next season. Blackpool have struggled since they were promoted via the play offs in 2007. Last season they were 2 points above the relegation zone, and this season they look to have improved, but at best (winning their last three games - unlikely) they will have managed a mere 8 points more than last season, and they have had many loan players during the season.

This is a good test. This will give us an idea as to what next season may hold. The result will be less significant (remember Coventry last season) but all the same they are the kind of side we will need to be beating next season.

I am going to forecast a win tomorrow. I have a feeling we will win 1-0 or 2-1. I would prefer the 1-0, as I've already said, but if we are going to be relegated tomorrow it would be better to have it happen after a decent performance and a win.

I suspect that the players we have will be swayed by what they can earn and the 'shop window' they will be playing in next season. However, if there is any chance they may choose to stay with us I think it important that we do our best to create the kind of atmosphere that they will want to play in.

Relegation is coming, sadly I think it is now very close, but let's make sure that those in the Championship remember us, and dread our return.

Up the Addicks!

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