Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Colchester 3 - 0 Charlton

Our great start to the season came to a halt tonight in our worst League defeat since April 2008, when we lost by the same scoreline at Barnsley. You'd have to go back to January 2007 for a worse scoreline, and that was a 4-0 defeat at Arsenal, which you could probably claim was a better result than 3-0 at Colchester.

Strangely though I don't feel all that bothered about this result. Sure, I wasn't at Arsenal on 2nd January 2007, but I'm guessing that it was more of a hammering than tonight was. My second away fixture of the season and after the 2-1 win at Orient I was quietly optimistic that we would come away with all three points tonight - clearly I was wrong.

We have looked a lot less impressive since we beat Brentford way back on the 5th of September. In fact we have only won one of the four games since that one. Southampton and Norwich were, perhaps, excusable as they came down with us; Exeter were beaten, not at all convincingly, but a win is a win. Tonight, however, was confirmation that we are not going to walk this division.

To be fair the first goal was a freak. Whom ever is responsible is a little irrelevant, it was a shocking back header, and Rob Elliot came off his line when there was no need for him to do so. I wouldn't think that either of those events would happen more than once a season, and to have them both happen at the same time is just plain bad luck.

As I said after the Exeter game results are affected by one off events. Had Colchester scored a freakish own goal I suspect that the result tonight could well have been 3-0 to us - well ok maybe not, but I genuinely believe that the result could have been different.

With that in mind we need to accept that today was not our day and move on and look for a confidence boost with a nice easy game this Saturday.

I have given Parkinson enough stick in the last twelve months, and after the start we've had this season I can hardly really complain, so I'm going to allow this result to pass and chalk it off as a bad day at the office. However, there are many signs that this team and formation needs tweaking before much longer. I'm not saying that we have been found out per se, but we have developed a few weaknesses in recent weeks and they seem to have become bigger and more apparent.

I'm tempted to put a lot of it down to Semedo being missing to break up the opposition's attacks. Spring was quiet on Saturday and almost invisible tonight, but that is probably just wishful thinking. Overall we have been able to dominate play against the weaker teams that have come to The Valley with reluctance to attack us and have given us space. It is easy to look good when the opposition get bodies behind the ball and allow you to pass the ball around in front of them. Llera's long cross balls to Lloyd Sam have been very successful, but when he is closed down he clearly cannot make those passes.

We looked very good against Exeter until they decided to come out and play, and especially in the second half they controlled the game for long periods themselves. Many people came away suggesting that Exeter were a good side, yet they are down in 18th place and have only won two of their ten games. I have been refusing to be concerned by the fact that none of the teams we have beaten are doing very well this season, but after tonight I am a lot less confident that we are going to be successful with the same lineup that won us those six games at the start of the season.

Other worries are that Lloyd Sam still blows hot and cold, yet we rely on him a lot.

JonJo Shelvey has looked tired in the last twenty minutes of games. He is young, and he covers so much ground that it is both understandable and excusable, but it does mean that we become a lot less effective in the latter stages of games. It almost means that we need to go into the last twenty minutes of games with a two goal lead.

Llera has a real lack of pace, and seems to get flustered when put under pressure - again not a worry when the opposition dare not attack us or we have a good lead, but when teams come out to 'have a go' we look very shaky at the back.

When we defend we drop too deep and then it becomes literally impossible for Dion Burton to do anything with the long balls pumped up to him. In fact I think Burton has been great this season, but when Shelvey gets tired he tends to play deeper and deeper. That makes marking Burton easier, and even if he can win a long ball up to him he has no one to lay it off to. Thus he has to try to take it down and control it, and that is not at all easy when you have two men on you, and they know you have to take the ball down.

When we defend (again too deep) we seem to surrender the midfield which forces us to lump the ball up to Burton exasperating the problem above.

Basically the little cracks in our side have got wider and wider, and now the opposition managers are working out how to both, stop us from creating so many chances, and expose our somewhat limited defence. For example, Rob Elliot has created many attacks this season with quick throws and long kicks. Tonight, as soon as he had the ball, he had a forward blocking him so that he was not able to get a quick counter attack going.

In my view we had too many players that under performed tonight. Maybe that's fatigue, maybe it's something psychological, but either those players need to raise their game or Parkinson needs to change things around. As already mentioned Shelvey looks tired; Llera looks slow and flustered; Spring looks out of his depth (to be fair I'm not sure that holding defender is his best position); Racon looks less creative (I'm going to assume that this is due to Semedo being missing); Burton looks ineffective (as mentioned before this may well be because he is being left more and more isolated).

If Semedo is not back for Saturday I would bring Shelvey back into the middle, drop Spring and play McLeod up front with Burton and I would go toe to toe with Leeds and try to outscore them. I would being in Sodje for Llera irrespective. We need a plan B and on the basis that I now have massive doubts that we can win this division I would describe Saturday's game as one of Curbishley's 'Bonus Balls' in that anything other that a defeat is a bonus, and it will give the players a chance to pit themselves against a decent team with a new formation. I would also keep the same formation for the Barnet game (all be it with a few changes to rest some players) to give them more playing time.

McLeod looked sharp tonight, and despite the fact that I would be willing to let him go in January I think it's worth seeing if the goal he scored against Exeter is the catalyst that starts him on the way to scoring a few more.

As for Chris Dixon who has now scored more goals in the last two games than Charlton have, well we can call him back after 28 days right? That should be long enough to have a good look at McLeod then we can make that decision can't we?

Overall I don't think any of the players have let themselves or the club down this season. Spring has come into a side that has played eight games together and has been asked to do a job that is a little out of his comfort zone. We did win on Saturday, and he must feel under pressure as you don't want to lose your place in a team that has been winning.

Llera needs a special mention, tonight he was truly awful. Rob Elliot should probably not have come for the ball when a defender was not under pressure. I was not close enough to hear if either of them called for the ball, but Llera directed the ball into the corner. Even Sunday park teams know that when you head the ball back you head it wide of the post. For the second goal he allowed his man to get past him and couldn't catch him. I know he is not the quickest player on the field, but on the basis that he has never been quick he should never have allowed Odejayi to get past him with the ball. From there on his game just got worse and worse. I am a little embarrassed to confess that I was one of those that cheered when he was called off. I know it doesn't help the players, and I never booed him, but you really needed to be there to see just how terrible he was.

I have a theory as to why he was so bad tonight. I think it might have been that he was scared to put his foot in in case he was booked and missed the Leeds game. Either way his performance was well below par, and was frankly unacceptable. That said he was part of the MK Dons side that did so well last season, and he has had good games for us so I'm inclined to give him the benefit of doubt and put this one down to a bad day at the office. You'd be horrified if I were to enlighten you to some of my bad days at the office. Also I will, here and now, publicly apologise for that cheer when he was substituted. It was unfair and uncalled for as I have no doubts that he was giving his best.

I'd still like to give Sodje a game on Saturday, he did play at Leeds at the back end of last season and I think he will be an asset for us up there. Llera can come back in for the Barnet game to give him a little confidence boost for the league games when Sodje is away on international duty. It's a long season and I'm sure that all of the players in the squad will get their moment, but I think it might be a good time to give Llera a rest.

On the basis that I now think our most valuable and irreplaceable player is Semedo, I really hope that he is fit to play on Saturday.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Charlton 2 - 1 Exeter

Well, I said I'd take a win by one goal; I suggested it would be 1-0 or 2-1; and we showed in parts the reasons why we could well go on to win this division or could fall away find ourselves in this division again next season.

We won and with Bristol Rovers drawing and MK Dons losing we find ourselves 4 points above 3rd, 6 above 4th and at least 8 above all the rest. I might have preferred it had Leeds not scored that late, late winner, but overall I think it was a good day.

Before we played Norwich I suggested that there are five clubs that can finish in the top two. I may well be wrong about this, so I might have to change things later on the season, however right now those five look like this:

Leeds 9 13 25
Charlton 9 13 23
MK Dons 9 3 17
Huddersfield 9 7 15
Norwich 9 -3 10

For me that makes for very good reading. After an unbeaten start we should have carved out a bit of lead, and now we seem to have done so. I don't want to be disrespectful, but I don't see Bristol Rovers staying where they are, so that actually leaves us 6 points above the real competition.

As I have mentioned before I'm not greedy. We have a target for the season; we want to start next season in the Championship, and to that end second is as good as first as far as I'm concerned. This is why a Leeds win yesterday may well turn out to be the best result for us.

With the results taken in total it ensures that we will be in a top two clash with Leeds next Saturday. I'm still not sure if I want to spend all day on a coach, but if we win on Tuesday evening, or if we draw and Leeds don't win then it will be a game where the winner is top at full time. The draw to be at that game may well prove too great for me to miss it. This is, of course, assuming that I will still be able to get a ticket and a seat on a coach if I wait as late as Wednesday morning to book it.

So, on to the game. There have been some differing reports of the match itself, ranging from a comfortable victory to us hanging on a little at times. I don't intend to provide a match report, and I've never considered myself qualified to give the players scores out of ten, but my overall feeling coming away from the game was that we had scraped the win. All football matches are defined by events. Had we scored two of the early opportunities we may have coasted the second half and scored another goal or two. Had Exeter's equaliser not been disallowed for offside we could have had a desperate finish to the game and it literally could have gone either way. Ultimately we won, and that is (in my humble opinion) all that we can ask for.

It was interesting to note, however, that we didn't score after about twenty minutes which we have done a few times this season, and Exeter seemed to abandon their initial game plan and stopped defending so deeply, came out and opened up a little more. What I have been most impressed with this season - and the reason I believe we will finish in the top two - is that despite not seeming to have a Plan B (or rather not having to show it yet) we are able to break down teams that defend for their lives. This is one of the hardest things to do when you are one of the favourites in the division. We have scored in every game (Leeds haven't) and we have had to break down a number of teams to do so.

There is a little bit of a worry about how we will cope when we play teams that come out to attack. Both Southampton and Norwich did that, and when Exeter opened up yesterday our defence looked a little less than impenetrable. however, we didn't lose any of those games and for some different officials' decisions we could have won all three.

On 31st January 1999 we entertained Man Utd at The Valley. They won 1-0 with a late, late goal. I won't pretend that we ever looked like winning that game as wave after wave of attack was kept out in the second half, but we could have hung on for the draw. That win put United top of the table (where they stayed for the rest of the season), a draw would have left them second. By 27th May 1999 Man Utd had won the treble. They won the Premier League by just one point. The truth is that you don't have to win every game easily; you don't have to win every game; you don't even have to win any games easily.

So we won, collected the three points, and move on to the next game where any kind of win will be great. I'm going to Colchester, and am confident of a result, but on the basis that we are likely to lose sooner or later it is reassuring to know that we have a sufficient cushion that we will not fall out of the top two if it happens there.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Next... Exeter at home

Despite other bloggers suggesting that we are made of sterner stuff this season than last I find myself feeling significantly less confident about our season than I did two weeks ago.

Southampton came to us without a win and with a miserable four points out of a total 18 available. They had also failed to beat ten man Colchester at home.

Despite the off side goals I believe that Southampton bossed the first half and could have won the game in that 45 minutes.

Norwich had won two, drawn two and lost three. Despite the fact that they both finished above us last season there is no doubt that we have failed to beat two sides that were not in great form. I know they have decent players; I know that most of the sides we will play will be weaker than them; and I know that we find ourselves 11 and 22(12 plus the penalty) points above them after 8 games.

Thus we have had a significantly better start to the season that it makes it difficult for Norwich and almost impossible for Southampton to catch us unless we literally fall apart.

What worries me is that despite our best ever start to a season, and being unbeaten in eight games we are two points off the top and only two points above the play off places. This would suggest that not only may we need to win three quarters of our games this season and draw most of the rest to win automatic promotion, we also dare not lose a game or Bristol Rovers can sneak above us.

It is a disappointment that Chris Dickson scored two goals in the first half hour at Rovers, and if that business is best for the club then so be it, but on reflection I might have been happier if Rovers had lost on Saturday.

The bookies have us as odds on favourites to win tomorrow, but then they did that a few times last season and were wrong. I'm not suggesting that we will fail to win tomorrow, nor am I unable to spot the logic in the suggestions that we will be very pleases with those two draws (especially last Saturday's) next May, but I feel under more pressure now on the basis that we have had a great start, played none of the top ten teams (as they stand today), and could fall as low as third with our first defeat of the season should it come tomorrow.

Parkinson has been quick to praise McLeod's attitude this season, and I'm sure he is right, but he hasn't reassured me that he is the answer, even at this level. He has had a couple of decent shots, and had the ball in the back of the net, but when it was most needed (last Saturday) he failed to hit the target when we were defending a one goal lead.

With McKenzie injured I suspect that we will see McLeod on the bench, and after what I have seen this season I think I'd prefer to shore up the defence or midfield when Shelvey tires than brink on some pace upfront. Maybe Izale just needs a goal to lift him, but he has been waiting for that lift for over two years now and, ignoring what he is earning, he has failed to deliver in my humble view.

Unless we have any injuries I suspect we will see the same eleven start. It is beginning to look as though (particularly bearing in mind his substitutions) Parkinson lacks confidence in those behind the first eleven. This doesn't bode well for the winter with the heavy pitches and the Christmas period.

Anyhow, I refuse to panic, and I know that things are much, much better than most (if not all) of us feared they would be after eight games. Exeter should be one of those teams that I have confidently (and accurately) predicted we would beat without too much trouble. I am going to go for another win, but I'm raining in my arrogance and suggesting a narrow win. I can't choose between a 1-0 or a 2-1. I'd take either at this point.

With Llera on four bookings, Sam Sodje's international commitments (a chance to get some match fitness so maybe not all bad) and several players with knocks and the obvious tiredness creeping in, I am already looking at this game as one of those that any win will do. Maybe my nervousness is doing Parkinson and his charges a disservice, but on he basis that I doubt we will win six of every eight games this season our lead over 3rd place looks very slender.

Colchester will be interesting, and Leeds will be the ultimate test, but in the meantime we need to continue our run of beating all the teams we should beat. Despite Southampton and Norwich being described as real tests of our ambitions this season, I see tomorrow as being the real test. We have had two unspectacular performances and have failed to win either of them, tomorrow gives us a chance to get back on track. Anything for MK Dons at home to Leeds and we could find ourselves nearer first than third, Maybe we will even go top again?

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Better the Devil you know

Well, I said back in May that I was sceptical that there was going to be any takeover at the club. In fact I believed that the only credible explanation for us to keep all of the players that we had was for new investment, and lots of it.

There were many suggestions that a takeover was imminent over the summer. I was always reluctant to believe these 'rumours', and have seen too much over the years in various businesses to ignore the benefits that such a 'leak' can provide. "Shall I renew my season ticket?" "Well, if there's genuinely going to be a take over and we will be able to keep our former Premier League stars in the third division then maybe I will!"

I have been accused of paranoia, probably rightly so, but I never really believed that we were going to have new owners that would bring in a top manager and spend millions on new players.

It would look as though I was right. We will never know what actually happened; we will never know what the truth was; but we do now have confirmation that there is no takeover imminent, and there are no ongoing negotiations.

So where does that leave us? Well the club has sourced £7m of extra investment. That sum is not broken down into what the club has already spent. For example, if the c. £2m that was going to be raised from the sale of the training ground and the two houses behind the East Stand has already been put into the club then that might mean that the coffers will only receive a further £5m.

The finer details are somewhat irrelevant, and by the time the accounts for this period are published we will have moved on so that it becomes old news.

You could be forgiven for thinking that I am not happy or impressed by this development, but you couldn't be further from the truth. Life is full of examples of people thinking that the grass is greener, and ultimately wishing that they'd been satisfied with their lot rather than getting greedy.

I would love to hear from any of those fans that were demanding major change at The Valley back in 2005 when we were not pushing on for UEFA Cup qualification. I wasn't writing my blog then, but I was often in a minority with friends (not Charlton fans, by the way) when I said that success was avoiding relegation. "But you need to move forward or you fall backwards". This suggestion ignored the fact that all the other teams were moving forward at the same time. The increase in average pounds spent per point won in the Premier League has continued every year. Charlton were spending less than many of the teams that we were competing with.

You don't need to see detailed accounts when you see that Middlesborough were spending £20m in a summer when we spent £5m. Fulham sign £11m players and we sign £4m players. I suspect that if one were to calculate the actual price paid per point in the Premier League Charlton would be one of the best sides. This cannot realistically go on for ever, and it didn't.

I have always trusted Richard Murray. Sure, he's made mistakes, haven't we all? During his time in charge we enjoyed some of the best football at Charlton, ever! Clearly it wasn't all down to one man - and if it was that man would be Curbishley.

What I'm trying to say is that just as I would have taken 4th from bottom in the Premier League every year rather than gambling the club's future for a chance of European football, I would rather have the club being run by a Charmian and a board that I believe in, even if that means that they don't have huge resources to throw at it.

Liverpool were bought out by a couple of Americans and they were going to conquer the world. In reality they have less relative spending power now than they did under the previous owners.

Better the Devil you know!

Just a short note. As happy as I am to have Richard Murray back in charge - I've met him a few times and I like him and believe that we will do well under him - I want to confirm that I do not hold Derek Chappell solely responsible for the disaster that has happened on his watch. His time as Chairman was a disaster, but I believe that was more about timing than it was about him personally.

The club has had a traumatic time since Curbishley left and I can't help feeling that pressure to appease the fans would have had an impact on the selection of the new Chairman. In all likelihood the good start to the season has helped, but having Richard Murray back in charge with an assurance that we don't need to sell any players this season has really lifted my spirits.

Welcome back Mr Chairman.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Next... Norwich away

So, for the third time in nine months we go to Carrow Road. The first of those fixtures may well have been significant on our relegation last season. Who knows what would have happened had we won there on 20th December? From what Phil Parkinson said last night it would probably have made little difference. Interestingly from what Dave says Parkinson told a group of fans that Pardew left us with some bad apples and a poor attitude in the squad, so maybe the result was not all that significant.

Interestingly, while I'm on the subject, Parkinson was (subtly) very critical of the 'mess' that Pardew left us in, but it is encouraging that he feels he is getting things back to how they should be. Of course, it's so much easier to believe him with six wins and a draw under his belt this season. The approach to the type of player is encouraging though. Curbishley (and Lennie Lawrence before him) used to look for players that they described as "Hungry and Angry". I accept that this is much easier in the lower leagues than the Premier League where just about every player is rich enough to have both the 'hunger and anger' subside.

So, Parky is our hero, we are still unbeaten and tomorrow we face a side that we beat twice and drew with once in four games last season. I didn't go to either of the away games but I thought we were worth the win in the home FA Cup game and in the last game of the season I thought Norwich were terrible. How much of that was down to their manager I do not know, but for a team that could have saved themselves against a team that were already doomed Norwich showed a worrying lack of application that day.

One thing I will say about Parkinson's teams last season is that despite the terrible results I never came away from games thinking that the players could have given more effort. Confidence was obviously a major factor, and we had a lack of quality (or even players) in certain areas, but there was never any shortage of effort.

Bearing in mind how easily the team bottom of the league won in May I was not surprised that Norwich started off this season badly. I thought then, and still do now, that they would eventually get it together and make a challenge for promotion. I may well be proved wrong, and the longer they stutter along the more likely that is, but I am not too confident about tomorrow's result.

I thought we were outplayed in the first half against Southampton, and despite a much better showing in the second half we couldn't have complained had we lost the game. We could have been three or even four goals behind by half time. Thus that arrogance that I've felt all season has waned a little. A good win (that means any win) tomorrow and maybe it will start to come back, but despite the fact that I believe we are too good for three quarters of the sides in this division it is the other twelve (eleven and a half if you take the ratio too literally) games that will determine our season. Tomorrow is one of those games.

Until now we have beaten all the sides that we 'need' to beat to finish in the top two. I know you can only beat what's in front of you, but when the games get tougher the results give a better indication of where we will be at the end of the season.

Norwich losing to MK Dons is nothing to be ashamed about. I think they are in the hunt for a top two finish. For the record I think the top two will come from us, Leeds, MK Dons, Huddersfield and Norwich. I know that is easy to predict, but from memory football does have very few surprises over a long period (a season). It is possible that one of the top six will be very surprising, and they could well go on to win the playoffs, but it is likely that the top two will contain no surprises. Besides, I've given myself five to choose from I'd be rubbish if I couldn't get two from five wouldn't I? I'm not saying they will be the top five, but that the top two will come from those five. Norwich, for example, could have a bad run and finish mid table, as could we, of course.

Thus tomorrow is a really big game on our quest for automatic promotion. I don't want to pile on the pressure, but a win tomorrow would push Norwich further behind us, and as I have identified them as one of three teams we need to finish above it would be most welcoming.

Frankly I'd take a draw. Not that I am hoping for one, I still think we can win, but if we come away from Carrow Road with our unbeaten run intact I will be happy.

As I say I think we can win this game. Norwich are still finding their feet in this division, and we must have that rare (and worrying for Norwich) combination of confidence and bitterness at feeling that we have been hard done by. The second of those disallowed goals was onside, and that might just be enough to get the players that little bit more 'up for a win'.

At some point we are going to have to change the starting eleven. I have no idea if our 'sluggish' start last Saturday has anything to do with niggling injuries, but if so I think we should give those players a bit of a rest before too long. Maybe that will be tomorrow, I'm not a football manager but a fully fit Matt Spring will eventually be better that Racon if the latter is carrying a knock that increasingly impedes his game.

No team news is available on the web site yet, so I'm going to assume that it will be the same eleven. I am confident in the abilities of the players waiting in the wings, but I am reluctant to change a winning team as you never really know what will happen. Maybe tomorrow will be an opportunity to being on a couple of substitutes with about half an hour left to give them some game time.

Leeds are at home to to Gillingham tomorrow then away to MK Dons next Saturday. Should we sneak a win tomorrow it is likely that we will be top when we go to Elland Road in October. Either way we both need just two wins from the next three to guarantee that when we play them it will be first verses second. As I am planning (considering, with a decision to be made on Monday) to go to Elland Road with a Leeds fan I am hoping that we can go there needing a draw to stay top. A discussion for another day.

Interestingly the odds for tomorrow are 12/5 for a draw but 8/5 for either a home or away win. I guess that means we need to score first?

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Next... Pardew returns

I thought long and hard about the title of this post. I wasn't sure I wanted to give Alan Pardew the attention that I suspect he actually quite likes, but in the end, despite the same number of points being available, this game is more important to me than most others.

Alan Pardew's exploits at Charlton have been covered to death in many different places, and I have no desire to cover old ground again, but his presence does add a little bit of spice.

A recent article in Mail Online discussed both Pardew and Aidy Boothroyd and the fact that they were both the believed to be best young British managers a few years ago. A title, incidentally, once attributed to Steve McLaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 with the same players that, from the press this morning, might as well be given the World Cup right now as we are so obviously going to win it.

I think there is, probably always has been, a tendency to go over the top with success (and failure). I know it sells papers and probably increases the 'visitor count' on blogs like this one, but I think a much more reasoned approach is necessary.

For example, Boothroyd came in and saved Watford from relegation in 2005, then went on to win promoted the following season and was hailed as the best young manager. He was fielding questions from reporters about taking over at a big established Premier League club.

In truth I suspect he managed to get a side into the Premier League that was not exceptional and deserves some credit. However, you could spin that tale to say that he managed a side with Ashley Young to promotion and then just ran out of ideas. He took the Premier League TV money, plus £11m for Young, and built a squad that had no staying power and despite making it into the playoffs in 2008 was 'found out' in January and literally fell apart when it was discovered that there was no plan B.

The fact that Boothroyd was given a lucrative long term contract after just one full season as a manager could be seen as good planning on behalf of Watford, or staggering good luck by the man himself. It really depends on which view you take.

As for Pardew, you could argue that he has won promotion with both West Ham and Reading, and took the East London club to an FA Cup Final, and nearly won. In reality he was given excessive resources at Reading; he took over a club with excessive resources at West Ham; and the cup final was reached by beating four Premier League teams that had an average finish that season of 10.75, i.e. bottom half. His achievements at Charlton were a quick uplift in results after Les Reed left climbing out of the bottom three then falling back in again and being relegated.

The best demonstration of Pardew came for us in the Championship. His approach seems to have always been bring in more players to try to fix any problem. This will always work in the long term. If you are given sufficient resources to keep bringing in new players, in the end you will end up with a good enough side to beat everyone. The fact that you might need 200 players and a budget of £500m is the stumbling block.

Strangely all of Pardew's clubs have been big spenders compared to their peers. Reading and West Ham were, and for a while Charlton were splashing the cash in the Championship. The risk with this approach is that if you do not win sufficient success quickly enough (depending on the resources afforded to you) you end up having to sell players to balance the books. This is what happened at Charlton, and ever so nearly happened at West Ham. Pardew has since admitted that he gambled everything on West Ham winning promotion in the season they did. Had that failed (and remember then finished sixth, three points above Reading who lost their last three games) they would have had to sell players like we did last summer.

Pardew was referred to as a 'Cancer' at West Ham. I have no idea if that comment was professional or personal - I have heard rumours (just Pub talk) that Pardew was having an affair with one of the players' wives. Either way, when you take into account professional attitudes of players not slagging off their former managers, there was not a lot of positives from his time there.

Pardew came to Charlton talking about how good he was in the transfer market. Granted he did sign Hareward and Reo Coker, but he also signed a lot of players that did not move on for substantial profits.

Like I said earlier, if you bring in enough players, you will ultimately bring in a few decent ones as well as some dross. Bailey, Racon and Semedo look real class (all be it in the third division) but you have to take into account that he also signed Christensen, Dean Sinclair McLeod for £1.15m and Varney for £2m.

It's a little like cold calling people to sell them double glazing while they are watching Coronation Street. Most of the calls will be rubbish, but if you keep on dialing, in the end you will secure an appointment that will lead to a sale. What I find galling is the direct quite from Pardew in the article "I haven't introduced anything new here but I've gained some things that I've taken when I was out of work. I've taken one or two areas of those into this club and particularly recruitment. I felt it's always been my strength." I think Recruitment (of players) is actually one of Pardew's weaknesses. Having said that it is quite possibly one of his better attributes. I guess that says a lot about how much I rate the man, or not as the case may be!

Overall I think I am astonished that Pardew was given the job at Southampton in the first place, to give him an open cheque book is just staggering. I think he needed to hit the ground running and get back those ten points very quickly (rather like Leeds did two seasons ago). Now he is under pressure and immediately the rubbish that comes out of his mouth is going to sound like excuses to Saint's fans - something that it took me months to work out.

Anyway, to the game itself - Next... Southampton at home.

I expect an unchanged side. I expect us to play free flowing football with confidence and I expect us to create chances - many of them.

The big test is going to be if we can score early enough to add to the nervousness that the Saint's players will be feeling before the atmosphere on the day raises one or two of their players and they get a goal themselves.

There is no doubt that Pardew has bought in some good players (for this level) the fact that they are probably earning way too much for this division is irrelevant. What you will probably see, however, is that Pardew's team will reflect all the others he has built. There will be way too many resources in some areas and way too few in others. His tendency has always been to have too many strikers and too many midfielders and not enough defenders, but this time it could be different. I guess it will depend on just which players were available when he started shopping like a lottery winning Chav.

I suspect that the game will start on fire and we could well be two goals up inside the first ten minutes. If not I fear that the initial exertions of the players and fans alike will hand the impetus to Southampton to establish themselves more into the game. The pressure (due to the desire to win this game) may well be more of a burden than a benefit to the players if we don't score early.

My early predictions this season have been for wins as we should be too good for the teams in this division. Southampton did, however, finish above us last season, so I am less confident of a result. I think I'm also feeling more cautious as this game matters more to me than any of the others this season.

Thankfully Parkinson has a well balanced side with both quality and strength all over the park. This will be a test of the players' temperament and/or the managers ability to influence it.

With Leeds playing on Friday night I suspect that we will not be top at the start of the game, that might take some pressure off us, it might add some. Either way I am confident that we have what it will take to extend our run and finish top of the league at 5pm, and I would love it if we beat them, love it!.

Up the Addicks!