Tuesday, 30 March 2010

So what happens now?

I'm not referring to the result at Huddersfield - and it was, in my opinion a result. No, I'm referring to Season Ticket sales.

Let's ignore, for the moment, that they will extend the deadline to account for postal issues etc. what happens if I stroll up to the ticket office to purchase my current seat on 1st April? I mean, I've missed the 31st March price deadline, and the club will not be able to tell me the price until we know what division we will be in next season.

Thus the club seem to have forced a period of two months where they can sell no season tickets. Should we be in the playoffs (and, of course reach the final) that two months becomes almost three months.

Now, if the club have sold a lot of season tickets by tomorrow (or the new deadline to take account of the post etc.) then this process will have been a success, but if many have taken the same approach as I have, and decided to wait, then this could well turn out to be a disaster.

On the basis that the last date for loans has now passed the playing side cannot be altered so there is no benefit for the squad based the number of tickets sold early, and if we are to assume that the club has no further overdraft facilities any shortfall between now and the end of the season will have to be met by further injections from the board. I'm not demanding that they put money in, but again, this season, we seem to have thrown money at the side very late in what looks, again, like a desperate attempt to win promotion.

I do wonder what would have happened if Parkinson had been allowed to bring in Kyle Reid, Nicky Forster and Johnny Jackson on 1st January. I'm not saying there would have been any appreciable difference, but if it had managed to secure us just three wins where we drew and one win where we lost we would now be six points above Leeds with them to come to The Valley. Not to mention if two of the wins had come at Swindon and Millwall.

The clamour to buy season tickets this week would have been unrecognisable to what I suspect will happen. It will be interesting to discover just how many have committed to next season by the end of this week. On the basis that we are most likely to finish in the playoffs, but that is by no means guaranteed, the gamble of having to pay more but getting to keep your money for another four months is worth taking. Sure the club have told us that if we don't renew, our seats will not be safe, but on the basis that they now cannot sell any season tickets until our fate is known it is not much of a risk. It is possible that the day our fate is known someone will drive to the box office and demand my current seat, but I would guess that is very, very unlikely.

I also think that the club will, for the second year running, offer a second round of 'guarantees' to secure your seat. The risk of fans refusing to pay a year in advance when they can't even have the same seat they've had for years will almost certainly mean that a new deadline will be offered. Due to the pricing issue of what division we are in that new deadline can't realistically be much before the end of May. Even then, there will be a fair chance that you can hang on until the end of July and still keep your seat - especially if we are not promoted.

I should point out that I have been impressed with some of the offers that the club have made in recent years, but the recent loss of form, and the lack of player signings, has made the promises of a price freeze seem to be less of a 'steal'.

I understand that the club (the board) need our money as soon as possible, but the lack of total truth last summer and the summer before, coupled with the nagging feeling that some of the Directors wanted just too much money for the club tend to make me reluctant to allow them to have next season's money in time to spend it this season.

I expect to be back at The Valley next season. In truth I can't think what else I would choose to do on a Saturday when Charlton are at home, but with my Dad being away as much as he is, and most Third Division opposition being, frankly, uninspiring, I don't think I would necessarily feel that I have to attend every game. Midweek games, for example, are a chore, especially if my Dad is away.

I went to CentreParcs for the weekend, and for the first time in a long time I had neither the radio nor the TV on with scores coming in. I did keep looking at my phone, but I have to say I had the most relaxing weekend I have had for a long time. I'm not saying that's all down to avoiding obsessing about Charlton, but it didn't hurt.

Anyway, a very credible draw away from home, a continued gap of six points to 7th place, and a reduction to three points to 2nd place, all be it that there are now three teams we have to catch. I believe it is still in our hands. Sure if Millwall win all their remaining games we can't catch them, but I doubt that they will, so it is up to us. Do we have what it takes? And, if we do will I win the scramble to secure my seat for our Second Division season?

Time will tell, but at the very least it is interesting.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Charlton 2 - 2 Gillingham

Well, at least we didn't lose. That would have been really embarrassing - at least for me.

The game was a little more exciting that in recent weeks, although I suspect that could have been down to nothing more than a decent away showing. I know it's not far to go, and we are a big draw, but close to 3,000 away fans for what is essentially a fourth division side is not at all bad.

Parkinson decided to go with 4-4-2 again, and we conceded two goals again. Sadly, when Burton went off we could hardly switch to 4-5-1 so the die was cast. I am not going to write a full report as I have completely lost enthusiasm in all things Charlton right now. All I will say is that I would have bet my mortgage on us not scoring two goals in the second half with Mooney and Sodje up front, even against a side that hadn't won away all season. Clearly my mortgage was safe.

One note to the attitude coming from the fans and the players that seems to be developing. I am not going to take sides, but we all have friends that have had relationships break down and from a distance you can see how they both seem to continually rub each other up the wrong way while what was a loving relationship deteriorates into at best indifference and at worst hatred.

As I say, I'm not going to take sides, but I'm assuming that Mooney earns quite a lot of money to play football. I take on board what Parkinson has said about his inexperience at this level, but he needs to realise that after a few less than fantastic performances running the length of the pitch cupping his ear after scoring will not endear himself to those that are ultimately paying his wages. For heaven's sack grow up man, you're not playing for the under eleven's now. Frankly after a stunt like that I would be more than happy to send him back to Reading today!

Parkinson's comments can be construed in different ways. He is showing his passion by speaking out. He is also showing that the pressure is getting to him. Sadly, however, there are those that will want to take objection to his 'excuses' when it suggests that we should be lucky to have him, and we should learn to be more grateful. After a drubbing at our local neighbours and a draw at home to another local side who's away record reads won 0, drawn 5, lost 13 he should probably have avoided picking a fight with the fans.

On the fans, there has been some booing. I don't boo, as I've said many times before, but I am not at all happy with what I have been seeing. It has been obvious for a long time that a switch of formation is worth a try. There has been a suggestion by a well known club employee, and fan, that Parkinson dare not switch back to 4-5-1 with Burton and Shelvey as he has lumbered himself with Sodje (A) and Mooney by insisting that we need them when the club can't afford them. To not play either of them now could raise some difficult questions for him to answer.

Irrespective as to how we have got here it is clear that (at least some of) the fans are fed up with Parkinson and a number of the players. There is clearly some resentment from Parkinson to (some of) the fans and at least Mooney, and probably some of the other players, share his resentment. We have nine games to go and we all seem to be falling over ourselves to pick fights with each other.

What a fucking mess!

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Next... Gillingham at home

Well, after last week it surely can't be worse. I mean, even a five nil drubbing wouldn't be as bad as losing 4-0 to our 'proper' local rivals. That is true, but...

Everyone has a friend or some friends that, for what ever reason, support a team that is not your own local rival. I have friends that are fans of Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and Gillingham. To be fair, some of the Gillingham fans are actually supporters of other clubs when it suits them, but they are local so are backing Gillingham this weekend. There is even going to be a Spurs fan in the away end. He lives in Chatham and doesn't go to Spurs games these days, but he is going to The Valley tomorrow, and he is going to cheer on 'his local team'. Nice!

For those that live in London and have had a bad week due to our terrible defeat last weekend, I sympathise with you. However, if we fail to win tomorrow I will suffer a similar week , save for the fact that Gillingham are a much, much smaller club that Charlton, so the jubilation will be even greater.

I have always tried to be gracious in victory. When we have defeated one of the three London clubs I've mentioned I've avoided rubbing it in too much as I knew it was always going to come back and bite me, but our win at Highbury, for example, was a massive result for us where as a win for them would have been run of the mill.

So, as you can imagine for me, living in Kent this is a big game for some of my friends, and that makes it a big game for me.

Also, following on from the defeat in the FA Cup in 2004 I have a decent reason to dislike Gillingham. In fact, I would put them in the category of 'hate'. I don't hate all their fans, and I don't hate them like I do Palace or Millwall or West Ham, but I would really love to beat them tomorrow.

On top of my personal feelings, this is a massive game for us in terms of our league aspirations. We are not out of the chase for second, not by a long shot, but we do need to have a very strong run in if we are going to catch the five points (6 bearing in mind our goal difference is thirteen worse) to Leeds. It is still possible and we need to believe it, but at the same time we mustn't become obsessed with it.

If it is to be the playoffs then so be it. What we don't want to do is enter that lottery full of disappointment and a lack of belief. It is very rare for the team that finishes third to win the playoffs. Sadly there is every chance that we will end up finishing sixth, so that burden may well not be ours.

Thus, Parkinson needs to send out the players for the remaining ten games with a belief that we can finish second (first is surely beyond us now) yet with a feeling that sixth or above is good enough to give us the belief that we can take the third available place in the Championship next season.

Parkinson is, apparently, going to make some changes tomorrow. He is, worryingly, starting to sound like Pardew did towards the end of his reign. Maybe the friendly banter that was fine when we were winning six on the bounce has had to be replaced with a much harder line. The players need to know that if they don't perform there will be consequences.

I'm not going to bore you with my calls for the side to change back to a 4-5-1 with Shelvey in the side, but it will be interesting to see what changes Parkinson does make. It looks like after being Pardew's number two for nearly two years and then being manager for well over a season there is still no concept of what is our best side, neither the players nor the formation.

I'm not planning on calling for Parkinson's head anytime soon. I would think, however, that after the confident determination from the board that anything other than promotion this season was not acceptable, I'm guessing that he needs to guide his side to a top six finish or he must be expecting a tough conversation with Richard Murray who has, apparently, sold his house to bankroll this season.

Let's hope that top six place can be brought a step closer with a win tomorrow.

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Millwall 4 - 0 Charlton

Oh dear.

Let's put aside first the fact that this is clearly the most important opposition of the season. After failing to beat ten men for an hour and throwing away two leads at home this was a terribly important game ignoring the season. However, as I said we are going to put that aside for now - don't worry I'll come back to it.

We played a team that were 7th at the start of the month. We are now merely one point above them and this game has moved our goal difference from being six better to being two worse. Thus this was potentially a massive game even if we ignore that it was our local rivals. A 1-0 win for us today and we would be 7 points and 8 goals (difference) above Millwall who would have been in 6th place. Thus we lost (badly) a game that was going to have a real impact on our season. This could well turn out to be the result that means we miss out on the playoffs.

If we finish 7th and Millwall finish 6th we will look back on this game, and probably the one in December and will feel out blood boil.

I wasn't there today, so I can't really comment on the performance. I can't help but feel a little dramatic about it, but to be honest I would have bet my mortgage that we would have lost this game so I'm hardly surprised and not really all that disappointed. The score is a little embarrassing, but as there are no Millwall fans in my group of social contacts I am not going to take any stick for it, so if we do end up being promoted at the end of the season I will be able to just forget it - especially if Millwall don't join us in going up.

The worrying thing though is that despite Parkinson continually telling us that this side has character, it is clear that we don't have any. This is a worry for the playoffs. The big games have been a problem. Pardew was always telling us that we needed more mental strength, and he was right. Sadly, despite being told otherwise Parkinson hasn't solved this problem.

I know we have won a few games with late goals this season, but to be honest that could well be as much to do with the opposition tiring and being anxious. In the same way that we conceded late goals last season these sides that find themselves in a winning, or drawing, position against Charlton (the former Premier League side) these third division sides sit deeper and deeper and invite the late onslaught.

It is interesting to think about just how many big pressure games we have won since Parkinson took over. I can't think of many. To be fair to him I can't think of many with Pardew or Dowie either. Thus I think we have to assume that we don't have the players to raise their games when it really matters. This makes success though the playoffs seem a little unlikely, and from what I've seen in 2010 I have no reason to believe we will finish above third.

I'm not really aiming this at Parkinson. Pardew had a big budget to try to build a squad. Parkinson has had to make do with free transfers and loans. It is not fair to expect him to turn it all around with no money, even if other managers have done so.

What I am angry at, however, is that our wage bill is significantly higher than many of those sides that we don't have the strength to match. Millwall, for example, look to have a little less talent than us, but significantly more 'fight'. Not only do they look more likely to go up than us this season, they can probably keep hold of most of their players next season if they don't.

All I can assume is that we have way too many players that are just not worth what they are being paid. This will have to be addressed sooner rather than later, but I fear an extended stay in this division is looking more and more likely with each passing week.

I think what would take the pressure off is knowing that we will be ok and able to challenge for promotion next season if we fail to go up this season. Sadly I don't believe that is the case. I also struggle to believe that those running the club have the skill set to manage a successful football club. As each month passes I find myself more and more convinced that our success in the last two decades was all down to Curbishley and we have no one at the club that can turn it around.

Saturday we entertain Gillingham. We looked no better than average at their place in October, and I fear another defeat which will do nothing to remove the pressure on the manager and the players.

I wish I could think of something better to say, but I have been looking at Portsmouth in recent weeks wondering if their fans believe that their FA Cup win was the price they are paying for it now. Portsmouth could well go out of business this year, they could even be in the Cup Final again this season ironically. It is beginning to look like the fall out of our Premier League seasons may cost us almost as much. I am petrified of what will happen next season if we start next season in the third division ,and for the first time since we were relegated, I am coming round to the idea that that is what's going to happen.

And to concede 8 (eight) goals against Millwall in the league! What kind of a crock of shit is that?

Up the Addicks!