Tuesday, 8 March 2011

MK Dons 2 - 0 Charlton

Let's ignore the fact that we beat them at home and really, really didn't deserve to. Let's ignore the fact that we beat them 5-1 last season when they were clearly better than the score line. Let's ignore the fact that we've beaten them five times in the last two seasons (this and last). Let's look at the implications of this result, and the importance of the game on our season.

Actually, let's not. Parkinson might have put this team together and that might be a disadvantage to Chris Powell, but there is no getting away from it, we have performed well below Parkinson's teams since he left. I know there is an argument that not beating a ten man Brighton and Colchester were not exactly great achievements, but to be fair Colchester were on a bit of a run when we played them (4 wins and a draw in 7), and Brighton have been a little bit good all season.

Sure the Walsall and Swindon games were poor, but they were no worse than Exeter, Carlisle or Tranmere. This season Parkinson managed to average 1.54 points per game, Powell, with Eccleston and BWP has averaged 1.3 points per game. I know it's early days for Powell, but out of interest last season MK Dons averaged 1.3 points over the season and finished 12th. Also it needs to be mentioned that Powell's ten games have come against teams that were in an average position of 13th when we played them. We won four games and were, shall we say, a little fortunate, then we lost five and drew one out of six.

What this tells me is that we have not improved. We have actually gone backwards. We have released the two strikers that we had that could be used as target men and brought in two that clearly cannot. We have now committed to playing a different style of game from long ball (something we have done for over a year - including in most of Powell's games). We just do not have the players for the pretty passing on the floor - not if we want to see any forward passes.

I know it's early to be jumping to conclusions (and believe me I really want to be proved wrong) but it looks like Chris Powell is out of his depth. His substitutions on Saturday were too ineffective - mainly because they were way too late, and the way the team is being sent out to play is just not suited to the type of players we have. I know he's new, but surely he has seen these players in training and watched a few videos of our games.

It seems like a decade ago now that Michael Slater answered the question about the criteria of the new manager that 'he needed to win the first three games', followed by laughter and cheers from the fans in the North Stand Lounge.

We will never know what would have happened if Dowie had been kept on in 2006, we will never know what would have happened if Pardew had been kept on in 2008 and we will never know what would have happened if Parkinson had been kept on in 2011, but one thing for sure is that the club has failed to get as high in the league pyramid as it was at the time of any of those sackings since.

How long does Powell have to be given to turn things around? I don't know. The truth is that, unlike an experienced manager with a long term track record, there is no evidence that Powell will turn it around. I know you can never tell and some managers are good at some places, and rubbish at others, but if Chris Powell is never going to make it as a football manager then the longer we leave him in his post the worse off we are likely to be.

I don't want to be accused of panicking, and I'm not calling for his removal, even though others are, and more will the longer we continue to look this poor, but at some point things have got to improve or he will have to go, I guess.

The worst thing is that we are most likely too far away from 6th place now to make the playoffs a realistic target, but if the performances continue as they are we might be pulled into a relegation battle. I know that is very unlikely, and I'm not suggesting it is going to happen. However, the board are going to have to do something to lift the fans enthusiasm to renew their season tickets. If we continue to slide (even a few wins along the way are likely to see us fall down the league) then the renewals are likely to be dependent on summer signings. Despite suggestions to the contrary I suspect that summer signings will be dependent (maybe even financed by) season ticket sales.

Thus we are likely to need to bring in expensive loan signings this spring even when they are likely to make no appreciable difference to our season just to help sell season tickets. I know we have a new board, but for each of the last four years the season tickets have been marketed and sold with the 'suggestion' that what you were going to get was significantly better than what actually happened.

In 2007 the season tickets were sold with the potential of avoiding relegation from the Premier League, and a free ticket if we were relegated and then promoted at the first attempt. We finished 11th in the Championship in 2008.

In 2008 the season tickets were sold with a free ticket if we are promoted, and the promise that the club would do everything in their power to achieve that. Then over the summer we sold Bougherra for £2.5m, Marcus Bent and Amady Faye for about £1m each, and McCarthy and Iwelumo for about £500k each. That raised c. £5.5m and we only brought in Nicky Bailey for £400k. Apparently we were ready to sell ZZ for a further £2.5m but he didn't want to go to WBA. I would say that this was hardly doing everything they could to win promotion - we were actually relegated the follwing spring.

In 2009 the season tickets were sold with the backdrop of the 'Takeover' that club insiders promised was going to happen 'within a week' every week for two months. This was also at a time when we were promised that negotiations were ongoing to see if we could keep ZZ, Hudson and a few others (that I can't be bothered to look up) all of whom were long gone by the time the season started. Needless to say the takeover didn't happen either. That summer there were suggestions that if we had new owners there would probably be a new manager who would want to bring in his own players, so there was no point in Parkinson signing any. He didn't and we had a very unbalanced side and finished 4th and missed out on the playoff final.

Last summer there were few promises, except that the club would look to manage budgets and would expect to be well positioned to challenge for the playoffs. However, before the summer, we sold season tickets in March (many of which were for 5 seasons), we sold Shelvey in May and went on to sell Bailey late in the summer - long after the deadline for the swap week had passed (the true deadline to renew your seat). In all honesty I think the club had (until Parkinson was sacked) achieved just about all it 'suggested' when selling season tickets in the summer. However, the season tickets were originally marketed in March as being a good deal for the Championship if we went up. There was also the cleverly worded 'suggestion' that if you didn't renew by 31st March there was no guarantee that you could keep your seat. There was some debate about this at the time, but it was clear to me that the club were not going to sell fans seats out from under them in April, but still I would suggest that the club positioned the tickets as being for something that was very different from what we got.

So, what happens at the end of this month if we fail to perform better in the next six games than the last six, and there are no player movements to add credibility that the board are going to back the manager? Rochdale in 13th are just two points behind us, Brentford who we play on Saturday are 16th and just five points behind us. It is hardly unrealistic to suggest that we could be in the bottom third of the third division by the time the deadline for the current price expires. The club has not promised that there will not be a price rise even if we are not promoted if you don't renew by 4th April. I'm tempted to risk ridicule by saying that I am confident that the club will not put the prices up in June if we fail to win promotion.

This all suggests that the club will almost certainly have to bring in more loan players between now and the end of the season, irrespective as to the cost, or they might find they will sell very few season tickets before June (or even later). I guess it doesn't help that the season ticket application packs haven't arrived yet.

I don't have much to say about tonights game. Fom what I could establish on the commentary we played like we did against Exeter and Carlisle, and got what we deserved. I don't think there is much nore to say really.

There is some good news, however. Today I went to my six year old son's Parents' Evening, and it would appear that he is doing very well at school - something that I haven't always been able to say, and he was described by his teacher (who I liked a lot before she said it, and even more afterwards) as a very nice boy. His reading has improved significantly and it would appear that he has a bit of a flair for Maths, and his only real weakness is that he doesn't like writing, especially joined up writing, and needs to remember capital letters and adjectives. Clearly there is a little bit of a conflict of interest as I would likely have been a very unsatisfied customer had she said something too critical, but it's nice all the same. It's also nice when your football club is slipping down the toilet if something else in your life can compensate by going in the other direction.

The other piece of good news is that my Dad is back for Saturday so I will not be driving up to game on my own again. Having said that I had a very pleasant chat with Dave and his friends before, and during, the game last Saturday - something I will hope to do again when my Dad is away.

Up the Addicks!


Kim Lewis said...

Yet another excellent post KHA. I am getting more depressed by the minute with our total lack of commitment from the Players.

I agree that our current style of passing the ball around doesn't suit us as we haven't the skills to maintain this sort of approach. Just look at Francis last Saturday to see a fine example of that!

We have lost all direction and are heading into unchartered waters, where inevitably we will "sink" out of sight if the Board don't do something to stop the rot continuing.

I congratulated the new Board on their appointment of Chris Powell, but listening to my son he also agrees that CP is totally out of his depth.

Another change in Manager is going to make us the laughing stock of SE London, but something will have to give soon and my money is on a repeat of the Les Reed scenario that Powell will walk away.

Terry Smith said...

The new owners, Peter Varney and Richard Murray must be as concerned as we all are at the moment, especially as it is their money on the line. Watching dear old Chris Powell trying to manage this team at the moment is like watching your granny suffering from terminal illness. I'm sure that the correct decision will be made in time, but I think you can write off this season.

Anonymous said...

Gus Poyet took a bunch of no hopers (my Brighton supporting friend's view) and turned them into a great passing side through coaching and good man management. I suspect it isn't a five minute process though. And whilst planning for the future is tickety boo that plan has to have an initial stage - which is entertaining and exciting the punters, and a reasonable dgeree of success to keep you afloat.

Pembury Addick

newyorkaddick said...

Would you say that our playing style has definitively changed under Powell? (I've not seen enough games to form a view). Some fans I've spoken to say 'yes' and others 'not at all'.

However if we are trying to pass the ball more, I'd view this as a mild positive to offset the negative fact that the results have got worse. Continuing to play lousy football but get reasonable results (the Parky way) would have made me wonder why we got rid of him in the first place.

As you say, maybe in time he will be able to build a group of players capable of flourishing this way. However I'm reasonably confident that whilst Powell clearly has several outstanding character traits, managerial ability is not one of them.

ps - the consensus view is that the players are simply not good enough, but no-one has yet explained why our motley crue of free transfers (and some not-so-free), loans, youngsters and journeymen should be any worse than the other 23 similarly constructed teams? It seems like Pembury Addick above is on the right lines.

Kings Hill Addick said...


Initially, under Powell, there was more passing, and some of it looked pretty. A lot of it, however, was misplaced and we looked like a team that was trying one pass to many, if you know what I mean?

On the subject of why our team “should be any worse than the other 23 similarly constructed teams” I don’t think it is. Including all ten of the games played since Powell came in we have managed an average of 1.3 points per game which would make us about mid-table. So we are not worse than 23 other teams, but we are also no better than half of them. This is realistic I believe. I think that Parkinson probably paid a little more for Benson than he is worth, and I think that Semedo, Youga and Racon are earning more than they are worth - more than a little if I’m honest. Take those four facts out of the equation and I suspect that we have a similar group of players on similar money to the other 23 teams, not much better and not much worse.

We have much higher expectations, and probably pay more per unit of talent than the other teams due to our perceived size in this division. We have also been forced to sell anything with a value over the last year, which doesn’t help. For example, most teams have a player or two that could play at a higher level that just hasn’t left yet, but is earning modest money compared to their talent – something that we just don’t seem to have now.

I didn’t expect Parkinson to do a lot with what he had this season, and as we discussed on our blogs we were probably fooled by randomness with his run of results from the middle of October to the middle of November.

I agree that coaching has a lot to do with our recent performances, however, there are two unknowns that need to be considered. Firstly we don’t know if the players are actually good enough. Sure the manager needs to get the best out of them, but we don’t truly know if that will be enough over the course of a season (rather than a run of five or ten games). Secondly we don’t really know if Powell is a good enough manager to get the best out of the players.

This leaves us with a dilemma. Do we focus on getting a better manager to coach our players, or do we look to bring in better players for our manager to coach. I don’t know which of those would be best, or if we need both. None of the players have really performed much better elsewhere at this level, save for those that are coming towards the end of their careers and they may just not be as good as they once were. Powell has no experience or track record. This means that it is not easy to establish exactly where the problem lies. It is possible, for example, that Powell will never be able to manage a team (irrespective as to the quality of the players) to promotion, yet it is also possible that Mourinho would fail to get this group of players promoted if he was given three seasons to do it.

With that in mind we all find ourselves nit-picking over small specifics. Powell seems to make his substitutions late in games; Simon Francis easily gives the ball away in our half of the pitch (often); McCormack looks like he can’t trap a ball within four foot of himself, and fails to pass forward. These three things are not really being debated as there seems to be an agreement on them (and others like them) yet they alone don’t explain where the real problem is.

My worry is that if the problem is not identified soon then the outcome will be extraordinarily large investment to achieve promotion (i.e. the players are so good that I doesn’t matter) or we will lose another season waiting for the manager or the players to improve enough – especially if it’s never going to happen. I can’t see the current board being able and willing to invest the kinds of sums of money that will guarantee success irrespective.

In some respects I’m glad that it is not up to me, and it is, I know, much easier to snipe from the sidelines, but if this downward trend continues we could find ourselves in a relegation fight in front of gates close to 10,000 next season

Dave said...

Anytime Paul. I'm always local for a pint and spare seats abound.....