Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Surprise surprise

Well, what do you know, we have appointed Karel Fraeye as our new interim Head Coach. If the club were any normal, credible, organisation I would assume that he is going to be here until they identify, interview and select the best replacement possible. However, what we are told by our CEO and what, actually, happens are rarely the same so it means nothing.

I assume that he is on trial and if he looks like he has what it takes to keep us up this season he will be here until May. If not he will step aside and be replaced by someone else that will be here until May. What happens after that is anyone guess.

The problem with such short term appointments is that eventually the only manager that will take a position is one that is desperate and normally out of work. These are not, always, the best appointments as an out of work manager is often a manager that no one wants managing their side.

Mr Fraeye was 'managing' an amateur third division side in Belgium all the while on the payroll of our owner as a scout. The suggestion (which I'm naturally inclined to distrust) is that he has brought in some of the best signings we have. The truth could, well, be something else.

I'm a little torn, to be honest. Clearly Luzon wasn't getting the best out of the players, never mind the squad, and a change might have been the best thing for the club. Malky Mackay was mentioned, due to him being at the Brentford game, but I really didn't want him. He is one of a number of managers out there that has been successful with one club that had a massive budget, relative to its peers, and he failed in the Premier League and was involved in a very public spat with the Chairman. The texts that were later uncovered are not the only concern I have with him. It does look, however, like the Chairman threatened to release them which is why Mr Mackay suddenly decided not to take the club to court. I am purely speculating, but for me his performance at Wigan was enough to not to want him with us.

There are many other managers that might not have what it takes to keep us up but will 'give it a shot'. It is a no lose situation for them If they keep us up they improve their reputation while being paid for it. They might be kept on but they might be able to get a job elsewhere. If they fail it is because the club is a basket case. Like Wigan was last season with their Chairman being in trouble with the FA and them falling like a stone from winning the FA Cup a couple of seasons earlier.

The managers that could, realistically, take us on to the next level wouldn't want to come to us for three months on a short term contract when it is likely they won't still be here in a year. I remember Curbishley being rumoured to have turned down Wolves when they were in the Premier League as they only offered him a deal to the end of the season, and they went down, anyway. Newcastle gave Shearer a job to keep them up a few seasons ago and he, and our friend Iain Dowie, took them down. It is a no win situation if you have any credible reputation to protect.

Maybe Fraeye is the best man for the job. I mean he was here with Riga two season ago and they kept us up with, arguably, a much weaker squad once Kermorgant and Stephens had been moved on and replaced by the Standard Liege cast offs. He is, presumably, cheap and he was willing and available to come in at very short notice. Again this assumes that they weren't offering him the job as Ms Meire was assuring the fans that Luzon was safe - who knows?

The decision to remove the whole coaching team was questionable but the new chap had only been here a couple of months and Damien Matthews has only been near the first team once in the nine years he's been here and we lost 5-0. Probably a complete change was the best thing, although I'd be more than happy to extend that to the CEO as well. I'd also be happy for new owners to come in, all be it that I recognise that there must be a limit as to how many people are willing to stump up c. £5m a year to fund our hobby, and it would probably take more than that to achieve any success for us.

The whole idea that we are revolutionary in bringing in young players to sell for a profit is ridiculous. All but a handful of Premier League teams are trying to do exactly that. Even the top sides are using that strategy as well as buying superstars. There are not enough world class superstars in waiting available for a few hundred thousand pounds for us to make much money from it.

We need a new plan, and soon. In the meantime we need to expect to see managers coming in and going on a regular basis and a significant change in the playing staff every summer. It's not the kind of club I want to support if I'm honest, but Charlton are my club so, for now, I guess I'll just have to get used to it.

Welcome back Karel. Don't waste your time unpacking your clothes just live out of a suitcase as it'll save you time packing again when you leave. Oh and good luck, you'll, almost certainly, need it.

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Sunday, 25 October 2015

All change

Following a slight change of heart I made my way to The Valley yesterday to see if there was any chance that players returning from injury would make for a better performance and, more importantly, a better result.

Those of you that were there on Tuesday, and again yesterday, will know that it was a much better performance. However, the result was exactly the same and the eventual outcome was as predictable as the the promise four days before that the manager was safe.

I wasn't there for the Preston debacle, but I was assured that we were much, much better by the chaps that sit in front of me. In fact, the first ten minutes we looked good. Not great, obviously, but not at all bad. We had a few half chances that could have given us the lead, and a sitter from Moussa where he, literally, missed the target, unmarked, from about eight yards.

Brentford started to come into the game, and their passing was making us look like statues. The goal came from a great cross from Judge down their right, and what looked like an unmarked header on the six yard line and it was 1-0. The rest of the game can be summarised quickly by saying that we didn't look like we believed we could come back into it, we didn't look like we wanted to or could be bothered to raise our game. In truth we gave it up.

From a tactical point of view I thought we looked too narrow. There was no outlet out wide up front, Gudmunsson and Moussa kept coming inside, and with Morgan Fox tucking inside there was no real left back. I'm not sure what Chris Solly (and Fox for that matter) had been told to do in the game, but he didn't look like he was playing as a full back.

I have never been one to throw around the phrase 'He's lost the dressing room' but I will say that, with Makinok apart, none of the players did as well as I've come to expect from them. Either they weren't up for the game or their confidence is so shot that they are a shadow of their former selves, or they didn't want to play for the manager.

Whichever of those it was I think it was inevitable that Luzon would be on his way out of The Valley in the same controversy as he arrived.  All the rubbish from the CEO about interviewing many managers before appointing Luzon in double quick time was compounded but assuring us that he was safe before two defeats in four days resulted in his sacking.

I am inclined to suggest that the CEO has not helped the situation by publicly announcing that the manager is safe and that the players will have to raise their game. I've never thought that office based 'administrators' were well advised to publicly criticise footballers as these young men (even at our level) tend to believe that they are above criticism - especially from a lawyer that has, presumably, never played the game. The players, certainly, played like they didn't appreciate being publicly blamed for our situation. It isn't helped that most of the fans blame her and her employer and the players must know that.

For a lawyer that, I assume, is intelligent and well educated she does say some outrageously stupid things in public. It is getting close to the point that I will start to feel sorry for her. I suspect that if she had commissioned a focus group to come up with a plan to make her took as incompetent as possible they couldn't have come up with anything better than her PR this last month.

One positive thought, however, is that for what ever reason sacking managers and replacing them does seem to have brought about better results since the current owners have arrived. Quite why the managers needed to be sacked in the first place is the subject for another time, but I am optimistic that the teams fortunes will improve once the new chap settles in.

Just one thought on the recruitment, please not Malkay Mackay.

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Thursday, 22 October 2015

Where do we go from here?

I think it was Bill Shankly that suggested that no league table is worth looking at until November, but I might be wrong about that. I have always thought that ten games is when one judges a team and its expected level of success in a season - I know I got this from my Dad.

Well November is just two games away. Brentford at home and Middlesbrough at The Riverside. I'm going to stick my neck out and suggest that we are unlikely to get anything from the latter of those two games which means that we are likely to be in a relegation position by the time November starts.

Interestingly we had a massive six teams below us after ten games, although by then we'd only managed two points in six games, after managing eight points in the opening four games of the season.

Technically three points could take us above seven sides (I've not checked that any of them are playing each other so that could be wrong) so a win against Brentford and a defeat at Middlesbrough could be enough to leave us out of the bottom three. Also there is only two points separating 17th and 22nd (where we are), and three of the teams above us have won in their last two outings, so it's not drastic yet. Ironically one of those sides is Preston who convincingly beat us on Tuesday evening.

I have little knowledge of football. I don't tend to study formations and tactics. I have watched, literally, hundreds of games live, but I've always enjoyed the games without wanting to get too involved in what goes on behind the scenes. If I watch a movie I don't need to know how it was made and I don't need to know where each player is told to stand for every corner. Their role is to play, mine is to watch.

However, it would be unrealistic of me no have not picked up a few things over the years, even if it is only a few, and I can't help coming to the conclusion that Simon Makienok is a huge loss for us. In the game against Hull (one of only three games I've been to this season) he scored one goal and made the other one. He was also instrumental in defending and clearing the ball - one such occasion his clearance led to the chance that Gudmundsson had which the 'keeper did well to save at 1-0.

Now I'm not saying that his reintroduction is going to make us world beaters, but I am confident that come the end of the season we will find that the average number of points we win with him in the side will be more than when he isn't. I suspect that the same will be true of Henderson. I have nothing against Nick Pope but he has, shall we say, been a bit unlucky with goals being scored shortly after he 'releases' the ball, and similar stats were true of last season.

I am not in disagreement with those that say that the squad wasn't big enough, nor do I disagree that some of the signings (and youth graduates, for that matter) have not been good enough for this division, at this moment in time. The truth, however, is that we are where we are and trust needs to be given. The owner needs to trust his CEO (even though I'm not sure that I do); the CEO needs to trust the manager (even though it feels a little more like blind faith at the moment); the manager needs to trust his players; and the fans need to trust all of that list and the owner, as we have little choice, or more specifically, little power to change it.

The player recruitment (and I'm going to assume that it hasn't been, entirely, good enough) is shrouded in mystery. I have no, real, idea who is making the decisions and what areas are being looked at. Clearly we have signed players in some of the positions that we needed them so I guess that is a positive point. We have, maybe, not signed players that are good enough, and certainly not enough of them across the board.

Identifying the positions we need reinforcements is, actually, very simple so I can't really give much praise for that. Signing young players that may or may not work out is a fair enough gamble to take. We can't afford to sign a whole squad of proven, established players so we have to 'speculate'.

So far, and I'm going on what I've read elsewhere as much as what I've seen, myself, the success rate is not very high. Phil Chapple has moved on, and I have no idea if that is significant, nor do I know if he is responsible for any of the players that we have scouted. I don't want to pick out players for criticism, but there are a couple that we, apparently, paid a lot of money for that don't seem to be able to cope with the level of football we are at. Hence we are in the bottom three.

I'm, naturally, an optimist, and hate having to face problems head on so I want to believe that when the players that have settled and are injured are back our fortunes will improve. My, genuine, aspirations for a playoff place back in August have evaporated and I'm now thinking that 4th from bottom will be deemed a success this season. In reality 4th from bottom is every bit as good as 7th so anything better that 21st will be a bonus.

Relegation is unthinkable, but not impossible. We have one of the richest owners in the Championship so I suspect that he will, again, splash some cash in January to being in the players that we could have done with in September to ensure that he and his CEO are given another chance at playing 'Championship Manager' with a real football club again next season to see if he, and she, can prove that they are cleverer that all the other custodians of Championship clubs by getting promoted spending less than almost all of them.

All in all it's not difficult to see why so many, including me, seem to have lost some of the interest/obsession that we had with Charlton, and football in general over the last two years.

I don't know that the future would bring if the current owner was to want to move on but even though it was a little desperate just before he arrived, I can't help thinking that it can't get any worse. Clearly it can, and I am lazy and cowardly, so I would never be the type to demand a change (assuming, of course, that anyone cared about what I demanded) but it does feel as though something needs to change.

I chose not to go on Tuesday night, and I don't think I want to go on Saturday. Not that I matter, but I missed just a couple of games between 1988 and 2014 and I'm probably going to miss two in a week, which will be four in this season alone (three of which were on a Saturday). If the goal of any football club, at any level, is to grow attendance then they are clearly doing something wrong as I'm not alone in finding other things to do when Charlton play.

The worst thing is that I'm not angry, I'm not disappointed I have just stopped enjoying going.

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