The weekend started on a positive note after I became an uncle for the first time, but any hopes I had of persuading her to support the Addicks probably fizzled away pretty quickly. It's not often Charlton get humiliated; sure, we lose games sometimes and play poorly but we usually have too much heart and organisation to leave us all with faces as red as the shirts.
Fans don't expect to win every game, but they do expect their manager and players to stop making systematic errors, and to at least give the appearance of caring as much as we do.
Losing six games in row is fairly dire but not necessarily fatal. Bolton lost six Premiership games in a row last season and still qualified for Europe - however after ending the streak with a draw, they then won five in a row. However the manner of our defeats suggest this is not a likely outcome for us right now. The statistics don't lie: 17 goals conceded in our last 6 league games; 22 goals conceded in our last 10 league games; no clean sheets in any competition since Birmingham away on Sep 10.
If you include the last fourteen League games from last season, we have now conceded 48 goals in 28 games and have won just 7, and drawn 7 of those 28 accumulating 28 points. This is relegation form. Meanwhile we have won just two League home games since Jan 22 - over ten months of dire home form. And Curbs wonders why the fans are frustrated? Put in these stark terms, it is surprising that the pressure hasn't been building on him for longer. Interestingly this dire home form began after the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, the manner and timing of which clearly hurt us, and at the time I think we all knew it would. And now to cap it all, and if I am not mistaken, today was only the third time we have conceded five goals in a League game since returning to the Premiership in 2000 (5-3 and 6-2 defeats to Arsenal and Leeds respectively the others). Those four wins at the start of the season are now looking increasingly like a statistical aberration that bought Curbs time rather than, as we had hoped, the start of a new dawn.
The defence is as shambolic today as I can ever recall it under Curbishley. I thought the return of Perry might be the answer but he had a shocker also, however he remains a lesser of several evils right now. We haven't yet exhausted our defensive options, and it was notable that Sorondo came through a second reserve game, whilst Osei Sankofa played eight games on loan at Bristol City, and Jon Fortune has been notable by his absence. However Sankofa (along with Lloyd Sam) will probably have to wait until he's in his mid-to-late 20s before Curbs will risk playing him.
After the Blackburn capitulation, team changes today were inevitable but surely the answer to our problems doesn't lie with the likes of JJ, a player with less passion than a corpse. If he is ever seen in a Charlton shirt again I'm tempted to send back my season ticket.
And what on earth is persuading Curbishley that Spector is a full-back? His positional sense is diabolical and he offers nothing going forward either. Curbishley's mindless persistence with this crazy ploy risks ruining the confidence of a clearly talented but inexperienced player. From what I saw in two preseason friendlies, Spector is a perfectly capable centre-back and quite clearly no worse than the current incumbents. A straight swap with Hreidarsson would at least be a step in the right direction. Continual systematic team selection errors like this concern fans because they suggest a degree of obstinacy, similar to the investor who holds onto a losing investment convinced the market is wrong and he is right.
And has Andersen really done enough to not even warrant a place in the 16? It is pretty clear he has had minimal resistance in front of him and none of his errors have exactly been result-defining. Anyone who campaigned for the return of Kiely will be feeling sheepish this evening. Thomas Myhre anyone?
The next issue is of course the formation. Frankly if we defend with suicidal intent, then it is a pointless discussion. However, it would seem fairly obvious that whether we play 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, it would be helpful if Curbs selected players who naturally fitted into it. I don't think 4-5-1 is necessarily the problem if he selects genuine wingers (Rommedahl, Thomas, Sam etc..) alongside the central trio. This provides the width and some pace to support the front man.
Instead we (again) have to watch Ambrose (who continues to look lively and creative) stuck in left or right midfield constantly forced to cut inside, and unable to do what he does best ie. create chances and score goals. If we are going to play 4-5-1, either Ambrose doesn't play or he is the creative replacement for Murphy (who was worryingly anonymous again), it's as simple as that. Otherwise play 4-4-2 with Ambrose as the second striker. Watching Darren Bent (who in my view is the best Premiership striker outside the 'big three') toil away quite literally on his own is painful to watch and risks damaging his fragile confidence. At least in the second half he had some players to link with, unfortunately by then the defence had committed hari-kiri.
A home game against the League's worst team on Saturday should be a chance for blessed relief from this awful run (strangely it's on live TV in the US, if I am able to bear to watch it). It may sound premature, but if Lord help us, we conspire to lose that game also, I believe Curbishley will resign, talking about "taking them as far as I can." He won't want to risk ruining his own strong reputation by taking us headlong into a relegation battle. I don't yet want that scenario because he is a decent loyal man, but he is being as severely tested now than at any time in his career.
Someone commented that I had been fickle having suggested the board would never sack Curbishley, yet at the same time questioning his abilities. I don't see the contradiction. It is clear Richard Murray believes Curbishley is the best man for the job and thus will not sack him, period. This is not say that Murray is right to believe this, especially as evidence over the past twelve months begins to pile up to counter his view. I fall somewhere between Murray's total-confidence and the 'Curbs-Out' brigade, but the only true way to judge his abilities is on results. In this context 28 points from 28 games is not acceptable particularly in light of the squad he began with, and the number of players he has been able to bring in.Footnote:
The FA Cup draw away to Sheffield Wednesday brought back fond memories of our last Cup meeting, a 3rd round clash in the mid-1990s at the Valley, which saw us complete the highest-profile 'giant-killing' of the day and ensured us plenty of Sunday back page coverage. In the space of just a decade we've turned the tables to such a degree on the Owls that we go there as giants, not the minnows. It provides a useful perspective to our current problems and reminds us (again) how far we've come. However many fans, myself included, want to stop harking constantly back to the past and to try to take the next step forward, whether it's European qualification or winning a cup. To say that it's possible Curbs isn't the right man to do this is not to take anything away from his phenomenal achievements in getting us here in the first place.