Friday, February 24, 2006

Like the Alamo

Football managers have been known to describe an attacking onslaught as " the Alamo..", so keen to find out what they meant, I visited the said fortress in San Antonio, Texas.

I must admit I'm still no clearer but if one thing is definitely 'like the Alamo', then it's the Alamo itself, so here's a photo to help readers decipher post-match interviews.

Talking of fortresses, Aston Villa visit Fortress Valley on Saturday, where Charlton will attempt to keep its rapidly fading League season alive.

I continue to maintain that relegation is of no concern not least because I think there is every chance that 34 points will be enough for safety anyhow. Frustratingly however, our disinclination to win another away game this season is preventing us from closing the gap with the top six (just 7 points), which implies that our season will essentially end for all intents and purposes if and when our FA Cup run ends.

Someone pointed out on the message boards that the five teams we dispatched away from home at the start of the season currently occupy the five bottom places in the table. Hence, our outstanding start to the season could very easily be put down to a quirk of the fixture list. Unfortunately this quirk caused fans expectations to be unrealistically increased, which might explain the level of pessimism that our subsequent form has generated.

In order to assess the degree to which our form has dipped, I took the time to work out on a game-by-game basis how many points our form at that time suggested we would take over the course of the full season. Obviously four wins out of the first four games suggested a meaningless 114 points (!), but after a more significant 12 games, we were still set to take 60 points. The trough in form occurred after the Arsenal defeat, at which point we were set for 49.2 points. Although we got back above 53 points after the Birmingham win, six points from our last six games has seen us back on course for 49 points or so. Given that this extrapolation includes the first five 'easy' away games, 49 is likely to be highly optimistic given that trips to Liverpool, Arsenal and Man Utd await us.

When I write this blog, I do wonder if I'm being overly pessimistic at times, but the stats don't lie. Taking 19 points from our last 20 League games is hardly going to get our pulses racing and it is no surprise in this context that the prospect of an FA Cup quarter-final is causing so much excitement. The fact that the tie has been confirmed for Thursday night has been met with mixed feelings by some fans (due to the fixture changes it causes), but I hope readers will permit me a degree of exhiliration that I will be able to attend without needing to change any plans.

It's hard to overestimate how important that Cup tie is for the club. Given that the only fans that have seen us in an FA Cup semi-final are at least in their late 60s, it is fair to assume that all the frustration with our League form over the past year will be forgiven should we win. The possibility of playing in the first Cup final at new Wembley would have been mouthwatering, but in true British style the stadium won't be finished. Nonetheless, I find myself able to think about virtually nothing else Charlton-related right now, and I can't think of anything else interesting to say about the Villa game, so I won't.


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