Friday, September 28, 2007

Coventry preview

The sight of Iain Dowie is enough to make Charlton fans (and ladies too I suspect) run a mile. Thus, shortly after kick-off time I will be doing exactly that, participating in the Continental Airlines Fifth Avenue Mile, which as the name suggests, involves belting it down the middle of Fifth Avenue. I originally set myself the rather ambitious goal of breaking six minutes, but I've just find out that Cory Gibbs is the pacemaker.

A disproportionate amount has been written about Iain Dowie's short reign as Charlton manager. I've tended to fall down on the more sympathetic side of the debate, arguing that the Board must take considerable blame not only for his appointment, but also for seemingly granting him free access to the club's chequebook. Were enough questions being asked about how well he knew the signings, and whether they represented value for money?

It would also have been a hellishly difficult task for any (realistic) new manager to follow in the footsteps of Curbs, especially as he himself had begun to undo much of his outstanding work during his final couple of seasons. It is worth recalling too that Curbs had several seasons to get things right and leave his indelible mark on the club (it is ironic that one of his first signings was Alan Pardew). Moreover, by virtue of the fact that he was basically not given any money, he implicitly couldn't really waste it. Cue the cutprice signings of the likes of John Robinson, Mark Robson and Phil Chapple, all solid pros that would play their part in our subsequent success. There were no Afican mercenaries because we couldn't afford the flight there.

How many Chairmen today would give a manager fully seven seasons to gain promotion, even in such trying circumstances? It was testament as much to the long-term outlook of Charlton's board, as it was to Curbs' abilities, that the club had such a vital Premiership decision to make in the summer of 2006. For this reason alone, we ought to forgive them their mistakes.

My most radical suggestion however is that we might well have stayed up had he been permitted to remain as manager for the whole season. It sounds crazy, but the turmoil caused by not only his sacking, but also the subsequently botched appointment of Les Reed, gave Pards a near-impossible job when he arrived. The fact that he nearly pulled off a relegation miracle with essentially the same squad, makes one wonder if Dowie might not have gone one better; they were his signings after all.

Nonetheless, the above speculation does not change the fact that it was the wrong appointment for Charlton, although it equally doesn't change the fact that Dowie has an excellent record as a manager in the Championship. Since taking over Coventry who were in a degree of disarray, he guided them to safety, and in 2007/8 has guided them to 8th place and a famous win at Old Trafford. His overall managerial record in the Championship reads as follows:

Coventry P20 W8 D5 L7 (Pts per game: 1.45)
Palace P68 W35 D15 L18 (Pts per game: 1.76)
TOTAL P88 W43 D20 L25 (Pts per game: 1.69)

An average points per game of 1.69 implies a total of 78 points during a 46-game season, enough to guarantee the play-offs, and challenge for automatic promotion. We can laugh at his signings for Charlton, or the unfortunate way that he looks, but we ought not to laugh at his record in the Championship.

With this in mind, the high-flying Addicks arrive with a very different mindset to the United-conquering Sky Blues that they will be facing. Football psychology works in strange ways, and there's every chance it will work in our favour. Coventry took 11,000 fans to Old Trafford, more than twice as many that saw our defeat at Luton in total. We can shrug it off as an unfortunate (but hardly devastating) defeat for our reserve team; Coventry may still have their heads in the clouds.

Coventry City are one of those medium-sized clubs that it is difficult to dislike, punching above their weight as they did for so long, yet surrounded by clubs with far stronger support bases. A Charlton for the Midlands if you will. The club probably never got the respect they deserved for their unbelievably long stint in the top flight (34 years, ending in 2001), and since relegation they have retained a degree of stability, without ever threatening a return to the Premiership (they have finished 11th, 20th, 12th, 19th, 8th and 17th respectively).

We will be making our first visit to the Ricoh Stadium, named after Bruce Ricoh, the former Millwall, Bolton and Arsenal manager, who strangely never had any particular link to Coventry. Unlike some other clubs like Leicester or Middlesbrough, whose stadiums had disintegrated into ramshackled dereliction, there never seemed too much wrong with Highfield Road. Given the banks of empty seats regularly seen at the Ricoh, there's perhaps a lesson therein for those that still wish to materially expand The Valley.

Pards will want to dwell on the positives that emerged from the sorry night at Kenilworth Road, namely the return of Yassin Moutouakil and Matt Holland after injury, and the French right-back especially will be pushing for a start tomorrow. However on the back of two home Championship wins last week, Pards might be advised to opt for the exact same eleven that triumphed over Leicester, and I expect he will.

NY Addick predicts: Coventry 1 (Adebola), Charlton 2 (Reid, Varney) Att: 19,210.


At 5:33 PM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

Having to put up with arrogant fans for some 35 years is enough to put me off Chaventry. And Highfield Road really was a bit of a dump. A Charlton of the Midlands they are not.

At 6:22 PM, Blogger Pedro45 said...

Bruce Ricoh...! Classic NYA!


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