Friday, November 28, 2008

I Think We're A Loan Now

For the third successive away trip, Charlton were seemingly in control of large swathes of the game, and reportedly looked the better side. Yet we have just a single point show for our efforts.

Optimists would suggest that our luck will eventually turn. Indeed my previous post focused on the recent absurdly skewed distribution of the first goal, even notwithstanding our oft-demonstrated propensity to shoot ourselves in the foot.

However, football history is littered with stories of teams that were supposedly ‘too good to go down’, yet ultimately football is about winning matches, not possession, chances created etc..

All of which brings me to Luke Varney of course. His glaring miss at QPR might well have been ruled offside, but he was not to know that. It can be added to that diabolical miss at home to Burnley, the costliness of which is becoming ever more apparent.

Who knows what confidence boost a late win would have given the team? It might have been enough to turn the aforementioned three solid away performances into much more than one point.

His apologists argue that all strikers go through bad spells, which is of course factually correct. However not all strikers continue to go through bad spells after they have been given several gift-wrapped chances to end that spell.

Charlton fans wanted him to succeed (he seems such a nice fella after all), but it was in vain.

When you think of Charlton’s most natural goalscorer in recent times (Mendonca), he was not blessed with the type of natural talent that a scout would instantly spot upon first viewing.

Super Clive was not especially quick, rarely headed the ball, and his harrying of defenders was not particularly enthusiastic. And herein lies the mistake I believe Pards has made with Varney, and it ties in nicely with my prior post on 'randomness'.

Upon first sight, Varney ticks many of the important boxes for any curious scout or interested manager.....he's quick, always gives 100%, and for that one season only he was also scoring goals (17 in 31 starts).

Seen in this context, it is certainly forgivable that Pards was so keen to pay upwards of £2million for his services.

Yet whilst one fears of course that he will suddenly find his scoring boots at Derby, it is now clear to me at least that the 2006/7 season was mere randomness (enough randomness - Ed.).

Although often overlooked, he had been at Crewe for three seasons prior to 2006/7, yet his record was only 10 goals in 37 starts (plus many more as substitute).

If one adds his Charlton career (10 goals in 39 starts), to those Crewe seasons excluding 2006/7, his record is a soporific 20 goals in 76 starts. A poor record for any team's leading striker.

Of course that 2006/7 was not merely a figment of Pardew's imagination; it really did happen. But these types of one-off seasons are likely, even inevitable for a striker at some point in his career.

The challenge for a manager when assessing a goalscorer is to decide whether it was mere luck (randomness), or a function of an innate skill that is repeatable. Could we have done more in this regard?

Most consistent goalscorers have a certain arrogance and self-belief, and when those lean spells come along, they do not begin to doubt themselves (merely the ability of their teammates to provide them with chances).

Something about Chris Dickson's manner for example suggests he has it in abundance; the question is perhaps whether he has the ability to execute upon his self-belief (frustratingly Varney did not lack for ability).

The way Varney went around the Burnley keeper expertly, yet lacked the wherewithal to shoot, proved he patently lacked these vital traits.

Pards had been fooled, and when he began to emphasise Varney's general contribution to the team, we should have known the game was up. Whilst they did not dither enough when he was signed, full credit to the club for not dithering over his sale, even if financial considerations were perhaps paramount too.

It had always troubled me slightly that Varney was already 20 years old when he was still playing at Quorn (who knew vegetarians played football, eh?). When he was subsequently signed by Crewe, they became the lowest-ranking club in the English pyramid ever to command a transfer fee.

The market for footballers is not entirely 'efficient' (Ian Wright signed professional terms at aged 21 for example), but is it likely Varney would have been overlooked for that long if he was truly a two million pound player?

However it seems Paul Jewell is willing to give him another chance. Let's hope for Derby's sake that it's not what the stock market calls a 'value trap', because I've seen enough of Varney to conclude that any goalscoring spell will be merely fleeting.

Based upon my theory that a transfer fee is 'undisclosed' to avoid embarrassing one of the parties involved, Charlton have surely taken a very large write-down on his transfer fee in just 18 months.

After Dowie's succession of poor signings, can the Board be doing more to assess the efficacy of a manager's proposed acquisitions? And having been stung so many times in recent seasons (Traore, Faye, Varney etc..), does that explain our extraordinary new reliance upon loans?

The acquisitions of Deon Burton and Jay McEveley would seem to add value at first sight, but seen in the context of the five loans we already have, they appear acts of desperation. The theory presumably is that if the Board give the manager enough options, eventually he'll stumble across a winning formula, hopefully in time to keep us up.

When the League brought in a rule limiting a matchday squad to 5 loan players, one suspects they never imagined it would be tested. Nonetheless, when Charlton fans and bloggers alike try to second-guess the manager's team selection, we now have an additional constraint to consider.

McEveley would appear to be perhaps the pick of the septet, at least on paper. He is just 23 years old, but has both Premiership and full International experience (3 caps for Scotland). And unlike the likes of Cranie or Bouazza (22 and 23 respectively), he will not view a spell at Charlton as an obvious step down (at least not yet).

It is hard to imagine we will have a realistic option to buy him, but he at least provides a short-term alternative to the far from convincing Kelly Youga.

Deon Burton has seemingly had as many clubs as Marcus Bent, and looks disturbingly like him too. His scoring record is not dissimilar to Varney's (albeit over 300+ games), but it seems that unlike Varney, he has more facets to his game, able to hold the ball up, and score his fair share of scrappy goals.

What a fine mess our (fine) club has got itself into. In 2002, the BBC wrote an article suggesting Charlton were Britain's best-run club. It seems so much good work has been undone at worrying speed.


At 4:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What we have lacked since Curbs left is a plan.

We desperately need one, both on and off the pitch. If we fear we are going down, why not play our younger players and give them some experience and see who could cut it at this level, or the one below/above.

If we think we can stay up, why keep signing bloody strikers, when we are conceding 2, 3 and 5 goals per game....

At 4:56 AM, Blogger Ken Jennings said...

I must confess to feeling (wishing) I will wake up and experience that relieved recognition that events have been so bizarre, it turns out I was having a nightmare.

But after all these years, I am confused as to how long I have been asleep as seemingly out of nowhere, the ridiculous and illogical appear to have become the norm.

What the hell is going on and how much damage has Pardew caused?

At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Terry Thomas said...

Pardew and Dowie caused untold damage to this club. So much so that we are now inundated with loan signings, (5 will probably play on Saturday) meaning that Pardew's legacy is that we only have 6 players good enough to start a Championship match, despite all the signings he made, and money he wasted. I've never known this club to be in such poor shape in the past 48 years. At least in the 60s and 70s we didn't expect much better, and we had an abundance of home grown players.

At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dowie was fired by Charlton for reasons that have not yet been disclosed and maybe he deserved to be, but it is ridiculous to say that he did "untold damage" to the club. He was in charge for 12 league games during which time the team won eight points, but were unlucky not to have secured more; a number of outrageous refereeing decisions really did work against him. There is a popular myth that he wasted a lot of money, but he didn't because much of what he spent was recouped so that his net spending amounted to not much more than the loss on the hapless Amdy Faye, a player the club tried to swap for Danny Murphy the previous January if newspaper reports at the time are to be believed. The fact is that it was Richard Murray who messed up in the Dowie era with his failed "new structure" and the appointments of Andrew Mills and Les Reid in roles that Dowie might have been expected to fill himself. Murray admitted as much because when Pardew arrived he got the title "team manager" not "head coach" and the roles of Director of Football and First Team Coach, reporting directly to Murray, quietly disappeared. Murray also sanctioned Pardew's transfer dealings and is now allowing Parky to load up on loan signings despite last season's "lesson" that this strategy destroys team spirit.

Why the rant? Because Richard Murray needs to take a long hard look at himself, accept some responsibility and learn some lessons of his own, if he has not already done so. He should start by thinking very hard about the next managerial appointment. There are suggestions that Parkinson is now the incumbent and that he will be confirmed in the job if he "does well in the next few matches". If so, this is weak, muddled and unambitious decision making. Parky is either the right man for the job or he isn't. What happens in the next few games will tell us very little about how he will do over the next three years. The Board need to get serious and try to make the decision that will best serve the Club over the next 3-5 years and not opt for the easy option. If Murray gets this wrong, then we'll all begin to think that we've been fooled by randomness; that Charlton's Board have been nothing special after all and that they simply rode the extraordinary ability, and perhaps good fortune, of the manager Alan Curbishley.

At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent rant.... isn't Mr Murray spending his own money?We put in peanuts- the millions come from him

At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure I understand the point. It may be his money (or at least some of it is), but that doesn't preclude him from being accountable for results or from having his performance criticised.


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