Friday, February 27, 2009

Swansea preview

With just two minutes of the 2008/9 season having passed, things seemed to be going swimmingly for the Addicks.

New captain Mark Hudson (plucked effortlessly from bitter rivals Palace) had opened his account, and knowing Addicks fans were no doubt quick to suggest Swansea would struggle to adapt at this higher level.

Unfortunately by full-time, despite an Andy Gray header having put an undeserved gloss on the result, those same fans if they were honest, might not be entirely surprised by subsequent events.

As perhaps one of the two best footballing sides in the division (along with Doncaster), purists can no doubt now revel at the sight of the Swans sitting proudly in 9th spot, whilst the boorish Addicks by comparison hold up the division.

Charlton's lack of footballing nous was very evident on that August afternoon, and although luck was on our side that day, we have been embarrassed far too regularly this season by teams who simply pass and move.....repeatedly.

When you see it done well, you are left to wonder what on earth Charlton have been doing in training for the past two years.

Maintaining possession and creating space are the bread and butter of professional football, and I still don't accept the argument that our players are not good enough to produce it. It'd be like a tennis player turning up for Wimbledon, having not worked on his serve.

However in Swansea's specific case, perhaps there is a slightly more curious explanation than mere hard work.

Although there are plenty that have been considerably less successful (think Jan Poortvliet for example), I sense that a foreign manager like Roberto Martinez, so long as he has the intelligence and knowledge to go with the sharp suits, does bring certain inherent advantages.

The most obvious one is simply cultural. Take the great British concept of playful 'banter' for example, prevalent in any football dressing room, particularly as you move down the divisions. Team spirit is one thing, but on the whole it's not a productive trait as far as results are concerned.

The British manager, cognisant of the concept can take one of two routes. He can either embrace it, or reject it (perhaps even forcefully so). One suspects for example that Alan Curbishley firmly rejects it; we know that Sir Alex Ferguson and Martin O'Neill do.

It takes a particularly strong personality and single-mindedness to take the latter approach. Most British managers, particularly given almost all are ex-players, tend to embrace it, which will tend to make them popular rather than successful in my view.

I sense that Alan Pardew for example was probably pretty popular amongst the players. Perhaps popularity is best reserved for say the first-team coach or the physio, not the main man in charge.

Most foreign managers however will earn a grudging form of respect from their players, simply by virtue of being somewhat alien to them (social intelligence is less common than banter in most dressing rooms of course).

Players will also tend to presume that a foreign manager is more intelligent than he actually is, and thus worth listening to because they simply can't tell. That motivational teamtalk delivered after all via a combination of heavily accented English, and interpreters.

When some British managers speak, you can instantly deduce that they're not the brightest, innit? Before anyone jumps to improper conclusions, I'm certainly not suggesting Phil Parkinson isn't very bright (though apparently Therry Racon thinks he's a genius).

It's an impossible hypothesis to prove of course, but aside from the well-known uber-successful foreign managers like Wenger or Mourinho, there is evidence that the likes of Martinez, as well as Roberto DiMatteo and perhaps even Gianfranco Zola, are able to draw upon this same phenomenon.

Given that Parkinson meanwhile was born in Chorley, relegation is presumably thus assured. Indeed, it could well effectively be so by the time the next three extraordinarily vital Championship games are concluded.

Although I shuddered when I heard both Parkinson and Mark Kinsella describe a point as a good result at stuttering Barnsley (have they done the maths?), I'm minded to view this upcoming trio of games in unison, with at least six points absolutely essential. Any more would of course be a huge confidence-boosting bonus.

Only high-flying Birmingham having left the Liberty Stadium with three points, whilst the Swans having scored the 3rd most goals at home (34).

Thus I'm tempted to think that if our managerial duo do mutter those same words after this game, then they might actually have a point (quite literally in this case). Those two home games against Doncaster and Watford are inherently much more winnable.

They will be followed by three consecutive matches against top six sides however, thus further emphasising the urgency of the immediate task in hand.

Our cause might be helped of course if one of our forwards scored a goal. Call me old-fashioned, but isn't that rather an important part of their job?

Whilst it's heartwarming in a sense that they have chosen to tap into the agitated mood of many of the country's workers, it's about time they called off their strike. After all, if you found yourself shocked by the audacity of Sir Fred Goodwin's pension pot, what about the wages of Charlton's forwards?

The last time a recognised striker scored a League goal for Charlton was on December 15th, when Andy Gray slotted home a well-taken goal at home to Derby.

With ten games having passed since then, and even our beloved Chris Dickson finally being given a chance, no solution has been found to this problem which I might dare to describe as 'pressing'.

I think Parky will line them up in a 4-4-1-1 formation as follows: Elliot, Murty, Youga, Hudson, Ward, Soares, Spring, Bailey, Racon, Shelvey, Kandol. Subs: Randolph, Holland, Sam, Dickson, Burton.

NY Addick predicts Swansea 2 (Scotland, Gomez), Charlton 1 (Shelvey). Att: 16,029.


At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear NYA,
as usual a very interesting read.
I have a handful of straws clutched in my hands- one of them is those games against the top six- some of those teams are in terrible form, Wolves have they lost it altogether? Birmingham have been rubbish all season (except Kev Phillips) etc
A realistic aim for the end of this season is to finish in better competitive shape than we have been, this would be a revivial, so lets see where that takes us.....
Hope the family is flourishing


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