Friday, September 11, 2009

Southampton Preview

The focus of attention at The Valley on Saturday will all be on Alan Pardew, which is a shame in my view because it threatens to work to Charlton’s detriment.

Much has been written about his two years in charge, most of it not particularly complimentary and this blog has been no exception.

However it is time to move on, as we appear to have very sharply turned the corner (particularly as a team, less so as a club perhaps).

Given that perhaps only about 5% of the fans attending on Saturday will read this blog, I suspect my plea will fall on deaf ears, but I urge fans to ignore their base instincts and to offer Pards a polite round of applause for all he tried to do.

This is not because I think he deserves one of course, but because it would remove one of the key obstacles in the way of our 7th consecutive League One victory. Namely the huge incentive that such vitriol will give his team and players, to stick one over us.

This is the managerial equivalent of course to the old adage that players always score against their former clubs.

I’m fairly certain that there is actually no statistical significance to this theory, but if there was then the fact that most ex-players are booed rather then cheered offers a fairly obvious explanatory factor.

In recent seasons Charlton fans have spurred the likes of Jermaine Defoe and even Kevin Lisbie, to score goals for their new clubs at The Valley.

Anyone who has played competitive sport even at an amateur level, will know that they can find an extra gear when riled somehow by the opposition, and if the anger is channelled in the right way.

Pards didn’t deliberately fail at Charlton. He was never as good a manager as he thought he was, and his arrogance prevented him from recognizing this and perhaps doing something about it.

The Board appointed him at a time of panic after the Les Reed fiasco, and his credentials at that time were impressive, if perhaps not impeccable.

The first twelve months were not so bad, a reasonable attempt to secure Premiership safety followed by an impressive start to Championship football. His first four signings could hardly be faulted either (Zheng, Thatcher, Bougherra and Song).

He is thus generally absolved from blame for our Premiership relegation, although I was disappointed that rather than push on from those 10 points earned beginning with the win over West Ham, instead we completely lost momentum.

The 0-0 televised draw at a weakened Man City was one of the most negative tactical performances I’ve seen, at precisely the time when we should have been taking some risks to earn three more points. We never won another game.

Then once results began to deteriorate rapidly after Xmas 2007, it was clear that there was no ‘Plan B’ to reassert our promotion credentials, and by the start of 2008/9 there were worrying signs that our very worst fears could be realised (and they were).

A tendency to overpay for several misfiring strikers, was compounded by several destabilizing loan signings that detracted from, rather than added to the squad.

The quality of our passing football this season (albeit against inferior opposition), is a damning indictment on what was served up for most of the period under Pardew. The over-reliance on long balls to Iwelumo was made stranger by the fact that he subsequently sold him.

His erratic team selections were hardly conducive meanwhile to building confidence and consistency.

If the masterplan meanwhile was to mix promising but unproven youth from home and abroad (Moutaouakil, McLeod, Varney, etc.), with experienced journeymen (Iwelumo, McCarthy, Weaver, Todorov etc..), then for whatever reason it simply didn’t work.

The subsequent obsession with loans to try to fill the gaps, was effectively an omission of failure although you knew he’d lack the humility to acknowledge it.

In fairness, he did uncover a few gems too, at least two of which (Racon and Bailey) are now driving Phil Parkinson’s new-look team forward.

By the end however he became almost a laughing stock, pausing to blame anyone or anything for our misfortune, except himself. His post-match press conferences were a blogger’s dream.

My ongoing problem with Pardew however, was that I simply couldn’t stand the bloke. Arrogance is never an attractive trait, but occasionally it can be excused if accompanied by real achievement and talent (think Jose Mourinho for example).

But in this case, one quickly realised it was a façade to try to hide away from his inadequacies as coach and manager.

It obviously works for him however, because he was rarely off our screens or airwaves during his break, and now he’s back in football which returns me of course to Saturday’s fixture.

Despite a 10-point deduction, Southampton were installed by the bookmakers as a 16/1 pre-season shot for the League One title, odds that seemed aggressive even at that time given the turmoil going on behind the scenes.

The club eventually fell into safe and moneyed Swiss hands, and whilst they have only begun slowly to splash the cash (Rickie Lambert the main exception), one suspects they will do so in earnest in January if relegation remains a clear threat. Whether Pardew is still there to spend it is a moot point at this rate.

The unusual sight of a team on –6 points is potentially rather flattering in the sense that one focuses on the effect of the original deduction, and not the fact that even without it, they’d still only be sitting one place higher in 23rd spot.

However if Pardew is to be believed, their performances are starting to improve and defensively at least, they are not amongst the division’s laggards.

Fraser Richardson came through his own injury scare last weekend, and put on an impressive display, so we can only hope that both Bailey and Racon can play through their own rumoured niggles.

If not, then the depth of our squad will be tested for the first time this season with Parkinson facing a particular conundrum in left midfield where the choices appear to range from the conservative (Basey), through the cavalier (McKenzie), and to the downright speculative (Holden).

If Racon is unfit, then Matt Spring would appear to be the obvious replacement unless he does something more drastic, and opts for 4-4-2 although a Semedo-Shelvey midfield does not fill one with great confidence.

I managed to watch most of Saturday’s game on a respectable internet feed, and again was impressed with the quality of football on show, not least that classy 2nd goal.

However, if one watches just the highlights clip on the CAFC Player site, then one realizes that just like the Wycombe and Orient games, on another day we could easily have taken just a point.

Jonjo Shelvey still does not do enough for me in that free role behind Deon Burton, and as our most valuable player, it seems strange for me to conclude that he'd perhaps be the one out of the unchanged eleven that I'd be least concerned to have missing.

Thus whilst acknowledging our spectacular and largely deserved 100% start, let’s also be humble enough to acknowledge that in a low-scoring sport like football, the line between victory and defeat is a thin one.

When that inevitable defeat (or even draw) happens, it’s the way we react and bounce back that will be key. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen on Saturday, but if it does why give ourselves the collective opportunity to worry that we did Pardew’s side a favour, by letting our fans do his teamtalk for him?

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 1 (Burton), Southampton 1 (Lambert). Att: 18,235.


At 5:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

recognizing? You'be been in the states too long..

At 9:17 AM, Blogger StoneMuse said...

NYA, we're gonna win ... maybe it's becasue I won't be there for the game, but not feeling so nervous now ... 3-1 to the mighty Addicks!

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doh! So guess what we went and did...
Some absolutely disgusting chants from some of my fellow inhabitants of the covered end choir who week in week out claim to be "loyal supporters" yet do only sing when we're winning and get agressive and abusive if we're not.
Pardew was a loyal player (though not outstanding). Inept as a manager, the "Down with the Pardew, your going down with the Pardew" chant directed at Southampton was humourous and clever. But being abusive to him as a person?! Why/ He didn't come in to deliberately damage the club - he tried his best to do a good job.
I'll shout and chant for Charlton every game I'm at - but I do wish we could sack som of the imbeciles around me: they don't know what they're doing....


Post a Comment

<< Home