Friday, April 01, 2011

Shock and Awe

I think the legendary cricket commentator Brian Johnston once said that the best at his craft knew when to say nothing, because everything the viewer needed to know was already apparent.

If us bloggers are somewhat akin to commentators, then my increasingly irregular posts might best be explained according to the template above.

What can be added to the rich tapestry woven by eleven winless games in the domestic game's third tier?

Draw attention to our amazing collapse in form and be accused of being unreasonably pessimistic; try to seek positives and the men in white coats might be called.

Michael Slater however was understandably unable to remain silent, issuing a defiant rallying cry in his programme notes and via a letter to fans.

He has to speak in terms of investment else only the diehards would even contemplate early ticket renewal.

I've no reason to think he's lying incidentally, but when the club's 'steady state' already implies multi-million deficits (about to grow on the back of lower crowds), investment needs to be very substantial.

In the meantime however he's sought to placate the anger of fans by putting the blame for the recent run firmly on the players, a neat trick that might have fooled me if it wasn't so clearly total bull.

His first gift to Powell was Bradley Wright-Phillips, the surly but talented striker whose goals have earned the team fully 11 points (imagine the League table without those classy finishes).

I'm confident that relegation is now off the table because our pursuers will run out of matches, but I'm horrified at the speed with which a genuine promotion push has hit the wall.

After all even a rather unremarkable 13 points from the same 11 games (eg. P11 W3 D4 L5), would have seen us sitting in 7th place today, two points behind Bournemouth with a game in hand.

Admittedly the new Board were still finding their feet at the time, but if Parky was sacked for (in Slater's words) not winning since mid-November, (only 5 games incidentally), then what must they make of Powell's 11-game run with an arguably stronger squad?

However for the rest of this season it seems sacking Powell is off the table, even though under his stewardship the season has died a slow death, leaving the likes of me amazed at how quickly they can lose interest.

The promised summer investment must thus achieve two goals in my view.

Firstly it must obviously materially improve the squad, and second it must have sufficient 'shock and awe' to persuade the increasingly sizeable utterly disillusioned minority to sit up and take notice.

The problem with the grandiose plans is that we will still be fishing in the same restricted pool for players.

It may not be the small pond we fished in within recent budget constraints, but nor is it exactly the wide open sea (enough water analogies - Ed.).

It's still Premiership youngsters on loan, Championship outcasts, lower division punts and maybe the odd foreign talent.

Meanwhile at least one of Peterborough, Southampton and Huddersfield will still be in League One (each miles ahead of us today), whilst Preston, Sheff Utd etc. will also be no mugs.

This season has also proved again that a couple of managers can be relied on to produce teams better than the sum of its parts (remember that crazy concept?).

It was Brighton, Bournemouth, Leyton Orient and Rochdale this season. I'd keep a keen eye on Sheffield Wednesday and Notts County amongst others for next season.

The concern for Powell must be that if the Board can afford to make substantial investment in the team, ergo they can also afford to sack him.

Indeed a cost-benefit analysis might conclude it's the very best investment they could make, which is why the final eight games are as crucial for Powell as they are meaningless for the club.

My negativity towards Powell has not been comfortable because he is clearly such a decent human being.

But unfortunately diplomats don't make great leaders. The best managers are manipulative (even devious), and utterly convinced of their abilities to add said value.

Perhaps Slater is burdened by the famous quote from one unquestioned managerial great, Brian Clough: "If a Chairman sacks the manager he initially appointed, he should go as well."

As it happens I fancy we'll beat Leyton Orient, three winless matches having taken some of the sting out of their remarkable run of form.

If I'm wrong I just hope there are no repeats of the unfortunate incident before the Southampton game, when a fight broke out after one fan tried to put his season-ticket into another fan's pocket.

Like at least two other Charlton bloggers it seems, I'm off to Florida this weekend and I don't expect to blog much whilst I'm away.

After all as I rather hypocritically said before writing 825 words on the topic, there's not much more to add.