Sunday, 30 March 2008

Hey Lord, Don't Ask Me Questions ...

Today I feel bitter, depressed, cheated, angry, alienated, lethargic. It feels like the worst day for at least a year. But then I always feel this way when the clocks go forward. How can they just rob me of an hour’s kip? I know we get it back later in the year, but that never seems the same. I’m asleep for the extra hour, whereas today the deprivation is all too real. So it feels like a poor exchange. Maybe there’s another reason for feeling naff.

Having seen the highlights this morning the only things to add to last night’s garbled prose (the wine had flowed well before the game and was a requirement after it) would seem to be yes, McCarthy did switch off for their first goal; yes, he has to take most of the rap for Ebanks-Blake’s second (although like Gera’s volley for WBA would have been it was an effort worthy of winning a game); and how did Semedo get away with a yellow for his headbutt? McCarthy has been excellent since coming back into the team, but along with Sodje was exposed yesterday by the Wolves strikers. Semedo was superb early in the season in doing Holland’s job while the latter was injured. Since coming back he has looked less effective and uncomfortable in partnership with Holland. I thought we bought him as a centre-back.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not yet in the mood for reviews of the season, analysis of where it all went wrong (look at the goals against total for home games) and discussion of who should go and how we should structure the team for next year (under Pardew for sure). Clearly there can be no thought of buying in before we have disposed of a number of players. We do have too many, even ignoring the loan signings (for what it’s worth – and it’s a bit tough on Cook and Halford – I can’t see any point in playing anyone who won’t be with the club next season during the remaining games).

A few months back I decided to try to accentuate the positive through to the end of the season as I thought all supporters had a big role to play if we were going to get promoted. More recently it might seem to some, judging by some comments left, that I’m coming across as some sort of apologist for the club and burying my head in the sand as hopes of promotion steadily recede. Fact is if I thought there was any positive action I could think of to improve our promotion chances I would have put in on this blog, for what it’s worth. I have no connection with the club, I have never (to the best of my knowledge) met Pardew or any of the board. And the nearest I’ve been to meeting the players was going to one of those old open days when I was knee-high to the proverbial grasshopper.

In short, I haven’t got a clue why sometimes we manage to play so badly and appear sluggish and poorly motivated in some games, especially at the start, and have no idea what the real mood among the players is. I was one of those who thought when Reid left that we had worked out a good way to play without him (pace and movement, now a distant memory) and that it made sense to sell him. We’ll never know what would have happened if he had stayed; it couldn’t have turned out any worse as we ain’t going up. So in the words of Graham Parker, don’t ask me questions ‘cos there ain’t no answer in me.

However, I’m not going to make any apology for the opinion that the crowd has a positive role to play when things are not going well – and that collectively we’ve not come up to scratch – and that booing the team during the game is totally counter-productive. I’ve never seen our team, indeed any team, play better as a result. We were much improved in the second half yesterday, helped by Zheng replacing Ambrose and presumably some choice words from Pardew.

I was in the East Stand yesterday. The guy I was sat next to started shouting attempts at sarcasm/cynicism after maybe three minutes of the game. Maybe he didn’t like the line-up (personally I think that in the second half, when the overall play was better, Iwelumo and Lita looked as good a combination as we have, which admittedly is tough on Varney). The boorish and loud observations continued. For some reason this person clearly thought he was saying something that wasn’t blatantly obvious to everyone: namely we weren’t playing well. So when we equalised I started asking those around me why the booing had suddenly stopped. There followed a lively and extended exchange with the guy, which I will attempt to paraphrase.

‘I’m entitled to my opinion’. ‘Not really, your opinion is dull and you’re not helping, so keep it to yourself’ (repeat exchange numerous times). ‘Do you think this is good enough?’ ‘No, obviously it isn’t, but what do you suggest to make it better other than booing?’ (repeat ad infinitum). There followed some accusations and observations. Had I been bussed in from Kent? (well, Blackheath actually). He informed me he had been a supporter for 10 years. Think I can claim a few more than that, not that it matters.

To be fair to the guy at no stage did the very noisy exchange threaten to turn violent. When the dust had settled I tried talking to him a couple of times. But he was having none of it. What followed was truly remarkable. He spent the remainder of the game saying nothing, arms folded, looking miserable. He didn’t even react when we equalised in the last minute, just sat and sulked. Seemingly deprived of the ability to whine there was no purpose left. Presumably he felt vindicated by Wolves’ winner. At least he must have gone home happy.

I really don’t want to slag off a long-standing supporter. We need all we can get and I’m sure he has a different take on the matter. I just simply cannot comprehend why some people want to wallow in failure or to think that complaining is somehow enough, some way perhaps of avoiding any sense of association (and I still don’t know what this guy considered to be good enough, presumably a win is good, a defeat is bad). Personally I’m just not interested in coming away from a game having been ‘proved right’ and we’ve lost (I really do prefer being proved completely wrong and we’ve won). Whether we like it or not the team put out on the pitch is the one that the manager thinks is best equipped to win the game. And our comments aren’t going to change anything, especially when they only state the bleedin’ obvious.

So can someone please point out any flaw in the following rationale: I want to leave the game feeling happy (we do after all pay money to attend); I feel happy if we win (occasionally if it’s a draw, never if it’s a defeat); cheering the team in whatever circumstances, during the game, tends to help them play better while booing them tends to make it worse; the team has a better chance of winning if it plays well. This isn’t being an apologist or ignoring certain facts (most obviously that the season is turning out to be a massive disappointment and that there’s a great deal to be done if we are to mount a challenge next season).For those who say that ‘something must be done’ can we please have some suggestions for positive action (not including changing the manager).


Anonymous said...

You speak perfect common sense BA - cheering not booing assists the team perfomance, and surely every Charlton fan wants to help? But neither you nor I can fathom the dark psyche of some of our fellow supporters..Maybe their way of letting off steam is to be negative?

What happens at other clubs? I opted for Dartford (my home town) v Brentwood yesterday. The Darts are storming away at the top of the Rymans North- but of course lost 1-0 (what a great day it was..) Not many of the 1300 stayed to applaud them off at the end like me - they hadn't played well but they'd tried.

At Birmingham yesterday they had a lower gate than us, and they didn't seem to be making much of a racket either. A Sunderland fan on the radio was rightly proud of the row his fans made against Arsenal - but did you notice how many empty seats there were before the winner went in?

I suspect our fickle fan problem is replicated at most clubs at some time. I hope most will not renew season tickets so that the booing fades away; the drop in expectation level should help.

Re Pards, its not the failure to go be in the frame that irks me; its the lack of sytle, and the big gap thats opened between us and the top five. I can't see that changing next season either. This team is his creature.

Still, we can spend a few summer months dreaming of what we might do if were in charge - and winning the Champins league on FIFA 08.

re the paper hat you were sat next to, your restraint and willingness to debate the matter does you credit. If it were me I'd have hit im - you're better man than I Gunga din.

PS what about Keithy Peacock?

Pembury Addick

charlton north-downs said...

BA you make some very valid points. Sometimes it is hard to comprehend some of the supporters. Opposite me is a guy who criticizes Holland for almost everything he does even if he makes a good tackle. Eventually on Saturday a women sitting in front of him turned round and said for "f--- sake or words to that affect leave Holland alone" he's doing OK-which he was. It worked and I never heard another word from him. In over 40 years of supporting Charlton I have never booed a Charlton team even in our darkest days.

Anonymous said...

Vicar here. No need for dispair. The season will be over soon and sadly our chances for promotion dashed for another year.

But the team, the club and the fans will regroup and carry on. AP will have a tough summer of decisions to make but we should give him the support he needs.

Some of the fans have not served the club as they should and if that is how they wish to behave then please stay away!

Roll on a good end of the season, with a few decent wins and then a summer of consolidation and growth.

Keep the faith my friends!

Wyn Grant said...

Some fans (at all clubs) are never happier than when slagging off their own team. The Bloke Behind Me is a prime example. When we were thrashing Stockport County he walked out in disgust. In some cases this is just a way of expressing the negativity in their own fields. Most of them have not played football at even the lowest competitive level (not that I have, I hasten to add). This is one of my favourite Charlton blogs.

Anonymous said...

Agree with every word. I've never understood booing during a game. Has any team in history played better as a result? The usual response from those who boo is 'I pay my money...' and 'if we don't boo, they wont know that the performance is unacceptable'. If people claim that they are 'Charlton till they die' and 'will support them ever more' - how can they start booing when the club goes through a bad patch. Yes, we have significantly underperformed this year and some of that must be down to the manager, but look at the bottom end of the league - Leicester, Southampton and Coventry - clubs of a similar stature who've chopped and changed managers regularly since relegation. If we get a new guy in the 2nd year of parachute payments will go in one burst - any guarantee we will improve, or more importantly is it more likely we will improve than by sticking with Pardew?

I know that football is about opinions, but anyone who can spend most games criticising Matt Holland this season is certifiable and deserves a season ticket ticket (for life) with the Spanners

Nigel Hinton said...

Just as I don't think anything is achieved by booing the team, I don't think anything is achieved
by the manager 'booing' the crowd in an after match interview. Even the stupid booers are much less responsible for defeat than the players and the manager. What comes first - the poor play and the inept tactics or the booing?

Anonymous said...

I'll have my say now on this issue (booing)I won't hide behind 'anonymous' I'll use the name i use on all blogs that i comment on.
First some background. Ive supported this club for forty seasons, and i think this does matter. It matters because it is proof that whatever i say or do, i remain a Charlton Athletic supporter.
This seson has been cr*p.
We have played at a lower level and possibly as badly before. But in the last fifteen years this has been the worst.
We expect to see our team try, we hope to see our team win, we can accept defeat if outplayed by a better team. When we observe the tripe of this season it's unreal to think that anger with the situation can remain bottled up. I paid for season ticket and have been let down. At times i've booed at the games' end. I try not to get on to any individual player, though have occasionally shouted something in moments of extreme frustration. I don't apologise for this, it's the way i am! For heavens sake! the players are adults not ten year olds. They should respond to boos by ramming them down our throat with a better, stronger, harder working performance.
Some of you suggest anyone guilty of booing should stop coming to games. Have you thought that through? Our crowds are diminishing already. The attendance Saturday was approx 18,000 Not the 23,000+ claimed by the club. (it counts all ST holders as present, wether they are or not) We need, indeed must retain all our fanbase, unless we wish to see this club go back to the dark days of Selhurst.
Finally Alan Pardew. I was elated when he got the job. I was disappointed he didn't keep us in the Prem. though that was a hard task. My expectation this season was a top two position with the play offs as a 'back-up' Some will say 'your expectation was to high' Was it? well sorry an' all that,
but that's what it was!
Pardew should resign at the seasons' end, he and his team have failed, and that is not the fault of a few Charlton fans booing.

ChicagoAddick said...

An astute post BA once again. Like Daggs I will make my feelings known at the end of the game but will do my utmost to back them during a game. Our vocal support these days is truly pants but it is certainly not helped by the manager's snide comments - he's paid to manage the players and maybe he should worry about that.

Btw, I have heard of so many fan altercations this season, I don't think we, the fans, have ever been so divided.

Blackheath Addicted said...

For the record I agree with most if not all of the above. Daggs, I hope nobody had the impression I would welcome supporters deserting the club or that anyone has more 'right' to be there. We all pay at the door.

We all, I think, want the same things when it comes to Charlton: starting with promotion all the way through to winning the Premiership and the FA Cup and playing great football.

And yes, we feel frustrated, disappointed etc. Perhaps not just this season but for the past two-and-a-half. Dissatisfaction was growing towards the end of the Curbs era (however strange that now seems), last season bordered on the humiliating, and this season we have had to ratchet down expectations almost with each passing month.

Maybe we can find some more common ground. Say at one end of the scale we have someone who will never boo the team, whatever the circumstances. At the other we have people who start booing after a few minutes. Most people fall somewhere in between. What has bugged me is that it seems for a number of people booing has become the first reaction to a game not going well, as if because they have paid to get in they have some right to automatic success and entertainment. We haven't bought a ticket to the opera.

How does the song go? You give a little love and it all comes back to you (la, la, la, la, la, la, la ...). Yes, we had better get our collective act together because next season is so important.

Anonymous said...

This season has been poor but lets face facts who were we kidding if we thought automatic promotion? Maggs I admire your 40 years service to the club but be realistic-this is a tough division with some good teams and we need a couple of seasons to get our heads around that.

As for the fans, this sort of support is not needed-I would prefer to sit in a stand half empty than listen to the foul mouthed griping of morons with nothing better to say. Players get red carded for arguing with the ref-fans who's only contribution to a game is to slag their own team off should stay away.

This season is not the end of the world-if we are all realistic about what we can achieve over the next few years, sanity will prevail. I reckon "the Vicar" has the right attitude, if a bit bonkers-no offence!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous sums up with 'this season is not the end of the world' Well no it's not, we'll all feel a bit better by next August. But another season like this. Plus the loss of many supporters, boo-ers or not, it could be the end of Charlton Athletic. That seems dramatic, but there are clearly serious financial issues affecting the club. They have looked at a take-over but not found the correct suitor. Peter Varney is leaving and not saying why. We have a ridiculously large playing squad. The board have an enormous problem now with trying to make season-tickets attractive for next season. I genuinely am worried now.

charlton north-downs said...

Hi Daggs
Were in the soft and smelly but my God(sorry Vicar) we have certainly been in far worse situations. If there is one thing that is galling this season is the Championship is there for the taking and we only needed a half descent team or a consistent one to win it.
Come on you Reds. 5 Wins 72 Pts just maybe, Dont worry the white coats are here.

Anonymous said...

Dear BA,
You are now my fav top blog spot (until FV returns).(respect to all other bloggers who have numerous good pointsWG-topical, NYA-informed-NDA Nice bloke- Chic a-all of the above)
What we need is Richard Diggance!
Let me explain...first time I saw him as a support act to Joan Armatrading he walked on to nil reaction at the Hammersmith and said words to the effect-you don't know me -I don't know you- but if you give me a big cheer when I come back on we will both feel better and enjoy this more-result thunderous applause plus cheering when he re-emerged

Anonymous said...

Our club will be fine if we make the right but hard decisions now.

First the finances must stink and the squad has to be reduced. Not always as easy as it sounds...contracts.

Ap is going nowhere, whatever the disgruntled might feel. He has to stay, because if he went a new manager would want to dismantle this, get rid of that and bring in him and him. The money or the time is just not there to allow for that. Getting rid of the manager is a non-starter. Forget it.

This squad is Ap's creation, he has five games to reinforce his views about players he wants to go into next season with. It is vital he gets this done and gets it right so we go forward with a game plan that is clear.

The game plan must allow for the reality of the division we are playing in. Results throughout the season are unpredictable. Form teams dropping points to bottom teams almost every week.

We all want clever quick football but we must have the physical grit and attitude to grind out a result against teams who just come to get stuck in and hope for the best.

BA. So far, has this team shown an ability to mix it, some spine, the bottle to compete against shit opposition relying on the physical?

My view is a clear No.

Right now the game plan is neither one thing or the other and in the remaining games that has to change.

The manager and club must do what is necessary not what it would like to do (that has not worked) to get us out of this division.

Sunderland are a great example from last year. Forget the quality or brand of football they played from one match to the next. They did what they had to do to get promotion. They mixed it physically when it was needed, they worked for the full 90 mins, their concentration was better then any other team. They made so many goal chances with their work rate that the few they took out of the total made, turned them into division champions and now it seems premier survivors.

Do we just lack a playing identity or are we also still trying to do what we would like on the field instead of what we need to do to get the results and promotion.

It surely is time for AP and the club to recognise that and organise things accordingly.

Anonymous said...

This blog always delivers some of the most incisive comments.

The last comment makes two valid points. We do lack a playing identity and we are not doing on the field what is needed to get the points. Our table position answers that.

To use the example of Sunderland,(whatever one thinks about them, their manager or their buying of Andy.) is valid.

I have read that both Hull and Stoke looked at what happened last year and how Sunderland went about things and learnt from it.

I do not have accurate stats but Keane only played the same eleven players less then a dozen times in the whole season.

The players really did not know who was in or out, irrespective of how they had been playing up to that point.

It was the game plan that dictated everything, they had no allegiance to a particular style of play or to any player or players within the squad. Keane did not have a care what it looked like as long as the points were bagged.

Getting to the premiership was the aim and whatever had to be done game by game to bring that closer to reality was done.

Mention has been made of their concentration and work rate for the full 90 mins it is true it gave them such an edge.

We must adopt a style of play suitable to the different challenges this division presents.

Next season let us be ruthless and as adaptable and flexible as Sunderland were.

Lets get the points, get promoted and who cares what it looks like.

Money dictates so much in this game now. Our club has to be in the premiership or we will be left behind.

Cambridge Addick.

Anonymous said...

Vicar here

Some great points made by all.

Certainly we need to play for the 90 and be able to adapt to different styles of oppostion each week.

Aggression (heaven forbid!) is also key, as this is such a physical division. If promotion is key, then playing to fit the division is also key.

Our playing identity must encompass all of the above and also the sheer will and desire to win.

God knows (and he does!) if the players tune in to the passion of the fans we can have a real lash at it next season!

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks for the comments and kind remarks (and on the blog front I hope we continue to add to the ranks as everyone adds a fresh perspective and a lot more; it was the quality of what was being written that encouraged me to start; well, that plus a hangover).

To my mind the successful teams, even in this division, have an edge, which can vary. West Brom have the best forwards/scoring midfielders, which has been enough to keep them in the frame. Others can rely on their system (however ugly) and consistency of selection. We can't blame where we are on bad luck; but injuries have been a key factor working against players developing better understanding.

For next season Pardew will I think have to decide what are our strengths and play to them. I hope he opts for the pace and movement approach we saw against Stoke and Palace; if he goes ugly we will live with it if it works. Failure next season and we will be in exactly the same boat as many other teams (and probably worse off financially than many).

Anonymous said...

Once again I fell for the April Fool's joke on the Charlton website - apparently it says we are still going to get into the playoffs !

Anonymous said...

BA you want a pace and movement approach next season. Have we the quality in the squad to produce that consistently?

I thing you are missing the point suggested by other comments with regard to teams being successful in this division.

I agree with the others that the reference to Sunderland is as perfect an illustration of what we have to do next season and where we are going wrong this season.

First lets state the obvious. We have to get promoted, that is essential not just the obvious aim but it must happen or the consequences will see us left behind.

If you accept that, then we need to do what ever it takes to get the points game by game.

Because, this division contains teams whose approach varies so much
and some who are intent on bullying their way victory. We Charlton have to forget about what we would like to do and face each game as a one off challenge.

Their are days your pace and movement may work but their are many other times when we need to muscle our way through and get a result. We have to be adaptable not marry ourselves to a style of play that may look pretty when it works but will see us kicked off the park in some games.

But the most important point in reference to Sunderland is their full on, all out commitment to the task in hand for 90 mins and their willingness to concentrate and stick to a game plan to suit each game. Never forget opinions as to what I or you think of them in any regard does not matter, they went up as champions and are likely to stay their.

In how many games have we seen this present squad commit for 90 mins. Yes the usual four to five players do, but the rest?

Our concentration levels are dire but that may reflect a lack of clarity as to what the game plan is in the first place.

A word used above was ruthless and that is what our team has to become.

That starts with a decision if we want to get promoted and we all do. Then fuck what we want or think, treat every game as a challenge and do whatever is required to get the points.

In my opinion we have four to five of the most hard working consistent players in the division. That has to be the standard.

Every team that plays us has to be aware that it will be a battle, we will fight, hassle and give it all to secure the points. You take anything from us next season you will have earned it.

To repeat in some way what was said in another comment. What we want to do is now over. If we want promotion it is time to start doing what we need to do.

Ap have the courage to be ruthless.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything in the last blog post. Forget style and how it looks on the park, play hard every game, make everything count for 90 mins every game.

Don't leak silly goals, defend set pieces and also become good at them at their end. Become a fortress at home and a scary team to play away! Its all about getting points and getting promoted, nothing else!

Roll on next season and lets hope we grow some balls.

Blackheath Addicted said...

I do indeed agree with much of the posts - but not all. Being ruthless in footballing terms amounts to taking a high percentage of your chances - which is more to do with skill and confidence than balls - and denying chances to the opposition - which might have something to do with the dangly bits.

So, score more and concede less. Sounds good to me.