Now I’m all for accentuating the positive, even sometimes with the tongue planted firmly in the cheek. And I don’t particularly enjoy criticising others – by implication it means I am not especially happy with the prevailing situation, and by nature I much prefer to be a happy bunny. After all, its not as if we ask much of our football team. Only that it wins, entertains, shows commitment to the cause, gets into Europe – or at the very least doesn’t lose to Palace. However, sometimes things strike the wrong chord and it seems to me that there have been a couple of examples of that of late.
First, the Charlton website is touting the fact that despite two defeats we are still ‘only’ four points off a play-off spot. That statement is depressing at every level. It suggests that a play-off spot is the pinnacle of our ambitions (which in terms of club development suggests we have gone backwards to the point of the last time we only sneaked into the play-offs – to lose to Palace); it even hints that we are, with a limited horizon, succeeding. And to be four points off a play-off spot after nine games, lying 17th in the table, is a source of misery, not hope. After all, if we continue in the same fashion after 18 games we will be ‘only’ eight points off a play-off spot; and after 36, as the season enters the final run-in, we will be handily placed, tucked in just some 16 points below the team in sixth.
Second, Alan Pardew in his programme notes for the Sheff Wed game went out of his way to “reassure supporters that this club is not a vehicle for me – this is not a stop-off on my career”. Another time and in a different context these remarks would have been appreciated, and I assume they are heart-felt. However, Pardew’s stock has fallen since his failure to keep us in the Premiership (no real blame there but with seven games to go I would have backed us to stay up – and still hope we join the queue of those waiting to sue West Ham) and more particularly the failure to rebound. As some fans apparently made clear at the Palace game, the table has turned and for the near future at least it is up to Pardew to demonstrate that he is the still the right man to manage the club. No Charlton fan that I know of is currently contemplating the risk of Pardew jumping ship to join another club.
Even the great Lennie Lawrence called it wrong when he took his realistic appraisal of situations to the extent of considering Charlton a small club with a ceiling of potential that could not be raised. We all have unrealistic ambitions for our teams, but not many clubs can point to the sorts of attendance that we enjoyed for long periods, or the extensive potential catchment area for new fans. That the conditions were never in place to begin to exploit that potential during his tenure is a fact. But most clubs simply do not have that potential. Curbs (and no doubt Richard Murray) seemed to me to get it right by acknowledging that the key to our future is being able to both expand the capacity of The Valley and to fill it. Until that happens in the Premiership we will always be punching above our weight and in the Championship we are really just another club (with ambitions).
At the moment I don’t want to look at the league table, or hear ‘reassurances’ that some people are not too big for us. I do want to hear and see evidence that we are moving in the right direction. In practical terms that means Pardew having the support of the players, the players showing the necessary commitment, and the fans providing the backing that can help. We need to concentrate on playing better and finding the style of play (and combination of players) that best suits our available resources. (To the relief of anyone reading I’m not going to repeat the contents of the previous post.)
Also, on Saturday the last thing I want to hear is booing if we start poorly and/or go behind. Whether Pardew is the right man for the job is now a real issue for discussion – for that it’s worth, my view is that unless he clearly loses the support of the players he is and should be given the season to prove it; after all, we don’t have much to lose – but not during the game. It’s the same old well-worn argument. But it still boils down to a definition of supporter.