I don’t know. A string of dire performances and the chattering classes (of which I am a proud member) can’t stop offering their advice and opinion. A marked improvement (by the sound of it) and a decent away draw (albeit one which might obviously have been something better) and what is some people’s response? Total silence. Well, if there’s nothing much new to complain about what’s the point?
In my defence I didn’t go to Plymouth for the game (admittedly a strange sort of defence from a supporter) and had to rely on ITV’s belated Championship highlights (why do they keep changing the time on Sunday morning? It plays havoc with my schedule). As it happens Lyon was visiting London and stayed until Tuesday, which along with one or two work commitments put back any second-hand comments on the game (along the lines of what were you doing between the penalty and ‘news of another goal at Home Park’). Since then I have been waiting in vain for the good folk at France Football to update the section of their site covering CFA Groupe B to at least provide an update on the fortunes of Lyon Duchere, my adopted French team. But they too seem to have gone for an early hibernation. (The team is sitting comfortably in mid-table but a proper update will have to wait.)
So the only part of possible substance in this post is the overdue acknowledgement that Saturday at least gives us something to build on. For heaven’s sake can we please try to do that? After all, we have had the false dawns of late of the first 20 minutes against Bristol City, the second half against Burnley, and the last 10 minutes away at Ipswich. Disappointment at not getting three points is far outweighed by the impression that the attitude all round was better. I honestly don’t care much about our league position at the moment. It’s not being complacent but its too early to be desperate – we have players good enough in this division if they play to anything like their potential - and any thoughts of the play-offs are for the time being at least for the birds. I am content if there is tangible and sustained improvement – given the low base of some recent performances we are starting from.
As regards playing to potential, it seems that Ambrose will never be able to achieve that in a Charlton shirt. In the Premiership he sometimes thrived but was seldom a match-winner or managed to impose himself on games. In the Championship he seems to have gone backwards and the idea of a rejuvenated player post-operation has been something of an illusion. It’s all something of a pity, but no sorrow at his moving on (or back home). We’ll have to see whether Ipswich manage to get more out of him – if they do maybe we’ll have him back in the new year. Whether it’s a good move presumably depends on who Pardew brings in on loan.
As regards the game tomorrow, bringing back Semedo seems to have paid dividends and a bolstered midfield, with a front three/midfield five at least looks worth sticking with for away at Birmingham (assuming Semedo is fit). With Youga and Moutaouakil providing good support going forward the formation doesn’t need to be as defensive as it sounds – and at least with Todorov and Dickson involved there is the opportunity for some changes if needed. Let’s not forget we were losing for a large part of the game on Saturday, prompting changes from Pardew, rather than the starting line-up proving a revelation. Bottom line is that everyone acknowledges there have been too many changes to the team of late, so a little continuity might not go amiss.
It seems that the one area where there has been a change is in Pardew’s preparation for the game. After Plymouth he commented that "I entered the week thinking 'if I was a new manager, what would I do?' I changed everything around - training, the whole shebang - for the game and got the reaction I wanted.” Sounds fine and sensible, good idea to try to freshen things up all round. I was rather more concerned with what he said before the game: "I've really planned the week. I've looked at the team, reviewed what has brought us success and what hasn't, and addressed that. I've concentrated on the team and the players we've got, to prepare them for a tough encounter at Plymouth.” There’s been enough Pardew-bashing of late, but quite frankly what on earth do you normally do during the period before a game?
Birmingham. I can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to go to Birmingham (in truth, as a Londoner born and bred, I struggle to think of what function places like Birmingham have, other than to house people with funny accents). The only possible pleasure comes from a happy return after a Charlton success. Of course, we all know our favourite St Andrews match. But a decent number two for me is still Sasha Ilic’s heroic display in a 0-0 draw to deny Birmingham a play-off place (with our place – and our glorious triumph – already assured). We had little to play for, but with the Brummies, including the utterly unlikeable Jasper Carrot, going out of their way to try to intimidate the team responded magnificently, none more than Sasha. If we can show half the character tomorrow that the team did that day we will be fine.