So after all it was a masterstroke to hold the AGM the day after. Note to Palace fans: ‘sha na na na na na na naaah, sha na na na na na naaah na, sha na na na na na na na, who’s f*****g laughing now?’ For today at least we are. And I’ve just seen the news that Kuqi is apparently not ready to stay at Palace next season on a “reduced contract”. Personally I’d write it on a postage stamp after last night’s display.
The meeting was an appropriate mix of gloom/realism and resolute optimism. The early proceedings inevitably had an element of the commissariat about them as resolutions were voted on. As those seated at the top table could pass on the nod anything they wanted it was pure formality. I even resisted the temptation to vote against the retention of the company’s accountants (only on the grounds that I know someone else who would like the business).
On finances, it would appear we are on course this season for a loss of up to £0.5-2.0m (I think that was the cited range). One illuminating question was with respect to the amount in the accounts cited for last year’s money spent on ‘new’ players (£12m) and how did this square with the sums quoted for transfers in. It would appear that the figure is the cash outgoings from the club for transfers, which included staggered payments for players under the Dowie regime. That doesn’t entirely square with Derek Chappell’s chairman’s statement in the accounts, which said that the sum was for “new players for the 2007/08 season”. Bit more care with the wording please as I, like others I’m sure, assumed the figure included wages of players signed.
More important, it was made clear that if we stay in the Championship the board is targeting cutbacks for next season of £10m. That seems appropriate given the loss of the parachute payment and probably lower revenues from other sources. When asked about the extent of cuts in the event of relegation, Steve Waggott indicated an additional sum of £3m. Given that if we are relegated the drop in revenues is surely going to exceed that sum, it would appear that either the board cannot realistically cut further in the time available or is not inclined to plan for more. Either way, it is hard to see us avoiding a significant loss next season if we are relegated. How that would get covered remains to be seen. May it not come to pass.
That inevitably led into the administration question. Chappell gave a less than resolute rejection of the possibility, commenting that there is no plan to go into administration. I’m inclined to assume that this was a realistic statement, amounting to ‘never say never’, rather than an indication that there may be no plan but it is an option.
The remainder involved a number of useful insights into player, managerial and strategy issues. One overall point first. After the meeting early this season with Murray one of our number (I think it was Drinking During The Game if memory serves) wrote that he seemed rather tired and by implication perhaps ready to back out. It was fair comment at the time. However, today there were no such signals. Murray (and Chappell) gave a spirited defence of the board’s commitment and enthusiasm, plus a timely reminder of how much they had put into the club (only to see the value of the asset decline substantially). It was a good display, one which didn’t hide their disappointment at the situation we find ourselves in.
On current player issues, the board talked of hoping to bring in two new faces before the closing of the transfer window. One, not surprisingly (and now urgently in view of Fortune’s injury last night) is a centre-half, the other possibly a striker. There was discussion of the merits of Dickson (but no mention of Todorov) and the indication was that he still has some growing up to do before he merits a starting place but that it is expected he will stay with us. There was some doubts cast on whether Gray is up for the fight. It was indicated that Wright will be allowed to go out on loan as with Racon and Zhi to return it is unlikely he would be forcing his way into the first team in the near future (although one note of caution was that Racon’s knee still isn’t 100%). The Shelvey situation remains unresolved. The club has apparently offered him a good contract to stay but there can be no guarantee that he will sign. We will just have to wait and see.
The realistic question was posed as to whether Parkinson had been appointed just because he was there and cheap (or rather would have been a further expense to dispose of). The board was realistic in stating that the club was in no position to attract a top and proven manager, but also strong endorsement of Parkinson and the effect he has had on the players and that, together with Kinsella (and yes, I did miss his run to the Covered End last night; just as I didn’t realise we picked up a trophy at Wembley until later I was too busy going ape-shit), they are formulating the sort of side they want. It was said that Parkinson has totally different ideas from Pardew about the type of player he wants (although to some extent that has to be fashioned around what is possible in our situation). Special mention was given to Murty and the impact that he has had on the dressing room.
The impression was that the board is much more comfortable with him than Pardew, while acknowledging that nobody disagreed with his appointment at the time. One aside was that having signed Iwelumo at the start of this season when strikers had to go Pardew apparently said Big Chris was first on the list, on the grounds that with him around the other players were just inclined to play long balls in his direction. That sounded like a sad indictment of his managerial abilities; the players don’t have to just lump it forward because he’s there and without him this season we have, in my opinion, lacked at least a fall-back when chasing games. Whether he simply had to go because of wages is, of course, another matter.
The board indicated that Pardew’s attitude was simply that we were better than the rest. Fine when its proved on the pitch. Note to Nigel: your comments on Charlton players being ashamed of themselves for not putting in the sort of effort seen last night have some merit but can’t tell the whole story. You have to ask why the manager couldn’t get that commitment out of them, why he had brought some of them here in the first place, and the draining effect all round on such a long winless run. Last night should serve as a reminder to the players the sort of effort needed to win games in this division. It must be easy to blame bad luck etc for losing and you can simply forget the collective effort that needs to be put in on the pitch. Hopefully last night will prove an enduring reminder.