A posting like this really ought to wait until the end of the season, when we will be trumpeting our success in the face of all the doom-mongers, or at least until after tomorrow’s game. But since the BBC site has a blog posting on ‘What’s Gone Wrong At Charlton’ and all and sundry, including yours truly, has said their piece, perhaps there’s scope for a purely personal and arbitrary allocation of the blame for our current plight.
Curbishley: I simply cannot go along with those who even partially blame Curbs. No, he wasn’t perfect. Our youth development suffered under him, but only because of a single-minded focus on keeping us in the Premiership and doing what was necessary to achieve that overriding objective. He bought some players who didn’t work out, but his record on that front overall is outstanding (Darren Bent?). Yes, he went stale and perhaps stayed a season too long; but we started his last season with a team that played the best football I have seen from a Charlton side before the side broke up. I think he stopped improving as a manager in the last couple of years (and maybe lost faith when it became clear that season ticket sales really couldn’t justify quick expansion of the ground to the sort of levels that would have allowed us to really compete in the top flight) and allowed a sense of ennui to set in. He ended up passing on a tired team in need of a serious revamp, but to that extent allowed his successor to make his mark from the start. Whatever small portion of the blame is attributed to him for the condition he left us in should be set against our situation when he was appointed and his role in what followed.
Blame Rating: 5% (only on the grounds that Jesus Christ would not get a 0).
Dowie: His saving grace is that it’s not really his fault that he isn’t very good. And whatever was going on in his personal life at the time must have had an effect. I still seems strange that he was appointed to head a tripartite not of his choosing, but his only fault there was to take the job on those terms (if he didn’t think it would work). I don’t automatically agree with those who say he was sacked far too soon as there have been enough hints that a lot was going wrong behind the scenes. Fact is far too many of the players he bought didn’t work out, under him or his successors, and he left us with the coffers not only bare but being bled further by the rise in the wage bill.
Blame Rating: 20%
Reed: Oh come on. He wasn’t brought in to be the manager, took the job in a crisis, and moved aside once an obvious replacement became available. He behaved honourably throughout. His tenure will not be remembered as a golden age it’s true; and his comments about Prozone stats after we had been hammered at Spurs still raise a chuckle. But have a heart.
Blame Rating: 5%
Pardew: Can’t take the rap for relegation, although with seven games to go I (incurable optimist that I seems to be in matters Charlton) thought we would stay up – only for the team to wilt under the pressure. But despite the enforced changes had a squad last season that should have won automatic promotion. His failings in that respect – to shape a team to play in a certain fashion depending on its strengths, and to address weaknesses – became all too apparent this season. And for whatever reason he failed to really motivate the players. There’s nothing wrong with arrogance when you succeed, but when you fail it becomes a real liability. He not only bought badly but tinkered unnecessarily, bringing in a spate of unfathomable loan signings (before landing Lita, who might have lifted us into the play-offs if he’d arrived in January and we’d not bought Gray).
Blame Rating: 20%
Parkinson: Only two things count against him. First, he didn’t do the dishonourable thing and walk out on Colchester to take over from Curbs. Second, he didn’t give us the ‘new manager bounce’ this season. But neither afford him a high blame rating and there are signs now that he is shaping the team – albeit with the necessary assistance of loan signings – to suit his style.
Blame Rating: 1%
The Board: Murray and co acknowledge that with hindsight wrong choices were made. In my opinion the only truly bad decision was to require that Curbs’ successor worked with Reed and Robson rather than to show confidence in the new man to choose his people (which could of course have been Reed and Robson). In many respects, given the known alternatives, Dowie was the safe choice as manager; I don’t think it was a mistake not to readvertise the post once Dowie was sacked; and nobody disputed Pardew coming in. The board provided good backing given resources for Dowie and Pardew – and of course are paying the price for decisions that have not worked out (rather than obviously bad decisions) in the value of their investment. As with Curbs, a blame rating has to take account of their role in what went before.
Blame Rating: 10%
The Players: Do you blame the manager or the players when it all goes wrong. Well, both obviously. Too many of them failed to deliver and for whatever reason were not up for the fight.
Blame Rating: 20%
The Fans: We have to consider the role that seemingly endless whining played in Curbs’ attitude towards the end, and the fact that far from becoming the fortress talked of The Valley has been over the past couple of seasons a place that no-one has feared. I guess we’re no worse than others (after all, Arsenal get booed off the pitch sometimes) but we’re no better either. And we could and should have been.
Blame Rating: 5%
The Premier League: I know we finished second-bottom, but again with seven games left we were reasonably well placed to survive – if West Ham were out of the equation. It makes a big difference if you are trying to scramble one place higher or get above two opposing teams. In that context, the Premier League’s decisions over Tevez cost us dear (if I was a Sheff Utd fan it would still be incandescent with rage). I have no axe to grind with West Ham, they were defending their own interests. But the Premier League’s decisions were scandalous and indirectly cost us as well as Sheff Utd.
Blame Rating: 9%
Referees/Acts of God: Few teams get relegated without having been unlucky at key moments. And there were none bigger than the linesman’s gaffe in injury time when we were 2-1 up against Fulham. Still hurts. I won’t even mention the succession of penalties we should have been awarded. Then there have been a string of serious and disruptive injuries in the past two seasons, probably more than a team can expect to suffer. I realise you make your own luck, but sometimes you don’t.
Blame Rating: 5%
Ultimately you need a scapegoat. Every outfit has (and needs) one. So, as the Liverpool supporters used to sing: ‘don’t blame it on the sunlight, don’t blame it on the moonlight, don’t blame it on the good times, blame it on Traore’. Fact is we were afforded an awful early fixture list under Dowie (which encouraged a sense of crisis from early on) but on the first day of the season in bright sunshine and with a new team and manager were 1-0 up away at West Ham. Traore manages to get himself sent off after 20 minutes. It’s been downhill ever since (until now).
Blame Rating: 100%