Friday 23 September 2011

Calmly Reassured

There’s something calmly reassuring about a post late on a Friday ahead of a Saturday game, especially when one’s mood has been soothed by a liquid lunch (networking, as they say). It will quickly be buried under match reports, so there’s no danger of anyone actually reading it (which of course begs the point about posts at other times). I was trying to mentally justify writing nothing since the Exeter game (and let’s face it after we scored there was nothing to write about then) and the Preston reserves run-out, on the grounds of the inordinate time taken in trying to sort out a new oven, new boiler, roof repairs (which morphed into brickwork), ordering new cowboy boots from the US (not as easy as it sounds), and a little diversion caused by work (there have been a few wobbles on financial markets of late). But none of this really stacks up. Fact is, when there’s nothing to complain about there’s not much to say.

Sir Chris has this truly annoying habit of saying things that I agree with. That may just mean I’m gullible, but how can we quibble about the start we’ve had and the way we’re playing? We’ve even managed to renew the French connection by bringing in Kermorgant, which will keep Suzanne happy (he’s a Breton and she says they are stubborn; but then I did read that people from Lyon are cold and only care about money). Of course it’s early days and there are concerns about our ability to overcome teams full of lumps playing head tennis. But fundamentally things can only get ... well, worse. It is a splendid initiative to try to fill the ground for tomorrow’s game with entry for a fiver (and I wouldn’t for a second gripe about the net value of my season ticket having been further eroded, having managed to attend just one home league game to date) and I don’t mind us tempting fate in view of last season’s attempt to do the same. Pressure is something to be welcomed and this year’s batch look so much better placed to cope with heightened expectations.

What we won’t know for a while is whether they have what it takes when the games come thick and fast after the turn of the year. The stable, key partnerships to date – when did we last play the same full-backs, central defenders, central midfielders, and forwards so consistently? - are bound to get disrupted sooner or later. The news that Pritchard is sidelined for 4-6 weeks means that Hughes is the only viable cover in central midfield, given that Alonso will be some way short of match practise when available (it was nice to see the club site give an update on his progress), unless Euell is pressed into service in that area. In other areas we look well covered, especially defence, provided Green is getting over his virus. Clearly Kermorgant’s arrival does push Benson (and Euell) down the pecking order, with fresh speculation that he will go out on loan once his pinkie’s OK.

If there is a quibble so far, it’s to do with the possible mental effect of going 2-0 up in a game. If there’s a statistician out there (maybe the work’s already been done) I’d like to know if there’s been any other season in our history, or period of games, like the season so far. Eight games played and we’ve gone 2-0 ahead in six of them. In only one of the six have we gone on to extend the lead, while we’ve been pulled back to 2-1 in one and to 2-2 in two (one of which we did score again to win of course). I’m not suggesting that we’re so good that we’ve been taking our foot off the pedal, that we have consciously started to play differently, or even that we are able to play at the same intensity for a full 90 minutes. Rather that with only three clean sheets in the first eight games we’ve not to date proved adept at shutting out the opposition, so there’s absolutely no good reason to think or play any differently when ahead (OK, 4-0 up with five minutes on the clock and it’s a different story).

Of course, when we look back on our times as Addicks it’s the tight games that feature uppermost in the favourites list; I wouldn’t change them for all the tea in China (except for the ones we lost). But I have absolutely no complaints about rolling over teams (off the top of my head slaughtering West Brom comes to mind as far as competitive games are concerned). I like calm, reassuring games where we run out easy winners.

We do of course have another game coming up shortly after Saturday – and I’m expecting to be there for that one. Milton Keynes isn’t far away and with friends driving it’s all doable. It will be another ground on my list for ‘Doing The 92’ (check out the website and you never know possibly the next series of Eggheads). I expect I’m one of the few football supporters in the country that bears no ill-will towards MK Dons (over and above hoping that they don’t interfere with our promotion campaign). The rebirth of Wimbledon is something to be admired and applauded; their fans reacted to what for them was a terrible development in exactly the right way and it’s great to see them moving up the leagues. But if I owned the old Wimbledon I’d have felt obliged to move the team as once they’d lost their ground and been relegated there was no feasible turnaround for them (other than going down the leagues, perhaps stabilising, and starting to move back up to where the new Wimbledon are now). I’m old enough to have been around when there was speculation that we would have to up sticks to Milton Keynes in order to survive. There was never a risk that the move would lead to a US-style franchise approach (there’s more danger on that front if Spurs were permitted to move to east London) and MK Dons now have no links with the past. Good luck to them, no more or less to others. Of course, I reserve the right to call them all the names under the sun if Tuesday doesn’t go to plan.

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