A (home) victory to send us into the international break, a transfer deadline day without the mooted sale of a key player to raise material funds (which does somewhat narrow the shortlist of potentials), plus what looks like a decent exchange to strengthen the side. The concerns don’t go away, but a number of them are greatly eased. I can’t remember the mood – judging by others’ posts and the comments of other Addicks - being as down as it was ahead of Saturday’s game, especially at this stage of the season (it would of course have been a good deal worse this long into the ‘Dowie season’ if we had an inkling of what lay ahead).
First and foremost, against Leicester there was nothing wrong with the team’s attitude, as underlined on the club site by Kermorgant. Concerns on that front have not surprisingly been aired, given the number of players out of contract at the end of this campaign and the possibility that uncertainty about the club’s finances and ambitions might be affecting performances on the pitch. Sir Chris talked about some soul-searching in the dressing room of late and perhaps that had the desired effect. It’s also reasonable to suggest that it’s no coincidence that our first victory of the season was also the first game that Jackson lasted a full 90 minutes (98 if the daft amount of stoppage time is added). I wouldn’t say he had an outstanding match, but every decent team needs a strong spine and ours runs through Hamer, Morrison, Jackson and Kermorgant.
The change in formation has clearly helped, especially given Solly’s absence (with what now seems to be a genuine niggle rather than the pre-transfer tactical injury we had feared). I thought Stephens looked much more assured in a five-man midfield. There’s plenty of work still to be done at the back as the coordination was sometimes off. Sometimes two of the three centre-backs were jumping for the same ball and, potentially more costly, when Leicester had their two moments when players broke through all our defenders were drawn to the ball, with nobody trying to cover the spare man (the result of which was one Hamer one-on-one save and one spurious appeal for a penalty, to which the ref correctly responded to by issuing the second yellow).
Seems like some more practise with the system and better communication is needed, but we didn’t see the howlers that Doncaster benefited from. The conditions there were presumably a factor, but belatedly getting the Middlesbrough programme I was struck by Hamer commenting that Bournemouth scored from a short corner that they’d tried a couple of times before and that we should have been alert to it; sleeping at the back against Doncaster saw their forward left alone to pick up a throw (to cross for their first) and a guy unmarked from a corner to send in a free header (which led to their third). The ‘sins’ on Saturday seemed to be the result of over-enthusiasm rather than being asleep, which has to be the lesser of two evils.
The shipping out on loan of Hollands and Green do smack of bon voyage rather than au revoir. Good luck to both of them if they don’t return (ideally both will have outstanding success and come back raring to go). Their departures, temporary or not, do mark a further distancing from the promotion team/squad and I guess a natural evolution. Powell talked early last season about the players finding their feet in the higher division, but of the 33 with squad numbers listed for the first home game of the last campaign some 13 have now left us (for the record Taylor, Green, Haynes, Wright-Phillips, Wagstaff, Kerkar, Sullivan, Mambo, Bover, Hollands, Smith, Hayes and Clarke); the total would be 14 if you include Button, who came and went in the interim. Of the other 20, however, no less than 10 featured in Saturday’s starting X1 (the only addition being Church), while all bar Hughes, Cook, Osborne and Azeez have been in the matchday squad, with the other new additions being Gower, Wood and Sordell. Now we add the name of Stewart, who hopefully will prove to be a star.
The simple fact that nobody was sold on deadline day is in itself reassuring, although of course that begs the question of whether there were offers on the table. Selling Kermorgant would have been just criminal, horribly destabilising; selling Solly would have been a big loss but as others have suggested more understandable if the price was right (Wyn Grant has cited sources as indicating that Solly has signed a new contract, although given that the club has announced Pigott agreeing a new deal and has made no announcement re Solly this has to remain unconfirmed). All conjecture now, at least until January. Perhaps the Voice of the Valley piece on the mooted club sale document had the desired effect in convincing the owners that they needed to avoid a major sale at this juncture to strengthen the board’s claims that no such plans have been put forward.
The owners have only themselves to blame for such idle thoughts, given their decision to remain annonymous/silent. Its wishful thinking to imagine that concerns on that front will be eased – barring news of some Sheff Utd-style new investor. We have to look to VotV to keep up the pressure, plus the CAST to work to improve relations between the board/owners and the fans (can they claim the credit for red wine appearing in the East Stand bar? If so, they have my thanks, just as the club will have my money; just please change the sign saying ‘beer only’ for some queues to ‘booze only’ as it gets a little confusing for us simple wine drinkers). I just wonder if I’m the only sceptic who feels that the new ‘fair play’ rules will be repeatedly used, by many clubs, as a smokescreen. Any accountant worth his/her salt should be able to drive a coach and horses through much of the restrictions.
On the CAST front, of course I’ve signed the petition for getting The Valley to be designated an asset of community value. But I can’t help feeling that the relevant legislation (apparently contained in the Localism Act) might be – indeed should be – a double-edged sword. If places such as The Valley are (understandably and quite correctly) designated ACVs, it is only a natural counter-balance to assume that the legislation also allows for some places to be designated LCVs (liabilities of community value). Surely there should be scope for fans to campaign for the removal of unwanted local eyesores in the hope that by being designated LCVs the chances of their being demolished asap would be increased. I can, just off the top of my head, think of two perfectly suitable ‘stadiums’ not too far away.