In early September, after beating Leicester, I rattled off something and gave it a headline of ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’. Fast forward a few weeks and that isn’t exactly a title likely to be repeated. One decent away draw followed by three defeats, each one in its way increasingly dispiriting. The Millwall game was notable only for how poorly we played (perhaps also for what was a miserable crowd for this fixture, of just short of 16,000). Until yesterday we could at least highlight the fact that each game we’d played had been decided by the odd goal (leaving aside the half-completed Doncaster game). Some fellow Addicks did drive up for the game and the reply to my text to them offering commiserations was ‘the day has had very little to recommend it’.
At least when it comes to Charlton I do (perhaps too often) try to accentuate the positive. Only two crumbs of comfort come to mind. First, we know that we we’re likely to struggle if we’re without key players and being without four for yesterday at least (Solly, Jackson, Kermorgant and Cort) didn’t inspire confidence before the start. They will come back and we will improve with them. Second (and this may be clutching at straws), at the end of September last season we were 19th and hardly pulling up trees (of course we’d beaten Leicester but had only two wins from the first eight games); by early November we were 21st and about to take on Cardiff at home, with just one win (and four defeats) out of seven at home. Finishing ninth (and strongly) did put a gloss on a season which with seven or eight games left could have ended with us going back down.
Of course it’s different this time around. Last season we were finding our feet back in The Championship and progressing. But let’s not forget the mood going into that Cardiff game – and especially after 20 minutes. The crowd were instrumental in the turnaround that night – and that backing in turn is due in no small part to support for Sir Chris. Anyone daft enough to want him to be replaced should seriously ask themselves why – and perhaps more important why they think that such a change would lead to something better.
I’ve seen comments on pieces from other bloggers expressing surprise that the fans haven’t been much more vocal in their criticism of the board/owners. But what do we (collectively) do? Start singing ‘sack the board’? We know full well that we lose money and are reliant on the cheques being written. It may well be that the owners have had enough and want to sell; if so, the idea touted around of a price tag of around 40m, however structured, is also plain daft. If they are still committed to the cause (which in loose terms can be stated as making us the premier team in Europe), and it really is the constraints of the FPL that are driving decisions on budgets, they would of course help their cause by communicating their intentions. Yes, Michael Slater has written in the programme, but we know he doesn’t really call the shots – and if it boils down to whether you believe the denials of any plans to sell or the sentiments expressed in The Voice of the Valley there can’t be any doubt as to who gets the nod from most fans (including me).
We know we have two tough home games coming up. The horror scenario involves first Andy Reid reminding us of what we once had, and then Ricardo Fuller reminding us of what we let go. The idea that if these games go badly Powell will be offered up as a sacrificial lamb still wouldn’t stack up. Instead any such move would be more likely to spark a proper revolt against the owners. What are the reasons for sacking a manager? Well, the expectation that another guy would do a better job with the available resources, even that the manager has lost the backing of the players, which amounts to the same thing. I can’t see the case for another manager doing a better job. The only thing that worries me is that there was a decidedly downbeat tone to Sir Chris’ comments after yesterday’s game. Hope it was just a case of immediate post-match disappointment and that he’s feeling better today.
When you’re in trouble you need unity and character, from the fans, the team, the management, and the board. In the past two seasons the team has demonstrated the character and commitment required, on many occasions; last season the fans stood up when it counted; and those who want a managerial change might like to listen again to Sir Chris’ speech after the final game. He, us and the team all need a lift and I for one want to walk away from the next two games proud of our team, even if we don’t get the results. That requires the team, whoever turns out, showing character and collective resolve. Those qualities were missing against Millwall and we need to get them installed again, quickly.