Can’t go into this weekend without something a bit more upbeat than the last post. There has to be some fun, otherwise what’s the point? So come Sunday morning, at some ungodly hour, I’ll be doing the trip up to Sheffield. It’s one I’m used to, having spent three years-plus in the city; but to the best of my knowledge I’ve never seen us compete in an FA Cup quarter-final (I missed Operation Riverside, and the one against Bolton; if there was another I’ve forgotten it). One game away from a Wembley FA Cup semi-final, the first in my lifetime, to be then one game away from almost certain European football at The Valley next season. Well, even I still have to dream sometimes.
There’s not much point speculating about the team and the formation, given fitness doubts. Suffice to say that if all are fit and fresh enough (with the start of the fixture glut this weekend) the team that takes the pitch would be expected to include Hamer, Wilson, Wiggins, Morrison, Jackson, Cousins and Poyet. Add to that bunch Church, given his current cup record, and Wood or Dervite (both of course if Morrison isn’t available) and there’s only two other places. Presumably a second forward would be one of Sordell, Tudgay or Ghoochannejhad (with the other two on the bench, unless Peter the Pole gets a berth) and the other midfield starting slot one from Green, Harriott or Ajdarevic (unless Wilson is moved further forward).
I’d guess it will be a case, as against QPR, of putting out the two banks of four, to put the emphasis on keeping things tight. The fact that Sheff Utd are in League One is pretty irrelevant for this game, especially given their current form. Having the hoodoo sign over Sheffield, when it comes to the big games, should work to our advantage (I’ m drawing a veil over my last trip to Bramall Lane, when we put in a spineless performance in the Premiership relegation season and lost in the last minute); but who scores first may well be the key to the game.
It was pleasing to see that BBC ‘football expert’ Mark Lawrenson has gone for a 1-0 win for Sheffield. Superb footballer but a lazy pundit. It sticks in my mind that a few years back Rangers were due to play Lyon in the Champions League group stage, having won in Lyon earlier in the season. When asked if he thought Rangers would win he said ‘why not? They won in Lyon’. I have a passing interest in Lyon, due to my French partner Suzanne, and knew that after a very poor start to the season Lyon were by then on a roll. I would have expected an ‘expert’ to have taken a few minutes to check, perhaps even just to be aware because of what you get paid for. Lyon won the game. His ‘opponent’ this weekend in the forecasting game, Bastille drummer Chris ‘Woody’ Wood, is quoted on the BBC site as saying “I’m not too bad at guessing scores” and has gone for 3-2 to us. I’ll settle for that (but might prefer a 0 for them).
Back to the other matters (back to negativity?). I did read in full the report on the meeting between Katrien Meire, Richard Murray and VIP season ticket holders and had a less positive interpretation than others. It did provide some insight into some of the January ins and outs, without papering over the fact that poor decisions were made and unwanted moves occurred largely because of the uncertainty surrounding the club (including Sir Chris’ position). In other circumstances this would be forgivable, even understandable for a guy who’d only just bought the club. In our situation, the absence of clarity left people to draw their own conclusions and make their own plans – and who can blame them? Neither did what was said add much to the prospective balance in the years ahead between what’s good for Charlton per se and what’s good for the Duchatelet network. Only time will tell on that front.
Where Miere fell down in my view was the (reported) answer to the question: ‘Is it true that M. Duchatelet gains GBP4m on the price of the club if it is relegated. Isn’t this a perverse incentive?’ I’d agree that the question wasn’t perhaps well phrased, giving the implication that he might want us to go down. Even I have never believed that (and thought that a clause to cover the eventuality was entirely sensible). But the (reported) answer was: “It is an insult to suggest that RD would consider relegation. Even if such a clause exists, failure is not an option for him”. Sorry, but that’s just silly. If such a clause exists, why would it if RD ‘doesn’t do failure’? RD failed (to date) with his political career, or was that someone else’s fault? A positive attitude is to be commended, perhaps even essential in any walk of life. But people who haven’t experienced failure (in whatever form, relative to expectations) are not to be trusted. They haven’t learnt from setbacks; and they won’t know how to avoid failure when it stares them in the face.
Let’s just hope that Miere’s answer was a bit tongue in cheek and an off-the-cuff response to a clumsy question. And yes, let’s hope she’s swinging from a crossbar on Sunday.
As for the (potential) flaws in the European network approach to get around fair play rules, I remain sceptical. The week has seen a string of Championship clubs unveil numbers (for losses and debts outstanding) that at first sight appear unsustainable, even lunacy relative to turnover. But so what? The distortion in Championship clubs’ finances comes from the gulf between this division and the Premiership and unless and until that is addressed (and there’s no obvious incentive for it to be) the pull of a GBP120m (and rising) boost from getting promotion won’t be circumvented.
Two recent comments to posts (mine and others) stood out for me. One guy commented that he (or she) doubted it was possible to get promoted from the Championship from a breakeven financial position. I’d go further and suggest that it’s very difficult to avoid getting relegated from that position; perhaps it will be possible over time. The other was along the lines of any good business needs to be profitable (or at least break even). It doesn’t. It’s all about the sustainability of the financing. Championship clubs have more in common with start-ups than mature companies, given that lure of the Premiership.
So, all we need to do tomorrow is sit back and cheer for Notts Forest, Derby, Huddersfield, and even Sheff Wed. Then once Sunday is over, and the fixture list is rejigged to accommodate Wembley, it’s back to the calendar to try to plan ahead. That’s not my strong point (Suzanne is the planning department in our relationship). Months ago I booked a trip to Lyon, sacrificing the trip to our near neighbours. I didn’t know then that I’d also be passing up watching Kermorgant play against us. For what it’s worth, I’m that dumb that I used a season ticket voucher for the game to get Suzanne a ticket as she was due in London that weekend, before realising that the game was almost certain to be postponed (Bournemouth only needed to beat Burton). Planning? I can just about manage the weekend, with luck.