Obviously Saturday didn’t exactly go according to the script: no late transfer window sales (and bids rejected), a couple of potentially exciting additions, plus evidence that our daft and absent owner is actually communicating with those at the club who might know something about football (obviously these have risen in percentage terms with Meire’s departure), just needed three points and a return to a play-off spot with game(s) in hand to sustain the momentum. I can’t comment on the game itself (and regrettably we are currently two bloggers down, hopefully both will soon be back and fully fit), on the impact of Robinson’s substitutions, but it sounded like although their decisive goals came late we were not exactly robbed.
So be it. I’m just surprised that some seem ready to write off the season. Yes, a change of ownership, hopefully this month (better still today) is the number one priority. But that’s hardly in conflict with getting promoted too. We had no realistic chance of a top-two spot before Saturday, we’ve surrendered three points, but what’s changed? Seventeen games left and we’re two points off a play-off place with two games in hand, behind a side that’s lost five in a row and just sacked their manager, not adrift of others above us, with nobody coming up fast beneath us (except perhaps Southend, under some new manager).
I wouldn’t say we deserve a play-off place, that we are playing well enough to merit one, or that we will get one, let alone that at this stage we would be confident of going up if we get one. We really shouldn’t give a monkey’s. If – and of course these are big ‘ifs’ – we can get key defenders back and if we can find a way to play to maximise the assets we have going forward (whether or not this involves the returning Ajose) there is at least the potential to go into the play-offs in a much better state of mind than at present. Momentum matters so much (so does luck) and there is a chance, no more than that, that the form team with a settled line-up in the closing stages of the season will be us. If we fall apart over the next half-dozen or so games and it all goes to pot, so be it, then we plan for the summer and our third consecutive season in this division (in my lifetime this is our fourth stint in it and so far we’ve never had to suffer more than three seasons before getting back up).
As for Robinson, any speculation over his position at this juncture seems to me to be entirely pointless. If new owners come in and want a different guy in charge, perhaps one that will also want his own support team, fair enough (and if anyone suggests that’s all that Duchatelet did we should remind them that Sir Chris was offered a new contract but refused to sign it because of the terms). In that event hopes do indeed start to be geared around next season. But if I’d just bought the club I’d be focused on the chances of promotion this season. And I fail to see how sacking Robinson at this stage of the season advances that cause, whatever his pros and cons, especially just after we’ve brought in a couple of fresh loan players whose motivation may wane if they feel they’ve landed in a club in transition rather than one going for promotion.
We know (and have known since the start) that Robinson isn’t perfect. Shooting from the hip can be applauded for what it says about openness and honesty; yet we know that actually making sense of what he says can be challenging. My particular favourite of late has been his attitude to players’ workrates. Here are a few recent quotes: “Listen (on) Marshy you don’t see wingers working that hard anywhere up and down the country (and the same with) Ricky Holmes” (before he was sold); “the way I judge players is how hard they work and what they do on the pitch”; and “Karlan has really moved mountains this season, he has worked so hard and I think fans are beginning to see that on the pitch” (before he was shipped out on loan). All well and good, you may say. But then go back to the first (staged) interview he gave on becoming Charlton manager. I wrote this at the time: ‘early in the interview Robinson talked animatedly of “hating” any description of a player's performance as 'hard-working', which he said should be taken as a given (he went on to say when asked what had gone wrong for him at MK Dons that he had 'worked as hard as he could').
We can (and should) forgive the occasional meaningless outburst. But it’s reasonable to question the sort of mindset that the above quotes suggest, whether this is a guy who can perform well under pressure. He is still only 37 years old and we are only the second club he has managed. So time on his side and scope to learn from mistakes, if he can. Either way, if we’re to go up this season we need him and those around him to be at their best as well as the players - and the new owner(s).