Wednesday, 11 July 2007

1999/2000: What Lessons?

It was time to dust off the 1999/2000 promotion season video to see if, with the assistance of some red wine, there might be some lessons/reminders for the season ahead. And there were (for me at least), even though I assume that the standard of football in the second tier has improved since were were last there (good news if it hasn't as there were some really bad teams around then, including an awful bunch in stripey shirts we did the double over, helped by a goal from a certain Mr Kitson).

It's not clear to me whether it's especially useful to assess the key factors behind what went right last time around and try to consider whether they are in place/could fall into place for the season ahead. All teams have different strengths/weaknesses and what was successful in the past is not a blueprint for future success. But I've started so I'll finish ...

Three key related factors seemed to me to be behind the success of the 1999/2000 season.

First, a high level of familiarity (players and management). It was essentially the team that had been relegated plus a top keeper (Kiely). 2007/08 repeatability factor: 0/10 (just can't be helped).

Second, a solid and reliable spine through the team. This comprised Kiely (played 45 of 46 league games, Charlton record for clean sheets), Rufus (44), Kinsella (38) and Hunt (43 - and 24 goals). In fact the team all but picked itself when fit and available: Kiely, Brown/Shields, Powell, Rufus, Youds/Tiler, Robinson, Kinsella, Stuart, Newton, Mendonca/Svensson/Pringle, Hunt. 2007/08 repeatability factor: 5/10 (it's possible that Weaver, McCarthy, Holland and A.Striker will form the backbone of the team - but this isn't something that can be predicted with confidence at this stage at least).

Third, the team knew how to play, home and away. There was very little tactical change and the team played to a set pattern. Sometimes it didn't work, players had off days, but there was a basic 4-4-2 structure, with the two wide men/wingers expected to do their share of defending, and the style of play didn't alter for the away games. The statistics show 12 victories on the road (the next best team managed eight) and 42 goals in 23 games; at home there were 15 wins and 37 goals. 2007/08 repeatability factor: 9/10. I think Pardew has reasonably fixed ideas on how to succeed at this level and will apply them, with an emphasis on attack and taking risks. Does suggest that an awful lot for the season ahead depends on one of the new strikers delivering 20+ for the season.

Other things that stood out from the highlights video included the massive contribution that Robinson and Newton made. In addition to playing 43 and 41 league games respectively, they contributed 12 goals - and again did their share of defending. Of course John Robinson's contribution extended to his gob, with his eight yellow cards only topped by Brown and Rufus. But my god he cared - and tried twice as hard when things weren't going well. Last season's efforts by Thomas, Rommadahl and Ambrose provide something of a contrast. Whether the wide players we have now will do a similar job this season remains to be seen.

Collectively the 1999/2000 team was limited. It had no great pace (Newton excepted) and would probably have been relegated again if retained for the top flight (Curbs made the difference next time around by introducing the necessary quality in Claus Jensen and JJ). But it didn't have obvious weaknesses either. The defence was reliable but not outstanding (45 goals against was pretty much on a par with the other teams at the top), Andy Hunt obviously clicked big-time, but with Mendonca missing much of the season and Pringle not cementing a place there was no great partnership up front (Svensson was bought for the run-in). The powerhouse of the team was really that midfield of Kinsella, Stuart, Robinson and Newton (with Scott Parker just coming onto the scene at the death and contributions from Keith Jones).

For 2007/08? I think the defence will stand up well, even assuming Young is off (maybe Diawara too). Seems Gibbs is now available, which should be a bonus. But like everyone else I can't yet see how the midfield shapes up or say with confidence what the forward combination will be and whether it will be good enough to do the job.

By the way, full marks to the club and to Nicky Weaver himself for the timely and well-worded interview on the official site. I'm glad to see that the club still has sufficient feel to address fans' issues - and no, I don't care whether the sentiments expressed were heart-felt, it was enough for me that concerns were noted. Now it's onwards and upwards Nicky, with our full support.

Oh, in case you're there Nicky, you said in the interview you weren't sure how it all started. I'll lend you the highlights video if you want, although it only tells half the story. It does show how you pulled off some outstanding saves at The Valley to enable a poor Man City side to leave with a jammy 1-0 win (that's how I remember it so it's fact); it does not show you going to extreme lengths to waste time - and seeming to delight in the evident displeasure of the Charlton fans at these antics. All in the past now though. Honest.


Anonymous said...

Great post! I will be dusting off my 1999/2000 video when I get home.

Confidential Rick said...

It's funny Blackheath, I had some red wine last night CAFC insights though.. just fell asleep.