What lessons can we learn from Saturday? Well, two obviously. First, don’t have your keeper eat bananas during the game and forget where he puts the skins; second – and I really should have known this – never, never, never ever leave the PC and radio when Charlton are winning. Up 2-1 going into the second half and its a quick jaunt around the Village to pick up some necessities. Steeled myself for the possibility of bad news, perhaps they’d equalised. Can’t rule it out. But 3-2 down upon return was a harsh lesson. The Charlton underpants and socks, even sometimes the python-skin boots, have been sacrificed after failing to prove themselves as the quintessential lucky accessory. Now for away games, especially now that there’s no excuse for not enduring full commentary, it’s going to have to be a case of not moving from the seat. At least until this technique fails to deliver.
Two tough away games and only one point when it might easily have been all six. But like most others (it seems) I’m more heartened than disappointed (which is not to say that the players should not take the pain and use it to redouble their resolve for the games coming up). What was essential after Barnsley and previous debacles was to play better – and more like a team, preferably even a team that has an idea of how it’s supposed to play. Two creditable performances later and there’s clearly been an improvement. As long as we maintain the improvement the results will follow. This isn’t blind over-optimism; I think we all know very little is going to be perfect this season (except the January drubbing of Palace) and so far its only a case of one step forward after a number back. It can easily still go pear-shaped again – perhaps in the event that we don’t win at least one of the batch of the next three, in which case confidence could slump once more. We don’t need reminding that we haven’t won a game since 4 October (lost four, drawn three, almost become the next Man City etc).
It’s fair to view the coming three games in seven days as a mini-season. In the past two games performances were everything. Now we need to move on and to produce a victory, whether a glorious, free-flowing rout or a ground-out battling 1-0. It don’t matter. Home to Sheff Utd and Southampton and we could be viewing four points from the two games as a fair target. Away to QPR in between, where a draw would be acceptable (win most welcome). So 4-6 points from the three games would be a decent return, which does not mean winning the first two and viewing it as job done for the third.
(It seems that for these games at least we will be able to draw on the services of 18-year-old Sunderland striker Martin Waghorn who has come in on loan. Described on the official site as pacy, this has to be something of a slap in the face for over-18-years-old-pacy-frontman-recently-returned-from-injury-and-rushed-into-first-team-action Izale McLeod, even for slightly older pacy and hardworking frontman who can’t score goals Luke Varney. Can’t comment on the move as I know nothing about him, but I’m a little surprised. I was at the youth cup game against Sunderland last season when Waghorn apparently scored against us. I find it difficult to remember any goals scored by the opposition and certainly have no recollection of this one (was it the last-minute winner?). At least we have got our own back on him by using a photo on the club site that makes him look like something out of the Munsters.)
As ever its about improvement – and let’s give Pardew some credit for the upturn in attitude and performance. Those of us who sat through humiliation at the hands of West Ham on a freezing Boxing Day some years back remember Curbishley changing formation and the team turning over Man City 4-1 away the next game. My final thoughts (for now) on the Pardew debate are not meant to be as indecisive as they sound. Bottom line is we are not going to attract the acknowledged best managers in the business; we didn’t manage that in the Premiership when Curbs left. Pardew has not proven to be the saviour many hoped and I’m sure the past month or so has shaken him. But if he can emerge from the period as a better manager and show continued improvement he is the right man for the job (that being by definition the best available).
Some clearly have simply given up on Pardew and want a change; personally I try not to lose sleep on issues which are beyond my control (which is a blessed state as very little sleep is lost). If Richard Murray feels that a change would be for the good of the club fair enough, especially as its the money of him and other directors that would be at stake, not mine. Equally, as long as he is the manager, has Murray’s backing, and we show that we can build on the recent improvement he deserves our support too. Now you can interpret this as being in favour of him staying unless and until he is sacked or backing any decision by Murray to make a change.
After all, our season is undoubtedly about to take a turn for the better. Our turnaround is a little more protracted as we have more games to play, but as we are duty-bound to track the fortunes of Lyon Duchere, my adopted French team, the omens are very good. Having failed to update their site covering the 11th round of games for CFA Groupe B the results for the 12th (from last weekend) have been added. Taking the results for the season to date it’s not exactly rocket-science to work out how La Duch fared in the missing fixture.
After a decent start to the season in the higher league (after last-match promotion the previous campaign), with three wins, a draw and one defeat in the first five, Lyon Duchere hit a sticky patch. It’s not kind to highlight the fact that this extended either side and through my one attendance at a game, with Duchere losing the game before I visited Lyon (at home 2-1), the one that I saw (0-1 away), and the one that followed (0-1 again at home). Three defeats and one goal scored. So it was a case for them of back to basics and a 0-0 draw was duly ground out away against Marignane. That paved the way for a morale-boosting 4-2 home defeat of lowly Bastia, a splendid 2-1 away success against Montpelier B, and over the weekend a third consecutive victory, 1-0 at home to Saint-Priest (which I regard as a suburb of Lyon but which my partner Suzanne assures me is a separate town, one with certain memories as it was where the wedding was held at which we met – at least I think it was as the pastis flowed freely).
The upshot is that Lyon Duchere have moved up to third in the 18-team division. As the France Football site has the top team in a different shade from the others and those placed second and third a shade in between I’m inferring (and far too lazy to confirm) that the champions get automatic promotion and the second and third-placed teams either go into a play-off or some selection process for elevation to National, France’s third division. It doesn’t take much to turn a season around in France either.
It’s going to be hard for Lyon Duchere to overtake either of the top two, however. With 32 points from 12 games (three for a win, one for a draw, and a point for each game you turn up for) and a record of won 6, drawn 2, lost 4, they are four points behind second-placed Toulon, who also have a game in hand, and five behind top-placed Hyeres. Next up for La Duch: on 29 November away against Hyeres. They can go into it with confidence and no real pressure. So all we have to do is beat Sheff Utd, QPR and Southampton and we can go into December in similar fashion.
Suzanne will be attending the Southampton game (having booked a weekend in the UK some time ago under the impression that I would get around to buying tickets for the Leonard Cohen concert in Brighton before they sold out; I didn’t, so the lucky girl gets to go to The Valley instead). She was at the Reading game and last night informed me that it wasn’t necessary for Charlton to wait until she returns before they win again. French humour you see. But may I echo the sentiment.