Monday 27 April 2009

Urgent Swine Flu Action Needed

It is already obvious that the outbreak and rapid spread of swine flu requires immediate and urgent action from the authorities. Surely it is imperative that all large gatherings of people are cancelled with immediate effect, in the interests of public health. This unfortunately would have to include concerts, cinemas, even sporting fixtures. The final round of Championship matches should necessarily be put off indefinitely. Unfortunately this surely means that the only viable option will be to declare the season incomplete and void. As and when normal services can safely be resumed, a new season can start afresh.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Nothing Left In The Tank

What to say this time around? Well, The Valley had something of a seaside atmosphere tonight. As in Scarborough in March, without the rain. A lot of empty seats and no great expectations. Another four-goal thriller, with an identical plot to the previous game. But I have to say I was more annoyed on Saturday, when we gave back a victory against a team that did not deserve a draw. Tonight the opposition was better, wanted it more than Blackpool (for obvious reasons), and it seemed to me that we just ran out of steam in the last 20 minutes. We couldn’t hold the ball, gave away a string of free kicks in dangerous areas, made substitutions in a vain attempt to inject fresh legs, but ended up surrendering another two points at the death. But the real sin wasn’t the last gasp equaliser for Cardiff; it was failing to hold on to a two-goal advantage for more than a minute or so and letting them back in.

No surprises with the team; same as Saturday, but with Kandol replacing Wagstaff on the bench. The first half was fairly even, with both sides having half-chances but not creating a clear-cut opening. For us Youga got down the left side to good advantage and delivered some dangerous low crosses, but Sam on the right was well shackled, being regularly ushered inside. We might have shaded it on balance of play, but had Elliot to thank for two splendid saves, with Bothroyd not exactly mobile but always a handful and Chopra threatening. Cardiff lacked real pace, but had enough about them to look capable of scoring.

Instead we took the lead when after a corner the ball found its way out wide to Sam. As before he was forced inside, but this time a dipping cross to the far post beat the defender and Shelvey coming in late put it away. The only other incident that sticks in my mind was an announcement over the tannoy calling for the cleaning supervisor to contact the club. The inevitable chant in reply of ‘where’s your cleaners gone’, like all half-decent jokes, had an element of truth in light of our coming cutbacks.

So, a shade fortunate to be ahead at the break. And Cardiff, after probably something of a dressing-down by the manager, upped the pace in the second half and had us on the back foot. The surprise was that after being under pressure we had a great chance to increase the lead, when Shelvey found Zhi with a glorious through ball. Zhi took it on the chest to cut inside the defender but with just the keeper to beat hit the outside of the post. It didn’t seem to matter, as not long afterwards a corner was half-cleared and Bailey steaming in drilled a shot low into the net.

Cardiff seemed to lose some discipline once they had conceded in the first half and after a 6-0 drubbing at the weekend you thought that if we just kept it tight for 10 minutes we should be able to see out the game. Instead Burke, who had replaced Chopra, outmuscled Racon and took the ball on at pace and fired home what to a neutral must have looked like a good goal. That gave Cardiff the lift they needed – and you could tell all we wanted was the final whistle.

Parkinson brought on Kandol for Burton, then Spring for Sam, with Shelvey moving out wide and Zhi moved into the hole (although in the final stages he looked so knackered it was hard to tell what role he was playing). Then it was Holland on for Shelvey. Nothing seemed to have a positive impact and we just found it impossible to find red shirts with passes. The pressure wasn’t relentless, but we gave away possession and enough free kicks for them to have equalised well before they did. And just when you think we might get away with it, as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, another corner broke to one of them in the box and it was the same end-result as Saturday. If it hurt less this time that was because it mattered less, but the common factor of being unable to hold a lead was all too obvious.

After the equaliser there were chants of ‘Parkinson out’, although they were by no means widespread and many had left by that stage in any event. So now, after a meaningless (for us) trip to Derby, there’s just the last hurrah against Norwich. If results go against them the final round of games could see nothing to play for at the top or the bottom, with us hosting a relegation party (one for which Norwich have apparently sold out their ticket allocation). I have a soft spot for Norwich and, while I would hope they stay up, if they join us there’s at least one decent away trip to look forward to next season.

If this review sounds tired that’s because it is. The players had nothing left in the tank towards the end tonight and I think for all of us the sooner this season is put to rest the better. No player ratings, not because they would have been bad but it’s getting late and there’s a large glass of cognac that’s got my name on it.

Monday 20 April 2009

Time For A Vote Of Confidence

Now that one issue has been decided, the next one seems to be the fate of the manager. I must admit I’ve been inclined to view it as a done deal: that Parkinson will stay. But from talking to others, other blogs, comments etc it seems he’s managed to divide opinion between all available points of view: he should not have been appointed in January as we needed a ‘new broom’ then and need it even more now; he’s had his chance but failed and should go; he might as well stay as he’s the only viable option (as few others would want the job and sacking him will only cost more money that we don’t have); he’s the best man for the job to really turn us around.

Like any investment decision, it’s not easy to separate out previous positions/assumptions when assessing the best options going forward. Those who opposed Parkinson’s appointment in the first place are bound to regard their views as having been vindicated (and let’s face it things could not have turned out any worse, apart for the guy who would have had to write out his settlement cheque), while those who backed it will be inclined to pin less of the blame for relegation on him than on what went before and to focus on some of the positives of late, including the attitude and commitment of the players. Clearly if results were all that counted and money was not an issue Parkinson would be on his way out. But this is not an accountability exercise and no investment decision should be based purely on what has happened in the past (which is not to say the past is irrelevant).

Before I’m (justifiably) accused of sitting on the fence, here is my basic position. I think the decision to appoint Parkinson in the first place was reasonable in the circumstances (including a belief that there was little prospect of a ‘new broom’ approach working in the time available) and that he should stay. This has to be grounded on the opinion that he is the best man available to do the job – and in my opinion ‘the job’ for next season translates into the club re-establishing a sound financial position and the team being in contention to go back up. To think of ourselves as automatic favourites for promotion is quite frankly ridiculous until we have some idea of what sort of team might take the pitch in August (or whenever the season starts). It’s likely to be a mix of half of what we have now, one or two additions (basically cheaper options to cover positions that will become vacant), and some of the younger players. Whether that mix will be sufficient to secure immediate promotion is to my mind entirely unknowable; I hope that next season will end with us if not promoted with a developing and improving team that would leave us confident in the prospects for the following season – and beyond.

In short, I don’t believe in a quick fix. Whoever is in charge at the start of next season has to be overseeing a long-term plan for rebuilding the club. If that has to be under a new manager, this has to be because the board identifies a candidate likely to do a better job than Parkinson. I don’t see the merits in sacking him and throwing the job open to applications. Let’s face it, when we were an ‘established’ Premiership club (in my opinion we never were because with limited crowd capacity and financial resources we – unlike a Sunderland or even Birmingham – only ever had to have one bad season and it was over) the vacancy attracted the likes of Dowie, Davies, Taylor etc. I shudder to think who would apply this time around.

There are a couple of names usually mentioned. Paul Ince and Tony Adams. Us removed from the world of football can only go on gut feelings here. Personally I’ve never been convinced of Adams’ abilities as a manager (and nothing he did at Portsmouth persuades me otherwise, including a wonderful touchside rant at a player who simply ignored him and carried on talking to Adams’ assistant). Ince is a different matter. A natural winner as a player and a lot to prove now as a manager. Would he come to Charlton? That has to be down to his personal expectations and demands, things I know nothing about. He may well feel that his interests are best served waiting for a Championship job to crop up, or that whatever terms are available are insufficient.

This does mean that the ball is in the board’s court. Whether or not there was an element of accentuating the positive, at the AGM it was clear that Parkinson had the support of the directors. It was stressed that he was the man they wanted to replace Curbishley (but were denied permission to talk to him) and from the comments made it seems evident that the board was a good deal more comfortable with Parkinson than Pardew (he’s the pundit now selling himself as the ‘ex-West Ham manager’). That can have negative connotations if ‘comfortable’ means unchallenging. But I don’t think that’s the case. Remember the bloggers’ meeting with Richard Murray at the start of the season and Drinking During the Game’s comment about him appearing tired. Now all the talk is about his enthusiasm for the task ahead. I don’t think it’s coincidence – or a positive to be overlooked that the board and team management working well together is necessary for our recovery.

So, if the board has lost faith in Parkinson fair enough. If so, and someone like Ince is available and up for the job, make the change. But if the directors are of the same opinion as earlier in the season what has happened since is not a sound basis for sacking Parkinson; neither is avoiding responsibility for a decision by simply doing what it is felt the fans might want (even though there is the imperative of season ticket sales). This does mean, I think, that the time is right for the dreaded vote of confidence – or not. A clear statement of support for Parkinson from the board is needed if he is staying.

If relations between the board and the manager are better than before, that still leaves those between the manager and the supporters. I don’t think its an accident that Parkinson has been going out of his way to praise the attitude of the fans of late – and neither do I think it’s an accident that the attitude of the players has improved now that booing by the crowd is off the agenda (it could of course return if there is a lame performance tomorrow night as there’s no excuse for throwing in the towel even now). Unity of purpose this season has left Stoke to enjoy at least one more season in the top flight. Wagstaff and others have quite rightly been stressing the need for us to regain something similar. In my view that means the board stating clearly the attitude towards Parkinson in the near future and us supporters backing the decision.

Saturday 18 April 2009

Hurt, Angry ...

Hurt, angry, pissed off. Not because we’ve been relegated (although that hardly fills me with joy), but because we failed to win a game that was there for the taking. Just another poor team that comes to The Valley and goes away happy. I guess a lot is down to expectations. Against Birmingham we were heartened by a solid and committed performance against a team intent on promotion and winning, and could easily have won – only to see comments on sites from Birmingham fans saying they should be beating teams like Charlton. Today we didn’t match that level of intensity and, after the game should have been won in a few minutes when we scored twice, ended up handing a very ordinary Blackpool team, that I expected us to beat, a point.

After a most enjoyable pre-match drink, the team news was surprising. No Kandol or Dickson, even on the bench, with Burton brought into play the lone striker and Tuna given a subs place, alongside Randolph, Holland, Spring and Wagstaff. Basically the same set-up as before - 4-5-1 with the defence and midfield unchanged – but it was hard to see possible changes that could win us the game.

The first half was, quite frankly, boring. It had all the drama of a pre-season friendly, belying all the talk of ending the season on a high. Blackpool offered next to nothing, while we offered an object lesson in how not to shoot. We worked some good situations, with Shelvey in particular making space outside the box and turning well to create a number of opportunities. But while we may have had 10 or so shots not one was on target. And there was no sense of drive or urgency to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Here surely was a chance to go out and beat an ordinary team; but if margins decide games we were falling short.

At the break I was cheesed off, but what do I know about football? Within 10 minutes of the second half we were sitting on a 2-0 lead and, given the indifference Blackpool were displaying, the points seemed in the bag. First a seemingly innocuous cross from the right saw Burton jump with their centre-back and deliver a delightful looping header into the net. I honestly didn’t think he had it in him. Then space on the right side saw the ball break to Shelvey just inside the box and he finished well this time. OK, the performance was subdued but goals win games and that should have been it.

After the goals flurry the game went on much as before. Blackpool made a couple of changes to no obvious effect, while Charlton were understandably playing with greater relaxation. That then extended to a woefully underhit cross-field pass by Zhi which was intercepted by their guy, who took it into the box and was tripped, by Hudson I think. DJ Campbell, who until that point had given the sort of performance that you expect from someone plucked from obscurity after impressing on the TV in a cup game only to fail to cut the mustard at the top level, stepped up to score.

At that point Parkinson made a mystifying change. He took off Burton for Tuna. We all hope that Tuna is one for the future and blooding him in appropriate circumstances would be something widely applauded. Bringing him on to play as a lone striker in a game that was far from over, one that would mean relegation if we did not win, did not amount to ‘appropriate’; maybe Burton was tiring, but he had performed the lone striker role quite well and scored a good goal. It didn’t seem to matter as the game meandered towards its finish with no further incidents (although Holland replaced Youga at left-back, presumably because of injury). But then Blackpool made a change which sent some shivers up the spine. There was just something about the way Lee Hughes came on. I don’t know what he’s doing there, or the background, but he seemed to have a chip on his shoulder from the off.

It was into stoppage time before the ball found Hughes on the left side just inside the box. There was no doubting the quality of the finish as he curled one into the top corner. We all knew what that meant (I had no idea how other results were going). Perhaps most tellingly the strike meant that for all the improvement in performances of late we have won just one game in 11. A winning mentality was sadly absent today. We now have some months to work out how to get it back for next season.

Player Ratings:

Elliot: 7/10. Had very little to do and no chance with either goal.

Butterfield: 6/10. Fair enough, but both Blackpool’s goals came from his side of the pitch (although the first was down to Zhi’s pass) and he offered little going forward.

Youga: 8/10. Good game. Got forward well – including going well beyond Bailey on some occasions. I assume it was an injury which saw him go off.

Hudson: 8/10. Fine display. Blackpool just didn’t look like scoring – until Hughes came on.

Ward: 8/10. Same as Hudson.

Sam: 6/10. Frustrating. He should be winning us games like this and, although he created more in the second half, he just didn’t. There was a good deal of shoulder-shrugging in evidence.

Racon: 6/10. More subdued than of late, reflecting the overall mood of the team today. Not a bad game but not great.

Zhi: 5/10. His pass changed the game. Everyone makes mistakes but it was a bad one. Otherwise he failed to impose himself on the game.

Shelvey: 7/10. Would have been a higher mark but for the shooting in the first half. He made most of the chances for himself and was a threat all afternoon, scoring one. Just adjust the sights a little.

Bailey: 7/10. Gets a decent mark as much for some defensive work as what he did going forward. Found himself in good positions out wide but it’s still not his natural position and he doesn’t have the pace or trickery to operate as an outright winger.

Burton: 8/10. I thought he had a decent game and added a goal. We might as well get used to him because I’m assuming he’ll be around next season.


Tuna: 6/10. Some good movement, which wasn’t always spotted by others, but this didn’t seem to be the time of the game to bring him on.

Holland: 7/10. Added a left-back berth to his positions this season. Did what we expect.

Saturday 11 April 2009

So Near And Yet ...

So near, and yet. We all know a point is not enough, even from a game against one of the top two. But it would be churlish to start on that note as there was no questioning the commitment and at times skill of the team today. With a little luck and/or more composure in front of goal we would have won a contest which developed into an excellent game and tactical battle. As it was, whatever deity Birmingham’s keeper Taylor worships I want his name, because he managed to combine outrageous luck and excellent keeping to deny us a win which, on balance, was merited.

There were no surprises in our line-up, with 4-5-1 retained, Shelvey tending to play in the hole rather than Zhi, and Sam getting the nod ahead of Ambrose. Birmingham chose a similar set-up, with Jerome playing the lone striker – but with Phillips, McFadden and Bent on the bench. The result was a congested midfield in the first half and generally scrappy play, with neither side able to impose themselves. In the centre Zhi and Racon struggled to gain an advantage, while Sam played poorly and seldom found space. My abiding memory was a lack of precision on the part of both teams. Both had some promising moments, but either the final ball was poor or the delivery from corners and free kicks was below standard. The best chance came when Bailey and Youga worked the left side and a low cross found two Charlton players against one defender. Lack of precision ensured it was goalless at the break.

At half-time I was wondering which side/manager would blink first and change the formation in a contest that both felt they had to win. In the event it was Birmingham. They took off a midfielder to bring on Phillips and immediately the game changed. Many around me were screaming for Parkinson to bring on another forward, seemingly oblivious to the fact that in an instant we were finding more space to exploit. Keeping 4-5-1 was just as ambitious as another forward, with Sam suddenly instrumental and Charlton looking far more dangerous than before. Of course, the other side of the coin was that Birmingham threatened more too, so for the neutral it evolved into a very entertaining game.

Chances started to materialise at both ends, but we were getting the better of them as the game wore on. Nothing clear-cut, but Zhi was more influential breaking forward, Sam was putting in threatening crosses, and various shots from Shelvey and others tested Taylor. Birmingham turned the screw further by bringing on McFadden and Bent, for Jerome and the unwanted Bouazza, who put in the sort of performance he used to do for us – greedy, selfish, usually ineffectual, and primarily interested in getting his name on the scoresheet.

Parkinson switched too by bringing on Dickson for Racon, going to 4-4-2, and in the closing stages the game was so nearly won. A through ball looked comfortable for Taylor until he slipped, only to be able to reach behind himself to grab the ball before Dickson could pass it into an empty net. Then a curling shot from the left side took a deflection and was surely looping into the goal for the winner before Taylor, on his backside, stuck out a paw and turned it away, only for the ball to be delivered back in and for Taylor to save smartly. And in the final minute Zhi was put through by Shelvey only for a poor first touch to take him wide and the chance was gone.

It should be mentioned that Elliot, after another nervy start to a game, made a couple of excellent saves from shots. But for all Birmingham’s forwards they failed to fashion a clear-cut opening – which has to reflect well on our defence, with Hudson and Ward both having good games, despite the occasional conceding of free kicks in dangerous areas, and Butterfield giving in my opinion his best performance in a Charlton shirt. We did, but lack of composure, lack of precision, and Taylor’s deity denied us.

At the finish it was bitter-sweet. If we had played like that through the season we would be in a very different position now. As it it, the fact that we turned in a creditable performance which almost won us the game only drives home the point that many of the players behind it will not be with us next season. So be it. Let’s give them credit today.

Player Ratings:

Elliot: 7/10. It’s happened before that he started the game rather nervously and that created uncertainty in the defence. But in the second half he made smart saves when called upon.

Butterfield: 8/10. I thought he played well today, pure and simple. Didn’t get forward much, but good tackles and covering and never exposed.

Youga: 7/10. Still somewhat on the edge and not on top of his game, but did his job and still gave us an attacking threat down the left, despite the limitations of Bailey playing wide.

Hudson: 8/10. Assured as ever and no obvious mistakes. He often looks so good that it is surprising we have shipped so many goals this season. Fact is we have.

Ward: 7/10. Assured in the air, just about OK on the ground. Dealt well with the high balls in his direction. I think I’m going to miss him.

Bailey: 7/10. No point going over the pros and cons of him playing out wide. A couple of superb defensive plays, including one header.

Racon: 6/10. Struggled more today to impose himself against clearly better opponents than of late. Lost possession a few times in the first half in dangerous positions, but always looked capable of making something happen.

Zhi: 6/10. Was behind a lot of good things, especially in the second half. Only problem was he was in good positions to get that all-important goal and didn’t manage the finish.

Sam: 6/10. Poor first half, but when Birmingham’s formation changed he came into the game and could have won it for us.

Shelvey: 7/10. Gets an extra mark for the superb ball played through to Zhi in the last minute which could have won us the game. How many could have beens?

Kandol: 6/10. Worked hard as the lone striker for most of the game, against a mountain of a centre-half, but let himself down with silly pushes and nudges to give away free kicks.

Dickson: 6/10. Tried some tricks, but Birmingham have good defenders and they read most of them.

Bouazza: 0/10. Didn’t score.

Thursday 9 April 2009

Curbs Working In France?

Nobody wants to hint at negativity ahead of the weekend’s games. But it’s not exactly calculators at the ready is it? For the first time in a while I’ve been tempted to look at fixtures and the table. Whatever happens we can’t be relegated on Saturday; but if we lose to Birmingham, barring the two teams into administration option the axe could fall on Monday at Coventry if Norwich pick up a few points (away to Swansea then home to Norwich).

But enough of that. It just ain’t going to happen. The team responded well last Saturday, winning a game that I really couldn’t see us emerging with anything from, given the extra motivation that Southampton had in light of their troubles. And if they’re in need of a some extra factor, can I please point out the idea of losing to a team containing the utterly unlovely trio of Marcus Bent, Lee Bowyer and Kevin Phillips, backed by those perennial charmers that support the team, does not bear thinking about. Clearly they will be up for it after their win against Wolves and as the faltering of them and Reading has opened a window for Sheff Utd and even Cardiff to claim a top two finish. At the least it will be stiff test of our improved form, but that will make victory only the sweeter.

Birmingham and Coventry. Any contest against Birmingham reminds us all that the best game ever played at St Andrews didn’t involve them. But their supporters did manage to get involved in my experience of that magical night. The police instructions to the few thousand Charlton fans at the end of the game were that they were holding the Leeds fans in the ground for a while and that it was best to leg it to the centre of town and the train home (it should be noted that the Leeds fans we did encounter later were entirely well-behaved). That we did. But when passing a branch of MacDonalds that looked as if it was designed for Birmingham, some congregated youths asked if we were Leeds fans. We joyfully announced that we were instead followers of Charlton, assuming that this would bring out the love, only to have various Ronald products hurled in our direction. Then of course some years later there was the aftermath of the stirring 0-0 draw on the final game of the season which denied them a play-off place. The Birmingham fans were allowed to walk across the pitch and past the away enclosure on their way out. Here too, to be fair, the first few waves were well-behaved and applauded the Charlton fans. But then came the Neanderthals. As for Coventry, well it was the guy stopping his car (which contained children) on the way back to the motorway after our 3-2 cup triumph to kick in our headlight.

All sins of the past for sure. Let’s just hope they have since learnt how to lose with grace. I’m going to have a tough enough time as it is trying to explain to my French partner Suzanne, who will be at the game on Saturday, along with a nephew of hers, exactly what a Brummie accent is. Maybe I’ll just show her my Slade LP. So come on Therry, you’re playing in front of de facto compatriots on Saturday (I know you hail from Guadeloupe but it’s near enough). After all, they will get to vote for the player of the season too. My only disappointment since Racon’s splendid return to the team is that there’s no sign yet that the crowd can adopt David Essex’s Rock On as a song for him (‘hey, did you boogie too, Racon’). Maybe there just aren’t enough of us left old enough to remember it.

On matters French, it is my sad duty to report that my adopted second team, Lyon Duchere, have suffered something of a dip in form of late. After their excellent February 2-0 win over Villefranche-sur-Saone, which put them fourth in the league (CFA Groupe B), they lost 2-0 away at lowly Jura Sud, drew 0-0 at home with St Etienne B (a match I went to), lost 3-0 away to Martigues, drew 0-0 again at home, to Andrezieux (thereby failing to gain revenge from the previous 1-0 defeat away to them, which I also witnessed), lost 3-1 away to GFCO Ajaccio, drew 0-0 at home to Marignane (can you see the pattern emerging here?), and most recently were turned over 3-0 away at CA Bastia.

With no wins, three draws and four defeats in their last seven, La Duch have dropped to 13th in the 18-team league and with eight games left (I think) thoughts of a possible second consecutive promotion are clearly off the agenda. There would even seem to be an outside chance of relegation if they don’t get their act together quickly, with Lyon Duchere on 55 points and the bottom team on 48 (you get three points for a win, one for a draw, and one for turning up). I haven’t seen any confirmation that in February/March they brought in Curbs to give them lessons in how to see out the final third of a season when it seems there’s little to play for, but the results speak for themselves.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Fresh Board Backing Suggests No Southampton

Like other shareholders, along with this morning’s bills I received notice of a general meeting to approve the sale and sale/leaseback of properties in which the club holds interests (approval of course being a formality). I hope I have understood the details, which seem to me to amount to certain directors or affiliates buying the freeholds of the properties concerned and, where relevant, leasing them back to the club. In essence, the club is generating some £1.5m in working capital (ie loss-covering) from fresh commitments on the part of some directors.

The properties concerned are the Aries Sports Ground at Sparrows Lane, the Ex-Charlton Park Rugby Ground in Eltham, and properties in Lansdowne Mews. The first two are to be sold for £1m and leased back to the club, so that there will be no actual impact on training facilities. The third, which according to the document were purchased on a speculative basis in 1999 and 2005 (presumably related to expansion plans for The Valley), are to be sold for £0.5m, with the club retaining a right to repurchase them at some future date if appropriate). In addition, to help with the transactions, Derek Chappell has made a short-term loan to Charlton Athletic plc of £0.5m and the directors who invested in the corporate bond issue have agreed to defer the interest due on those bonds for the current financial year.

First off, if there were any remaining doubts these are not the actions of a company that is preparing to go into administration (which given the news concerning Southampton is clearly welcome - damn it, a few months earlier this might have made a difference). I would be inclined to view the news as further evidence that there is nothing to be gained by such a move, given that the bulk of the club’s debt is to current directors and the bank, with bank loans secured against The Valley (such that administration would involve the sale of the ground), and that players' contracts are now ring-fenced. Second, the moves amount to fresh commitment of funds to the club from some of the directors. They are receiving assets in return, but hardly ones that offer any opportunity for short-term gains.

With the club announcing the prospect of redundancies among staff as a result of the loss of parachute payments, it is worth keeping in mind that the directors are once more putting their hands in their pockets to keep Charlton going. It is sad to see the announcement of prospective redundancies, but hardly surprising. (What is sad is the need to follow employment regulations such that it is no longer possible to simply confirm redundancies, however painful for the individuals concerned; instead there has to be the pretence that it is only ‘risk of redundancy’.).

And when reports and comments cite the figure of £10m for cost savings resulting from the loss of parachute payments, let’s not forget that the actual cuts will be higher as a result of relegation. At the AGM it was indicated that relegation would mean an additional £3m having to be found. It is possible that the fresh injection of £1.5m will form part of the £13m, but just as possible that anticipated losses this season and next have been revised up since the AGM and that this will mean that the amount will be swallowed up. It is fair to assume that news of an additional cash injection is not in anticipation of a bid for Ronaldo.

None of this should be surprising, but in all comments on players we want to/should keep, management changes etc it has to be kept in mind that the next year or two for Charlton are about survival, pure and simple. We are fortunate in having a board that is committed to the club, but there seems no realistic prospect of a sugar-daddy coming our way in the near future, the economic environment means that season ticket sales and revenues from matchdays and merchandising are going to be severely hit, and in any event relegation brings its own consequences. Even from my sixth-form business studies I remember that the primary goal of a company is not making a profit but survival.

No, the news that Charlton have won a prestigious award for community efforts doesn’t set the pulses racing. But in the current environment it is only through doing all possible to retain the backing of the local community and supporters that survival prospects can be maximised. Whether its the entirely welcome Fans Forum, the possible recreation of the supporters club, or other initiatives it isn’t the time to be cynical about initiatives which may not revolutionise our prospects but which hopefully will contribute to us coming back stronger, however long it takes.