This might be going over old ground, as the subject has already been well covered by others. But yesterday evening Radio 5 Live plumbed new depths in their attempt to perpetuate the myth that Curbs was somehow hounded out by Charlton supporters looking for the club to move up to the ‘next level’. Once again it was in response to a question about Stoke (and Hughes/Pulis), with us raised once more as the classic example of unrealistic expectations leading to disaster. The host went on to say that Charlton fans were now trying to deny that this was the case – which suggests that enough of us have been pointing out to the Beeb that this is drivel – and to indicate that of course Radio 5 Live knew the truth.
I remember hearing Donald Rumsfeld being interviewed on BBC radio before the Iraq war. He alluded to links between Saddam Hussein and terrorist groups. The interviewer interrupted and pointed out that the US intelligence agencies had said that they had found no evidence of such. Ah, replies Rumsfeld, just think how useful it would be for international terrorist groups to have ties with a country which people did not believe they had infiltrated. In other words, the total lack of evidence was just further proof that he was right. It seems now that Radio 5 Live are happy to peddle the line that the more Charlton fans might point out that they are plain wrong, the more we are in denial.
So (hopefully) for the last time, will Radio 5 Live please accept they are talking nonsense, perpetuating a simplistic misconception because it fits easily into their chosen theme. Did some Charlton fans complain about Curbishley and suggest that he had run his time? Sure. Were they at any stage any more than an isolated few? No. Did events subsequently turn out not to our advantage? Ahem, yes. Surely the real evidence in this is that we all knew what the ‘next level’ for Charlton was at the time: expansion of The Valley to a capacity that could enable us to compete consistently in the top flight.
It is never mentioned by the BBC that Curbs had one more year left on his contract and that he had said he wouldn’t be signing a new one, that he had just come out of the process of being shortlisted for the England job, which must have been unsettling, and that everyone knew that the team needed an overhaul. I also felt at the time that Curbishley might have been disappointed by the speed at which the dynamic and exciting team he’d put together at the start of that last season (Thomas, Kishishev, Smertin, Murphy, Rommadahl, Bent) fell apart, when Murphy threw his toys out of the pram and Smertin did a runner. There may well have been other factors, but unless and until either Curbs or Richard Murray lend support to the ‘next level’ theory I do wish the Beeb’s team would stop peddling this misconception. It is a slur on Charlton fans and the admiration and gratitude we have for the magnificent job that Curbs did for the club.
On other matters, well, it’s just about true by definition that nobody wants to be accused of sour grapes. If you are, the chances are that this is the result of a reaction to an outcome that you didn’t want, ie an undesirable (if not downright absurd, unnatural, incomprehensible) state of affairs. So instead we offer our heartfelt congratulations to Palace, just as we welcomed Millwall avoiding relegation. The fact that this was a play-off final that for long stretches bored the pants off all and sundry (in sharp contrast to a previous universally-celebrated and fondly remembered encounter) and that it was contested by one team largely comprising borrowed Italians, a situation criticised by the manager of the other team which contained a player sold and immediately borrowed back again, should be glossed over.
I think we’re all aware of the pros and cons of the outcome. The former include being able to leapfrog them after next season without having to play them again; the latter includes a season of ruined Match of the Days (it’s much easier to fast forward a reply of the Football League Show), even assuming that Palace don’t actually win any games. It’s done and we live with it. Perhaps for one season the pubs around The Valley can be temporarily renamed ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ until the natural state of things is restored.
I did like Chicago Addick’s take on a club not long out of administration being handed a circa £120m windfall perhaps giving a thought to those, apparently including the St Johns Ambulance, who were screwed by their decision to take the points rap at a convenient time. Would be nice to see a bit of pressure to this end, perhaps police and others refusing to participate at Palace games until some money for worthy suppliers of services has been made. Wishful thinking I know.
As for us, this is one of the worst times of the year, not just because I’m already starting to miss proper football. More than a month to go before Welling. We’ve released players and it’s too early for anything more than rumours about possible new signings, while there is the obvious possibility of the sale of one or more. The decision to release Haynes did surprise me; I don’t know about his fitness, but we’ve seen enough to know that he was capable of being one of the two first-choice forwards for the coming season. At this stage (ie ahead of anyone coming in) it has to be worrying with respect to what resources might be available to Sir Chris. With Evina apparently turning down a new one-year contract, doubts about what will be done with a number of players (Stephens, Hollands, Green etc), and the possibility of Solly being sold, we wait for fresh news with a little trepidation, while hoping to be proven just a natural pessimist.
This does all raise the issue of what would constitute progress for us next season. Of course it’s tempting to say that after a ninth-placed finish it means a play-off spot. But perhaps progress might take the form of further development of the youth teams and the introduction of some of them into the first team, with a view to creating a team largely from internal resources over the next couple of seasons. I really can’t comment on the chances of such an approach, or the chances of it working, having only seen the Youth Cup game at The Valley. Powell and his staff will of course know whether they are (or are close to) being ready, I just hope it wouldn’t prove to be a strategy forced on him by finances but one driven by the kids’ potential.