Thursday 24 January 2019

Where Do The Priorities Lie?

Keep coming back to those words from Richard Murray (I paraphrase) not long after the takeover. ‘Roland has two objectives: to get us into the Premiership and to break even’. There was widespread incredulity at the time of course, given the evidence, and when predictably the financial fair play rules were scuppered the chances of the former taking precedence pretty much went out of the window. The fact that Roland has also failed miserably to achieve the latter we shall gloss over for now.

Let’s be kind and attribute those January 2014 transfer window moves to just utter stupidity, the sort of actions undertaken by someone who knew nothing about football and who had a seriously flawed strategy to implement. It would seem that this time around Roland has another transfer window decision to make. We’ve all seen the speculation regarding Karlan Ahearne-Grant and are aware of his contract situation. Take the money on the table for a player who could walk in the summer (even if the prices quoted are very low if the player in question does have the potential to thrive in the Championship at least); or recognise that selling one of our only two fit forwards when the other is not going to be available for three games is not exactly compatible with a determined promotion challenge, even if a replacement is brought in?

Just depends on your priorities. Of course Roland’s have apparently changed since early 2014. We are led to believe that selling the club is his number one objective now. If that’s the case, it really doesn’t matter to him whether or not Grant is sold as either way it would feed into the price – and surely any actual purchaser of our club would at this point want some flexibility on that front depending on whether or not we get promoted this season.

However, if Roland has effectively given up on a sale this month, in which case the odds on him clinging on until the summer have to shorten, he could have a real decision to make. Now Roland isn’t very good at making real decisions. It’s one thing to have a strategy (which is of course a brilliant one because it is his) and to make decisions based on implementing it; it’s quite another to respond to changing situations and conflicting requirements. That requires thinking on your feet, which is not easy when they’re wrapped in gaffer tape.

All we can do is wait and see. Perhaps Roland’s job here will be made easy for him, if for example Lee Bowyer made it plain that if Grant is sold he is off too (that is of course pure conjecture, I’m never ‘in the know’).

On other fronts, many will be desperate to find out whether or not Lyon Duchere progressed to the last 16 of the French cup on Tuesday evening. They did! At half-time away at Andrezieux (to recap the team from a level below Duchere which had dumped Marseille in the previous round) it was 1-0 to the home team, but Duchere turned it around to triumph 2-1.

For acceptable reasons my partner Suzanne declined the option to drive to Andrezieux and back to watch the game, so I have only the highlights available on the Duchere website to go on. And from those it looked like a classic case of a game of two halves. In the first Andrezieux, presumably fired up by a large crowd, ran Duchere ragged. Their goal was a beauty, good movement by a fast winger to go around his man and deliver a cross to the near post which was met by a forward more alert than his marker. It looked as though they had the chances to put the game to bed. But didn’t.

As the snow fell the game turned when early in the second half Duchere fashioned an equaliser. A well-worked move which led to the ball being delivered to the left side of the box, from where their guy, Franck Julienne, slotted it across the keeper and into the far corner of the net. And eight minutes later they did the same thing. Same set-up, same shot, same scorer. Given that the highlights showed no Andrezieux chances after that, I’m assuming that Duchere saw out the game in decent fashion without scares, and the final shot shows them celebrating in front of perhaps 30 of their supporters, so some did make the trip.

Now here I have to confess to a simple mistake on my part. In my previous post I said it seemed the framework for the cup draws was already determined, but that was just me misreading a graphic. Instead it seems that tonight will see the draw for the last 16 involved. Really there are just two options to set the pulses racing: a home tie against either Olympique Lyonnais (they do have yet to get past Amien), to give the city a real derby match, or at home to PSG (who are through). I say ‘at home’ but in either eventuality I’m led to believe that the game would be moved from Stade de Balmont, which is said by Wikopedia to have a capacity of 5,600 but which would struggle to cope with the logistics of anything like that number.

As with the situation regarding Grant, we await further developments.

Friday 18 January 2019

To Andrezieux And Back!

It’s difficult to pick up a threat when you’ve not posted for a while. Thoughts on the ‘takeover’? Afraid long ago it reached that stage when I want to know that it’s done, nothing else. Boycott or not? Nothing new on that front either – and personally having divided my time between London and Lyon late last year I’m based in France for a few months now (even though there are pressing reasons on the home front to make it back now and then), so the issue is for me at least on hold.

I thought that as a wizened old git (in body if not in mind) I might resume with a series on memories of previous games against our next opponents. Then you look at the fixture list and up next is Accrington Stanley. Others can wax much more lyrically than me about the club’s history, but unless another Addick has some anecdote about an afternoon in Lancashire last August this isn’t exactly a rich vein of potential material, at least not yet.

All of which leaves me, by default, to bring everyone up to date on the fortunes of Lyon Duchere, my adopted French team, and to flag a big game coming up next week. So far this season I’ve managed to drag my partner Suzanne to three Duchere home games: a 4-0 win early in the season against Drancy (who have gone on since to support my conclusions over their prospects – they are seven points adrift at the bottom having taken nine from 17 games), a 1-0 victory in early November against Avranches (which was a bit of a struggle after Duchere had a player sent off in the first half), and most recently in mid-December a 0-0 against Villefranche (a match so dire I’ve been trying to forget about it ever since). So if you feel positive you conclude that I’ve not seen them lose as yet, not even seen them concede a goal; alternatively you can say that the results of the games I’ve seen have shown a consistent deterioration.

After 17-19 games of a 34-game season Duchere are in sixth place, having tailed off rather of late after a very good start, with 27 points from 17 games (won 7, drawn 6, lost 4). It’s a decent position (as a reminder Duchere have by a distance the lowest average attendance in the French third division, National, and punch well above their weight), but it’s hard to see them putting in a serious challenge for promotion. Two go up automatically and currently Le Mans and Chambly occupy those positions, on 35 points, with Rodez in the play-off spot on 32.

From what I’ve seen Duchere have a good defence, helped by an exceptionally good goalkeeper, but seem to be struggling to decide how to play, with a very big centre-forward who could be Carl Leaburn when he worked out what he was supposed to do or the previous version. He’s not been an automatic first choice from what I’ve seen – and I don’t know if that’s been a result of injury, form, attitude, or style of play. When he doesn’t start it seems Duchere miss his presence but also tend to rely on him when he does; and at times he looks unplayable and at others rather disinterested.

No matter, the big game coming up is not in the league. It seems the French cup has much in common with the FA Cup, in that a team from outside the top divisions, if they take it seriously (a sub-sector which hasn’t included Charlton for some years), can cause an upset against big teams with a poor attitude on the day. In the last round (64 teams) Duchere were drawn at home to Nimes, currently mid-table in France’s top division. Good opportunity for some publicity, decent crowd (Suzanne went, with one of her many cousins), and the chance of glory. And glory there was as Duchere trounced them 3-0, rounding off the win with a penalty in the last minute.

That result would have made the headlines from the round, if it were not for Andrezieux-Boutheon. They ply their trade in National 2, the regional divisions one level below Duchere. And they were drawn at home to Olympique de Marseille. Now I’ve more time for Marseille than before, not because of Chris Waddle (who still wins the award for the least articulate man on radio) or even Gene Hackman running along the quay of the old port trying to stop the Frenchman, but because Suzanne and I spent a few days there for new year. Although the bouillabaisse was ridiculously expensive and avoided, I can heartily recommend the sunset over the Isle d’If (of Count of Monte Christo fame), the old quarter, and especially La Maison du Pastis, where the delightfully abrupt lady offers her contempt for ‘industrial pastis’ and some truly delicious alternatives (as an extra aside she said that contrary to popular belief pastis did not originate in Marseille but rather in Jura, when absinthe was made illegal and an alternative was needed).

Now Andrezieux did indeed get the footballing headlines over here, winning 2-0. Marseille are apparently going through a tough spell and are not the force they have been in the past. But it was still the equivalent of a conference team turning over if not Arsenal then perhaps West Ham.

So, the next round? You are of course ahead of me. Next Tuesday, 22 Jan, Andrezieux will indeed host Duchere for a place in the last 16. Doing a little homework, it seems that Andrezieux is quite close to Lyon, just a little north of St Etienne (which is considered the local derby for Olympique Lyonnais) and some 77km away. Now the game kicks off at 18.30, so if we left at say 17.00 we could make it in time – and be back by around 22.00 at the latest. Now it was only doing this post that I found this info, I haven’t yet suggested the idea to Suzanne (who is after all the chauffeur). That may require some careful timing.

I get the impression, from the way the competition is presented, that there is no draw for the next round, that instead the framework is set from the start. If that’s the case, the winner of Andrezieux-Duchere would be at home to either Bergerac or Orleans for a place in the quarter-finals. Now it is jumping the gun rather, but the former is – perhaps surprisingly, given the size of the town - another in the regional divisions below Duchere, while Orleans are in the lower half of the second division (ie the one above Duchere). So, beat Andrezieux, then Bergerac at home, and we would be looking at Duchere in the last eight of the cup.

I trust that the prospect will not be encouraging the Duchere management and players to take their eyes off the league. After all, last season we saw Les Herbiers, who were also in National, get through to the final against PSG, putting in a splendid display, only to find themselves as a result of a very tight league and an unlikely combination of results relegated on the final day of the season, the matches played a few days after their cup final exertions. Duchere do after all have a match this evening, away at Boulogne, before they can prepare for Tuesday’s game. But once it’s over perhaps we can dream a little over the weekend – provided Accrington Stanley don’t put a spanner in the works.