23 March 2014

Charlton 0 Burnley 3

A man of wit and distinction tweeted after this game that "the scoreline flattered both teams". Funnily enough, I can see exactly what he means. Charlton's second half performance was so bad they deserved to lose by more. Burnley's failure to demolish Charlton when a tennis score was available meant their last goal - a silly, deflected, nobody-cares-anyway, flap in added time - made it look as if they had. They'll get promoted, for sure, but look nowhere near good enough to survive in the Prem.

Do Charlton look good enough to survive in the Cham? Not really. If the second half was utterly dispiriting for its lack of cohesion and ideas, the first half only showed up the big problem: "Our problem is our productivity offensively" as the head coach put it last week, stating the obvious in silly jargon. He dresses like a management consultant too.

Anyway, he'll probably get the sack soon: he's never yet played Thuram in goal, and the starting eleven yesterday - as on Tuesday - featured none of the imported players. M Duchatelet won't be pleased.

The one loan player who I think ought to be in the team - Ajdarevic - came on at half time to replace fans' favourite Danny Green. Green gets a hard time. On Tuesday night someone a few rows behind me shouted "Get Green off the pitch!" as the teams were coming out for the first half. Thanks. Helpful.

I can understand the view a bit. Green often messes up his final ball. Yesterday he even spectacularly messed up a long throw-in. But the sad truth is that the team, as a team, plays better with him in it. You'll have to trust me on this, because I can't quote the exact incident, but this was at least the second time I've seen it happen: he appears to be playing badly, so he's taken off; and the team then falls apart. Ajdarevic seems a good player, but he was a poor replacement for Danny Green yesterday. Be honest: you never thought you'd read those words in that order.
The next three games are away at Forest, Derby and Leeds. Don't have nightmares.

12 March 2014

Heartbreak (part 2)

I'm still trying to work out my response to Chris Powell's sacking. What is clear is that the experience we've had at Charlton for the last three years is one that most football fans will never have. The sense of being emotionally united with the team and manager, sharing in the joy, of course, but more importantly sharing the pain. Sometimes the team played really badly and it was difficult to watch, but most of the time this just brought out a stronger performance, by the team and by most of the fans, next time.

This season it's been obvious that the squad as a whole is only just good enough for the Championship, but every so often they've surprised themselves and us with a performance that massively overreached their abilities. We'll need to hold on fast to the memory of that game against QPR.

There have been other positive things to see. Above all, the emergence of young players like Diego Poyet and Jordan Cousins promised a brighter future if only someone would provide a little cash to build a team around them. And we've seen the way otherwise neglected players have been transformed under Chris Powell's leadership and coaching. Devastated as I am, I can only imagine how Johnnie Jackson, for example, is feeling.

We've been spoilt, perhaps. Or isn't that how it should be? Isn't that the deal? We support the team, financially and noisily, and in exchange we expect the team to do its best, and we expect the club to enable the team to do that. When we see a team skiving, like Pardew's side did, we're entitled to withdraw our support. When it seems the club's owners have no ambition, as happened when the club left the Valley, we're entitled to withdraw our support.

So I can't go along with people I've seen saying things like "We still need to support the team, they're still our club". They're not, and never have been. But for those three years we had the same ambitions, the same passion. They- mostly - kept their side of the deal.

Now, it seems Duchatelet's ambition is nakedly to make Charlton a Standard Liege development team. Charlton will get their reserves, and they will snap up any promising youngsters. Success for Charlton isn't his priority. If it suits his masterplan, he'll be quite happy for the team to be relegated, and he'll just change the level of players he sends over here. And the players employed on this basis will never have the connection with the club and the fans that Chris Powell's hand-picked team developed.

I can't support that. I don't "welcome the new era". I won't be renewing my season ticket.

To be continued, hopefully with some idea of what else we can do ...

11 March 2014

Heartbreak (part 1)

For the outside world, it will look as if Chris Powell has been sacked beacuse of results and the team's position in the league. This is an injustice. It's becoming clear that Roland Duchatelet always wanted to bring in his own man. 

I had been trying to keep an open mind. When Dale Stephens and Yann Kermorgant were sold in January, I half-closed my eyes and tried to see it as a positive thing: with their contracts running out, it was a chance to get in a bit of cash and build the team either then or in summer.

Now those sales look like part of a campaign by Duchatelet to make Chris Powell's job untenable, to make it so difficult that he'd be forced to walk away. He didn't. A bunch of players were brought in. They may or may not be any good - we still don't really know - but it seemed unlikely that Powell had any say in the deals. He still didn't quit. There were rumours of disagreements over team selections. Key players' contracts remained unrenewed; Powell's contract remained unsigned. He still didn't quit.

Finally, if we are to believe the tweet from Simon Thomas of Skysports, Powell signed.

We can only imagine how humiliating the terms of that contract were. Duchatelet must have calculated that Powell would never sign it. His bluff called, he had to sack him, and presumably pay off the rest of the contract - all two months of it.

Of course Duchatelet is entitled to appoint who he wants. It would have been more honest if he had sacked Powell immediately, but, deliberately or not, the undermining of Powell's position has been reflected in results, giving Duchatelet a figleaf of rationale for the sacking now.

But in the short and long term, I can't see it being anything but a calamitous decision. Managerial changes at this time of the season don't usually work. Teams can sometimes experience a bounce-back when they lose a manager who's lost their respect but that's not the case here.

Most of the squad have contracts that expire in summer. They won't be expecting to be retained. Why should they bother to give anything back to the club? Opponents Huddersfield tomorrow and Millwall on Saturday must be delighted.The loanees will get their chance. Perhaps they'll surprise us all, but anything other than relegation will be astonishing now.

So, back to the third division we go, with all the loss of income that will bring. Financially a disaster, which, with FFP kicking in, may be hard to recover from.

And I haven't even started to cover the emotional response... More to follow.