I normally get home at about 11pm after an evening game, but yesterday I was a bit later as I was delayed having a lengthy conversation with my Dad about my son's education - one of the few things in life that matter more to me than Charlton. I may blog about this at some point, but I'm not sure it's interesting enough so maybe I'll not bother.
Anyway, despite getting home at about half past eleven I could still have written something as I don't have to get up all that early, but I thought it'd be better if I waited until today when I felt a lot less angry.
Having had the benefit of a decent night's sleep and some time to reflect I think my anger was mainly based on the fact that I went to the game with such high hopes, I even described my excitement at attending the game on the way up to my Dad, and we didn't only lose, all the teams we are 'watching' won. The end result was that we look, now, very unlikely to win automatic promotion. I know there is a long way to go, but we are six points behind Leeds and nine points behind Norwich - as both have a much better goal difference than us let's make that ten and seven points. Leeds have a game in hand but they have only dropped seven points in their last four games and nine points in six games. It has taken us eight games to win nine points in our recent run. With Norwich the numbers are so bad that it's not really worth considering it, but just for completeness, they have dropped eleven points in their last twenty-one games. We have won twelve points in our last nine games.
I haven't even considered the fact that Colchester are now two points above us with a game in hand and Swindon are one point behind with two games in hand. Swindon have dropped eight points in their last twelve games, and Conchester have won four and drawn two of their last six games.
The truth is that after last night we are probably more interested in Huddersfield and Millwall. Huddersfield are three points behind with a game in hand and a better goal difference and we still have to go there, where they've won ten and drawn six and lost none. Millwall are five points behind with a game in hand and we have to factor in our defeat at the New Den too. Suddenly the playoffs look very challenging - especially as we are fifteenth in the form table (last six games) and the four teams around us (Millwall, Colchester, Swindon and Huddersfield) are the top four.
My first Charlton game was Barnsley at home on 7th March 1981. We were top of the third division at the time, but we fell as low as third by the end of the season and we won promotion - no playoffs in those days. Thus the lowest league position Charlton have occupied since I started watching them is where we are now. With the table like it is I cannot see us staying that high. By the time we play Gillingham on 20th March we will have played three games, and Swindon will have caught up their games in hand so will have played five. What are the chances of us getting more points in those three games than Swindon get in their five. They need two points or one point and a 5 goal swing in goal difference for us to fall to fifth (I'm assuming that we don't catch Colchester in that time, obviously). One of our three games is away to Millwall, so nothing there then!
Thus it is likely that Charlton will record another personal worst league position for me. I suspect that there are a few that are nowhere near their personal worst yet, after all five months before my Valley bow we were as low as 13th in the old third division. However, I suspect that there are a lot of current fans that have seen several successive personal worsts in the last five years. There is talk of fans not being willing to continue to pay literally hundreds of pounds a year to watch what is being served up. My worry is not that we will be in this division for a few seasons. My worry is that if we fail to finish in the top six, not only will we be forced to play in this division for another season, but there will be literally nothing to demonstrate that we can get promoted any time soon. This will almost certainly cause serious carnage in the squad and either way the chances of the board finding someone that will take the club on will fall dramatically.
Thus, my worry is that by Christmas we could well find ourselves in a similar position as Portsmouth are now. Sure, we wouldn't have anywhere near the level of debt that they have, but we have nothing like the income they have either. I was rather outspoken about our chances of selling season tickets for this season, but I'd be amazed if we get anywhere near the 10,000 mark. Let's also remember that by selling tickets now they can't reduce the price in the summer, and £425 (what my ticket cost this season) is way too much for what we have been served up. I don't care what other clubs are charging, this season has gone from being the most enjoyable for years to being the least enjoyable ever. For £425 I could take my wife and son to Tenerife for a week. Add in the costs of travel, programs and food eaten at the ground and we could probably have a fortnight in Orlando.
Clearly I've demonstrated over the years that I will keep coming back, but it may well not be via a season ticket next season (especially if the club don't offer me my current seat in August - which is the earliest I will consider paying this season as I want to see who the manager and players are before I trust the PR rubbish this year). However, when I bought my first season ticket there were just over 2,500 current season ticket holders, so just it follows that I am probably more tolerant than many others.
All of that, however, has been covered before and will, no doubt, be covered again in the weeks and months to come. What hasn't been discussed here is what went wrong last night. I have little interest in writing a full summary, but I'll offer these points:
- Once Burton went off we looked clueless up front
- Sodje (A) showed (and probably has) little to offer. Sure he scored two goals before Christmas, but doesn't look like the answer right now.
- Mooney has the tough of an elephant. He didn't seem to be able to trap the ball less than six foot away from him last night.
- Lloyd Sam just seemed reluctant to make any runs into the channels, he seemed to be stuck to the half way line.
- Kyel Reid seems to have absolutely no vision at all. I don't remember him passing the ball much on Saturday (including when he scored and had two good options to lay off the ball off to) and last night he kept the ball for too long and ran into trouble all too often. I would include here the fact that with almost no cover behind him he dribbled the ball past two players and went on to try his luck a third time and lost the ball from which we conceded.
- Our confidence is so fragile that if we concede first we are finished.
- A senior club employee has publicly predicted that as Parkinson has 'insisted' that we sign Mooney and Sodje when Murray didn't want to, and probably couldn't afford to, commit the money he doesn't dare drop them both when we are screaming out for a 4-5-1 with Burton up front on his own.
- McKenzie, again, looked the best of the strikers yet can't seem to get anywhere near the first team starting eleven.
- The substitutions with fifteen minutes to go were too aggressive and smacked of panic. Brighton's second goal came because we had no idea what we were doing. That's fine for the last five minutes of a game, but fifteen?
- Parkinson looks like he has, literally, no idea what to do next.
- The worst players, last night, were the two on loan strikers and the on loan left winger. Have we learned nothing?
- From the start Brighton looked much more up for the game than us.
- At times Brighton seemed to pass the ball around us and we couldn't get near it. They made us look like fools at times.
- Just about every lose ball fell to a Brighton player - I know this can be luck on occasion, but not every time.
- Our best player by a margin was Daily. He is 36 years old, and was the only player that seemed to be able to bring the ball forward.
I've been calling for a 4-5-1 for two games now, Parkinson even commented on Brighton's strength with their 5 across the midfield. Is there anyone that believes 4-4-2 is going to get us promoted? We have amassed 60 points in 33 games. We managed 26 points in 13 games (2 per game) playing 4-5-1 and that means that 4-4-2 has yielded 34 points in 20 games (1.7 per game). Over a season that difference is 13.8 points. How hard can it be? Really?
No doubt Parkinson will line them up 4-4-2 on Friday and the result will be determined by who scores first. Southend scored first away to Norwich last night. I suspect that we are going to lose at Southend for me to record a new personal worst league position on Saturday if Swindon beat Orient away.
I wonder how much that new contract Parkinson signed just before the side started losing is going to cost when we sack him in the summer when we finish 7th?
Up the Addicks!