Sunday, October 05, 2008

Just Managing...

Charlton Athletic 2 Ipswich Town 1

Pre-game, the atmosphere all around The Valley was strange. Stood in Bartrams, a fellow supporter who I did not know noticed me reading Alan Pardew’s programme notes, and interjected, without prompting, that something had to change. He said that he didn’t know who should be brought in to replace Pards, but didn’t disagree when I said that some had suggested that Paulo may be looking for a role? There was much discussion of the managerial situation amongst friends, and even if there is an upturn in results, the feeling was that Pards is not going to be at The Valley for very longer (be it his choice or Murray/Waggott’s…). Others have said that there are not many options if we did want to change things about – even if you ignore the internal candidates (Parkinson, Kinsella) and those recently connected with Charlton (Powell, Grant, Bonds, and dare I say it - Curbishley), then the list of managers out of work and available does make interesting reading – Allardyce, Hoddle, Royle, Davies, Holloway, Keegan (ha ha!) and even Joe Kinnear in five or six weeks, and maybe less!

Anyway, we won, and you certainly could not fault the effort from the players on the park. Pards made two changes, just about defending the two or three changes to the team scenario that he promised - in came Svetislav Todorov and Zheng Zhi for their first starts of the season (left).

Hameur Bouazza got things going with a booking in the first three minutes, tripping to stop an Ipswich break-out. Then Todorov’s flick was handled about 25 yards out, and Nicky Bailey scored with a daisy cutter from the direct free kick. Bailey was ecstatic (top pic) but was soon to be injured and replaced by Holland with just eleven minutes on the clock.

As the game settled, Ipswich came to the fore, and they dominated possession. It was no great surprise when they equalised ten minutes before half-time. Their goal was a tad fortunate, but not-undeserved – a cross turned in off the post by Martin Crainie for an own goal as Stead lurked behind him. Would Charlton surrender like they had the previous week? No, they hung on till half-time, although after Ipswich equalised, the game really became one-way traffic, with the away team dominating proceedings. Todorov fell deeper and deeper; Varney had no support; Bouazza was anonymous; and ZiZi had little option when receiving the ball. On one occasion, a suicidal pass from Primus put our Chinese midfielder under immense pressure and after he was tackled, Charlton were lucky to survive without conceding. The Addicks did make it to half-time, just, as a Campo’s free kick did flick the top of the bar in stoppage time.

Without any changes made at the break, barring Jose Semedo for the hapless Crainie, the tempo was still with the Tractor Boys, who simply ploughed into Charlton (sorry…). A Quinn cross shot hit the bar with Weaver well beaten, and other half-chances went begging. Todorov was cutting a lonely figure, wandering around the half-way line, and it really was a situation where eleven blue shirts were up against just ten red ones, with Toddy nowhere. Everyone else had extra work to try to maintain parity, and luckily it was just enough.

It was a little surprising then, when Charlton re-took the lead after 65 minutes. An Ambrose cross toward Bouazza was missed by the Algerian but the ball hit Volz, looped over Wright, and we had our second OG in the game (left). Semedo was getting forward quite often, and all of a sudden we had attacking options out wide. If we look at the ten minutes Semedo had at Forest, and the half against Ipswich, he has got forward more times, and put in more crosses, than Crainie has in all the games he has played so far. Crainie may be a better defender (?), but he is very limited at full back.

Varney and Holland continued their mammoth effort, chasing everything, and when Gray came on for the Bulgarian wanderer, at last Charlton had some shape and form. Sure, there were tense moments as Kevin Lisbie tried to haunt Charlton once more, this time from the subs bench where he has spent huge amounts of his career, but it wasn’t enough, and Charlton hung on.

Although some of the team played well, and some not so well, the effort could not be faulted. Varney and Holland ran their hearts out, and Hudson and Zhi had decent solid games. For me though, it was the sheer doggedness of Linvoy Primus that kept us in the game and the Ipswich attacks at bay (bar that one bad pass). Time after time he headed the ball away or blocked off passes or runs. It was nice to see some fight alongside Hudson for a change.

On the way to the station, there was some chanting for Ipswich’s manger to go – “Magilton Out” came the calls; other supporters with different coloured shirts leaving mentioned that Pardew should join him…it wasn’t just me then!

My further journey home was enlivened but a situation that made me pleased to be a Charlton fan:

First, I saw a bolshie Ipswich girl being arrested at London Bridge for being abusive; another non-football related passenger described her behaviour as outrageous though I must admit I missed this incident. Then, as the departing Ipswich boys launched into their local songs, they were quickly “deflated” by walking straight into the returning “hordes” of Millwall followers (well, about 25 of them…), who had just lost 4-0 at home. Suffice to say that they were not happy, and the police had to deal with the situation quickly. I then had the misfortune to be on the same train out of London Bridge with said “hordes”, and a very young bunch most of them were. Away from the watching eye of British Transport Police, they were rowdy and vulgar; as their numbers depleted though, with some getting off at each station down the line, they became quieter and quieter – mere pussycats rather than Lions. Safe in numbers, however young, but vulnerable and at risk when without back-up, it was a sad reflection on the continuing association of football hooliganism and lack of social responsibility. One day they will grow up and if they don’t then poor them.

Maybe we should encourage them to JOIN THE REVOLUTION!

Pardew will survive the next couple of weeks then, and good for him! Ultimately though, I just do not see him taking the club forwards, and who knows how he will reflect on being Charlton’s team boss without any parachute payments next season, and more importantly, how the Charlton Directors will view him as the man to get us back into the top flight (or even maintain Championship football) without being able to splash any cash.

Two weeks off now due to the international break, Pardew has a lot of work still to do if Charlton are to improve much over the season on their current 14th place in this league.

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My guess is that the Board don't quite know what to do. Steve Waggot's programme notes were quite revealing I thought, implying very clearly that Pardew is becoming less independent. When Dowie arrived the Club introduced a new structure with Dowie head coach, not manager, and the mysterious Andrew Mills responsible for transfers. That approach was abandoned when Pards arrived and he took on the title "Manager". The events of last summer and Waggot's greater involvement in "the football side" suggest a partial return to that previous philosophy, for better or for worse. As far as Pardew is concerned, it means he will have less authority than previously. Perhaps the Board hopes that without the distraction of his manic search for loan players and consequent random shuffling of the pack, he'll be able to produce a more settled side and deliver some decent results. We'll see how that goes. They've already made one mistake in allowing him to sign Martin Cranie on loan (and I'll bet they know it). My guess is that they'll now give this until the end of the season. If by then he hasn't impressed he'll be gone. Only if relegation threatens is that timetable likely to be shortened.
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