Wednesday, November 26, 2008

QPR 2-1 Charlton

Oh dear. Oh no...

Thing is, we started out so well. It's weird to think that until we fell asleep for Blackstock's second, that was the most enjoyable Charlton match I've been to for months.

The passing was good, we seemed to have lost the fear, the crowd was tremendous, Jose Semedo worked his arse off and it was great to see Racon back (he deserved that goal). Gillespie adds some much needed balls to the team, Waghorn was very good and we bossed most of that first half. Those lads were putting a huge amount of work in, and QPR were dreadful.

Haven't seen it on TV, but the ball appeared to go out of play before Blackstock's first and we were caught on the hop for that. QPR came back stronger in the second half, Patrick Ayegeman came on and caused us all kinds of problems, but just when it looked like we'd weathered the storm...

Varney's miss is a hard one to forgive under the circumstances - on a night when the team worked hard, he really stuck out as a bad'un. Whoever gets the manager's job, getting shot of him is going to be high on his agenda. Bouazza was lousy in the first half but got his act together later on.

Unlike that dreadful, spinless game at Reading two years ago when the players showed they didn't want to play for Les Reed, I think it's fair to say this lot do want to play for Phil Parkinson. Will Parkinson get the job? I don't know. But he managed to get them playing well for great spells of the match.

Varney's reflects our season, really. Parkinson's inherited what should be a football team, but instead, he's got a collection of brittle individuals. Moulding them together and firing them up is going to be a tough job. Mark Kinsella was playing a prominent role in the dug-out and before each half, which could be significant.

As for Saturday... hopefully, that team will get the backing it got at Loftus Road. We've just got to get on with it now - and get ourselves out of this mess.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hail to the caretaker

So, I had Sky Sports News on during Sunday, and a familiar-sounding voice emerged from the telly. Hold on, he's got some front speaking so quickly, hasn't he? I turned around...

... and it was Phil Parkinson. Doesn't he sound just like his former boss? (Even though he was born in Lancashire?) This is the problem that many Charlton fans will have with Parky - he could still be Alan Pardew's man, tainted goods from the old regime. Linked very soon after Curbs' departure with the job here, he went on to leave Colchester, where he'd done a stellar job on little cash and with few expectations, to go and bugger it up at Hull City.

That terrible spell with the Tigers lingers as the sole doubt in my mind, but for now, Phil Parkinson is what we've got, and we owe it to the man to get behind him. He is said to hold some differing opinions to our departed boss on the strengths and weaknesses of our team, and deserves every chance at giving it a go. You may whine on about Les Reed, but I can point out Alan Curbishley and Lennie Lawrence as men who emerged from The Valley's shadows to achieve greatness. There's no reason why Parky can't - a couple of good results, and he could have a little more to celebrate on his 41st birthday on Monday.

As for Pards, what hasn't been said already? A couple of meetings over the past month sealed the issue for me. The words on his managerial tombstone will probably read: "Didn't know his best team." A recent City Addicks meeting saw an angry chap challenge Richard Murray on this. "Well, can you name our best team?", the chairman responded. And you know what? Nobody could agree on a back four, never mind a first XI. Pards' failure to mould a team - that basic thing that we pay managers huge sums to do - was his undoing. A terrific motivator, yes, but a leader of men? Get away.

The other meeting which sealed my view of him took place three weeks ago, in a bar in Manhattan, watching the US election results start to trickle in alongside New York Addick, a fine chap whose support of the Addicks puts the backing of a feckless chancer like me into the shade. Remember, this was off the back of the Burnley game (which we'd both seen, even - unwittingly - lining up in adjacent immigration queues at JFK the following day).

As the whoops of Obama's fans started to fill the place, and the just before the sense of optimism and excitement became just too irrestible, he reminded me just what a ludicrous figure Pardew was becoming, with his rotten excuses and insistence that he'd change it all the following week... but that his sense of self-belief remained huge. Stuck among angry losers at The Valley and online, I'd forgotten just how stupid our situation was - heading towards farce. I suggested we refer to him as Alan Pardew - Undiscovered Genius (TM) from then onwards.

Performances did improve, if results didn't - and you can see the veins bulge in Pardew's face when he's asked about his future by Sky Sports after the game. Despite rumours of a big pay-off, I suspect it'll be a bitter parting, and would put good money on him having a pop at Charlton fans before the year's out.

That fact is, though, that by jeering even mediocre performances, we deserve it as richly as Pardew deserved the boot. The angry loser element in our fanbase threatens to destroy what we've built up over the years, and turned The Valley into a welcoming venue for our opponents. This needs to end if anyone is to achieve any kind of success with our team.

As for the future, who knows? Long-term, despite the Zabeel setback the club remains very much in the shop window; fancy a Championship club where you can choose your own manager? Got a few million? Come on down. The summer changes at the club now sees Richard Murray wielding less influence, as plc chairman Derek Chappell and chief executive Steve Waggott assume greater responsibility. Murray will be looking to hand over a healthy club with a bright future to new owners - and that, frankly, is why Pardew had to go.

In the meantime, I've made a last-minute decision to go to Loftus Road (tickets available on the gate) for tonight's battle of London's most underwhelming sides. Can we do it against QPR? As everyone around us in that bar in NYC said three weeks ago, yes we can. Come on you Addicks!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pardew out, Parkinson in for QPR

All Quiet In The East Stand understands Alan Pardew has left Charlton, and Phil Parkinson will be in charge for the game at QPR on Tuesday.

I might even go to Loftus Road now...

1940: Confirmed - "mutual consent" yada yada yada. I'm off down the pub.

Pardew: The endgame

Rumours flying around as I type about Alan Pardew's future - the performance in most of today's 5-2 defeat to Sheffield United would suggest he doesn't have one. Except that spell in the second half when we seemed to play with a bit less fear than before. is creaking, which feels like an omninous sign...

When the end does come, it's going to be bitter. Today's programmes carries a couple of pops at fans - "our small band of travelling fans who loyally followed us" to Plymouth and Birmingham. With the atmosphere as it is, what the hell does he expect? Later he went on to quote Frank Lampard's criticism of England's irritable supporters - which would have been fine earlier in the season when merely mediocre performances were being booed, but seems a little late now we're so desperately bad at home. I didn't see it myself, but some fans say Pardew sarcastically applauded the home fans after he trudged off following his worst ever defeat at Charlton.

At the end, Pardew admitted the performance was "bloody awful". You don't say.

"Of course I fear for my position when the results have been so poor. My ego isn't that big but I still believe in what I can do.

"My record coming to this club has been good but it's been difficult here. When I arrived they were on the slide and I haven't been able to stop that.

"We're in a sticky situation and I have to accept whatever decision is made. In terms of this week we have put every effort in and it hasn't worked out.”

The mason's just chipping those words onto his tombstone now.

He ain't too proud to beg

Charlton manager Alan Pardew told BBC London 94.9:

"We really need the fans to stay strong for us. If we don't come up to standard and we don't get the result, then by all means the criticism can come at the end. We can't have them turn against us during the game. It is going to be a problem for us, and certainly Sheffield United will play on that."

I think he's begging.

Friday, November 07, 2008

To those about to travel, I salute you

I considered travelling to Plymouth this weekend, my first away trip in some time. The knock on effect of flying back from the Canaries put paid to any thoughts of a four hour plus trip to the west country though. While umming and ahhing, a chance remark from my other half made me think. "I can't imagine how much you'd have to love Charlton to travel that far for less than two hours," she said.

Now I make no apologies for going over the support debate once again. I still can't understand the pointless negativity, although I thank everyone who took the time to explain their attitudes in my earlier post. But I also don't understand the level of loyalty which leads the Addickted to travel to the ends of England (and Wales), often on a Tuesday.

So perhaps rather than focusing on what divides us, we - all of us - need to start looking at what unites us. Pardew isn't going anywhere. He seems a stubborn man, while there's no stomach or cash to sack him. We're stuck with him, he's 'stuck' with us. In many eyes he might not be the right man for the job. But with the club sweating cash, right now he's the only man. Same with the board.

Then there's the playing staff. Often in the past I heard it said: 'how much does the crowd influence the players' performance?" Well look at the fear in the players as hate rains down after a missed pass. Then turn and you might just see something similar flash across the face of guy sat near you.

The home and away fan, the kid for a quid or the octogenarian who saw us lift the Cup, we're all in this together, aren't we?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

3-0 and I walked out at half-time

As I type this now, it's nearly half-past four, and I'm in my front room, a quarter of a mile from The Valley. A little while ago, I heard "Charlton 'till I die!..." echo around the streets outside on this miserable, cold afternoon. I've decided not to turn the telly or radio on, but listen out for the crowd instead. But I can hear nothing, just the pitter-patter of rain outside.

(Ah, after Hudson scored, I can hear the crowd livening up a a bit. Lots of ethereal ooohs and aahs in the air.)

Yup, I'd had enough at 3-0 down. It's likely the boo-boys will get their man - Alan Pardew looked a haunted man who knew the game was up the last time I saw him, and I'll be surprised if I see him there again. I won't even pretend the performance was anywhere near excusable in the first half, but I knew I wasn't going to be in for a fun afternoon when one of the trio of Jon Gaunt-a-likes behind me started moaning after 45 seconds, 85 seconds before Jon Macken scored Barnsley's first from a woefully under-defended corner.

I haven't posted to this blog for a while because, frankly, going to Charlton is depressing me. Going to sit in front of a load of miserable bastards and watching crap football hasn't been an experience I've wanted to revisit. And yes, there are people probably taking delight in this because they've wanted Pardew out for a year or so.

Well, they've probably got their man, and we'll probably be in the relegation places. Satisfied?

Of course, Pardew isn't helping matters. Andy Gray's been a dud up front for a long time but he still got to start today, and while I won't pretend there's been a glorious recent past of playing short balls on the ground, we seem to be flailing around in the air instead of taking charge on the pitch. As the waters rise above our manager, he seems ever more determined to stick with ways which really don't work.

While The Valley was once united in adversity, it's now a cauldron of self-doubt and self-hatred. Even Cristiano Ronaldo would struggle with fans like ours. But then again, our team's had enough time to prove itself - and it hasn't. Moreover, Chris Iwelumo's stellar performances for Wolves suggest Pardew's man-motivating tactics really aren't what he claims they are.

Where do we go from here? I don't know. Well, I know where I'm going from here - on a plane to New York, tomorrow, and when I return on Monday week, I expect things will be rather different.

An almighty boo has just rung out - whoever picks up the pieces after today has a tough job on their hands. I wish them well. I don't know if I want to be there to join them...