After being told for the third time this season, by our third man in charge, that the Season Starts Here, its tempting to take a look at the Premiership table this morning to see exactly how much we have to catch up.
The gap to Wigan in 17th place is still 5 points but they have a game in hand at Watford next week which could see us 8 points adrift and with an inferior goal difference. Conversely a Watford win that night could see us pushed down to bottom spot. Take your pick. But dreaming of better things and searching higher up the table, its obvious from looking at just the bottom half where our season has fallen apart. To illustrate the point, there's three apparent groups in the bottom 10 teams.
Group One: Spurs, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and Fulham in 11th to 14th positions have all, just like Charlton, only won 1 away game all season but while the Addicks have only got two draws at Newcastle and Bolton, Spurs and Middlesbro' have 5 draws and Villa and Fulham 7. They also have much better home records to give them 32/33 points.
Group Two: The next group is Sheff U, Man. City and Wigan in 15th to 17th place, all of whom have managed 3 wins away from home. Sheff U won at Newcastle, Wigan and Watford all by 1-0. Man.City have won at Villa, Sheff U and West Ham. Wigan have wins at Fulham, Bolton and West Ham. On the Addicks visits to seven of these grounds this season - and we only have one left of them at Watford - we managed just 2 points at Newcastle and Bolton.
Group Three: And then there's the bottom three - West Ham, Charlton and Watford with only 2 away wins between them.
Speaks volumes doesn't it? Its our away form, or lack of it, that means we are sitting on only 20 points. We have the most defeats away from home of anyone - 11 now - and we only have 2 teams in the bottom half of the table yet to visit. Whatever Pards says about the next 2 weeks and the following two games against West Ham and Watford, it's the three away games during April in the North-West at Man. City, Everton and Blackburn that may well decide our season.
We need at least 6 more victories - and a couple of draws - to get to 40 points and we'll need a couple of away wins to help any slip-ups at home. We have the game at Watford to look forward to but it's the three April games that are vital.
The first up are Man. City, who, after being unbeaten at home until December, have slipped up somewhat with defeats against Spurs, Bolton, Blackburn and Reading in the last two months while they only have a 0-0 draw against Watford and a 2-1 win over Everton to lift their spirits. We visit them on Good Friday April 6th and we need to win.
On April 15th we visit Goodison. Everton have only lost 2 home games this season to Villa and Chelski but Man. City, Wigan and Middlesbrough have all managed to get draws there and here it was that we won our last game in the North-West on Jan 22nd 2005, 1-0 to the Addicks. So shades of Portsmouth, lets do it again.
The visit to Blackburn, April 28th, on the other hand looks impossible. Their only home defeats have been to Chelski, Bolton, Manure, Newcastle and the Arse although both Spurs and Everton have got away with 1-1 draws. We've lost there in the last two years, 4-1 last year, 1-0 the year before that with our last win being on Oct 20th 2003 with a Hermann H goal in that season that we've all forgotten by now, 2003/04, when we finished 7th.
And it's probably these games that Pards is referring to when he says we have to go out to win games, draws are no good to us now. So have we got any ex-players to help us out up there? Well, we have. There's Ben Thatcher to do us an "Amady Faye" with a goal against his ex-teammates at Man. City while at Goodison we have Marcus Bent, still stuck on 99 league goals, to score against his ex-Everton teammates. And we've also got Matt Holland whose last Premiership goal was in that 1-0 at Everton back on Jan 22nd 2005 - time for another screamer, please Matty.