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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Seasonal Review

There are a lot of Addicks fans bidding good riddance to the Premiership and its over-fixation with money, its rules which can seemingly be twisted a little bit in payment of a large fine, its over-paid prime donnas and its condescending attitude to little clubs that haven't got any money. We've even got rid of all our glooms and dooms about the drop and most people, 17,000 in fact, are eagerly looking forward to life, well one year anyway, down there in the fizzy-pops.

"Give us our club back", has been the cry followed by a list of unperforming prima donnas that should be immediately off-loaded. Our wrath has been most virulent and unforgiving when directed towards those who seem most eager to get away and those seen as not pulling their weight - eg JFH, Rommedahl, Marcus Bent while others are listed too as not being worth keeping, ie Thomas, Faye, ZiZi, Lisbie, etc

But perhaps the massive clear-out demanded by many would not have the desired effect and would end up throwing out the baby with the bath-water and would also be in marked contrast to the last time we were relegated from the Premiership. As you all know it was in May 1999, and Curbs persuaded the whole team to stay except for Danny Mills and we went straight back up again as Champions. He bargained on a settled team taking us back quickly which turned out to be the case. And if we are to return at the first attempt then its important that a good start is made to the season, something that's not always possible if a host of new players are to be bedded-in. And as we saw this season a bad start is very difficult to overcome and Pards will therefore be working overtime to keep as much of the "core" team as possible.

Unfortunately, there are already signs that this will not be the case. With Scott Carson, Alex Song and ZiZi returning to their clubs and our two most bankable assets Darren Bent and Luke Young likely to be transferred to provide cash is clear that a large portion of the "core" team will depart. Add to that the possibility that players such as our key defenders El Karkouri, Hreidarsson and Diawara will not want to continue with a team outside the Premiership and all of a sudden its looking like a new team is needed. The Elk is one of four players out of contract but with his 39 appearances and 3 goals Pards will be trying his hardest to persuade him to stay.

If the worst happens we may well have to build on Darren Randolph and stalwart Matty Holland, Sankofa, Madjid, and Thatcher in defence, Lloyd Sam, Darren Ambrose and the return of the little irish fella. Newcomers Chris Dickson and Martin Christensen as the attacking option. Not to mention the odd-couple Brian Hughes and Kevin Lisbie. Could this be the chance Kevin's been waiting for??

But, apart from little Bent, our most important asset at the moment is Alan Pardew. Looking back on the season the glaring record of our previous managers ( or coachs) explains our demise. Dowie got us 8 points from his 12 games in charge and Reed 4 from 7 so at exactly the halfway point in the season we had only 12 points to show for ourselves with only Watford with 11 below us. Obviously something had to be done and Murray acted swiftly, getting Pardew in on December 26th. The remaining half of the season saw us win 22 points from the 19 games, a more than adequate total to ensure survival if only the first half of the compaign had been as good.

And he did it without a massive influx of players during the January window. He sold Traore to Harry for a mil and spent half of it on Ben Thatcher. Then he splashed out 2.5 million of Madjid Bougherra and borrowed Song from the Arse for the remaining of the season on loan and ZiZi finally arrived.

Looking at our results, one of our biggest failings this season was in our results against the teams that finished the season at our end of the League. Last season, with Curbs, our split of points taken was as follows. From the top 6 teams a meague 5. From the middle third our haul against the 6 opponents in mid-table was 13 and the teams below us, ie the bottom 7, was a massive 29 including 4 doubles.

This season the points taken were: - top 6 a poor 2 points, middle 6 was 14 points and from the teams forming the bottom 8, the Addicks included, was just 18 points, with just 4 victories from the 14 games. Perhaps Curbs targeted the winnable games, but the good news is that of the 14 games against the 7 worst, Pards was in charge for exactly half and got 3 wins and 4 draws, eg 13 points and didn't lose once.

Another factor, which Pardew never really solved, was our away form. It did improve after Christmas with the win at Fratton Park after 60 odd games without one and draws at Bolton, Watford, Man. City and Liverpool as well as creditable games against Everton and manure. But overall we never looked like achieving the form shown in 05/06 with our 5 away wins, 4 of them against the bottom 4 teams - Sunderland, WBA, Birmingham and Portsmouth and the other at Middlesbrough. The seasons total of only 1 away win is the worst for 27 years and you have to go back to the dark days of 1979/80, and relegation to the old Third Division, to find a worst away season when we failed to win a single away game.

In our favour we can look back on the seven years in the Premiership and be proud that for a small club our record has been consistently good, at least until the survival target of the 40 points has been reached. Only twice in the seven years did we manage to overcome our relief and actually continue playing once we had what was needed. And if our second and third mistakes were Iain Dowie and Les Reed then surely our first mistake was not asking Curbs to leave earlier. Easy to say, but its obviously difficult to come to a decision to part with someone who's been in charge for 15 years and perhaps our good start to last season with a favourable run of fixtures against lower clubs was our ultimate undoing.

So overall our points totals year-by-year were: 2006/07 - 34 points and 19th, 2005/06 was 47 points and 13th, 2004/05 was 46 points in 11th spot, 2002/03 was 49 in 12th, 2001/02 was 44 in 14th, 00/01 was 52 in 9th position. And our best year by far was 2003/04 with 7th place and 53 points, pity it didn't qualify for a European spot.