Friday, 25 February 2011

Worthwhile Ashford Excursion

One of our immediate circle of staunch life long CAFC fans pulled out the stops to go and see our youth side at Ashford last week. I was pleased to learn that, like me, he was especially impressed by young Mambo.
Pete was also impressed by how likeable and sincere Chris Powell came across, like all who meet him, and his attendance at this game to add his support and survey the emerging talent.
His young grandson, Alex, has been to the Valley on a number of occasions and has yet to see them lose (I wish I could say the same). Chris was suitably in awe of this and hoped to see him there as many times as possible in the future! (If we get to the play-off final and tickets are in short supply we trust that Chris will get one to Alex post haste!!!)

Staunch Evertonians Display Valley Pride at City Addicks

Another great night at City Addicks saw Eddie Youds and Garry Nelson added some great entertainment to the insight they provided about their proud careers in the game and their obvious affection and respect for their time at the Valley. Eddie seems to have migrated to the South, along with is Liverpudlian humour, and is here to stay in the long term other than any interludes to further his career.
I am not quite sure where Gary's dovotion to Everton comes from, given his Essex birth, but they seemed to be equally strong in their affection for the 'toffees'.
David White, like Richard Murray and Martin Simons, is an excellent master of events, adds great value and is rightly respected for being a solid servant to the club during its recent troubled years.
Gary’s eloquence and humour came as no surprise following previous appearances. He has been a success in various guises in football since his Valley career including his spell as a successful author. It nevertheless came as a surprise to me just how successful his books have been when he gave an indication of the number that have been sold (For the record, I have both Gary). Unfortunately, it seems that he may not be hammering his laptop to produce another though I think he underestimates just how much further material and stories he has in his archives that would provide a great read.
I had not had the luck to have heard Eddie Youds before. After this performance, which the audience lapped up, he is likely to be back by popular demand. He was an uncompromising but fair back four player who had a little more skill on the ball to add to his imposing strength and stature than he cares to admit. Had he not been troubled by his recurring knee injuries he would have stayed at the top of his game for several more years.
I suspect that Gary Nelson would have thrived in the modern game as the style of non-contact refereeing will increasingly eliminate the crunching tackles he experienced over the years. Eddie would have had to have changed his game to have kept on the right side of the current brand of wimpish referees, but the game would have been poorer for it.
I am not sure what line of work Eddie has been in in recent years but it seems he may well return to the game in the near future. In the fullness of time, CAFC would do far worse than find a niche for both these guys, something that Eddie in particular said he would savour.
All three obviously had a considerable respect for Curb’s management skills which certainly enhanced my own perception of the man, though I was interested that my own impression, and that of many of the fans, that Curbs was too cautious and negative in his latter seasons after they left seemed to be echoed.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Anti-Climax & Lost Opportunity

As I feared, there was a degree of predictable anti-climax about today's outcome, which was in line with many poor performances over the years when we have had a 'big occassion' and a big opportunity.
The club (and supporters) had made a great effort in promoting the game. I have not seen the official crowd stats, but we felt it looked like we may have managed a 24,500 gate which was excellent.
However, a real test is going to be how many return after this display and result. Though Chris P was fairly positive in his post match summary, I think heart of hearts he knew he was pulling the paper over the cracks.
Yes, we hit the woodwork twice, yes their goalkeeper made some decent saves.
However, we never really got going and once again the midfield was poorly wanting.
In my last post, I questioned how McCormack was getting the nod over Racon. I had great expectations for McCormack at the beginning of the season but he has not lived up to it, unless this is just a combination of bad form and poor definition of the role he is supposed to carry out.
Whatever, it mystified me further still to see that Chris P maintained faith in him yet again.
Samedo does his 'holding"/tackling/hassling role reasonably well but has zilch confidence going forward (demonstrated by his appalling shot when he had an opportunity late on).
McCormack seems to fulfill a role that is all running, but not too any great effect. His distribution is not that good and his tackling poor (even though he seems to go down a lot in the process).
Racon may (I've no way of knowing) be a prickly character to deal with but he is our only current midfielder who has a creative streak in him. Sure bnough, when he came on the game plan changed and he provided some incisive passes and a couple of great runs. I am not saying his is the total answer (but unless we bring someone new in to support the midfield his is our sensible option.
Summarising the rest of the game,
Jenkinson (once again) had an encouraging game;
Dailly and Doherty looked solid in the middle and it was a great pity that the former blotted his copybook with a bad error to give away the decisive goal;
Fry: he had an off game in terms of distribution and positioning, but had little support at times (in particular for their first goal): I cannot figure whether it was Jackson or Ecclestone who was wanting in the respect; (Bassone looked an good alternative in this position but I still harbour fears tht we will not see that much of him with sporadic appeaances in between knocks).
Jackson: generally provided a threat and was unlucky with a fine shot just wide;
Abbot: did not show the form as per the last home game, and was not a lot better than his early season appearances;
Ecclestone: missed a coule of crucial opportunities in the first half but otherwise toiled away well, if somewhat predictably;
Wright-Phillips: did his job to get on the score sheet, but was not in the game enough; seemed a lonely figure out on the wing. Will the current 3 forward front line  work with the current selected players? I was also a little concerned that his head went down to an extent when we were up against it, and his running off the ball with it. He looked a bit frustrated out there today. 
We are missing Anyinsah who was showing a lot of promise. Not sure where Benson will fit at the moment in unless he takes precedence over Ecclestone which seems unlikely.
There is a positive glimmer: we are still in a good psoition, but the 2 Southampton games are looking increasingly crunch games, which is not good as they seem to be a far better side than us.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

More Issues for "The Cup in the Oven"

In a previous post I postulated on the various implications of selecting Qatar for the World Cup.
A new potential issue has now emerged following the recent turbulence in the Middle East. Formula 1 Racing (already enmeshed in various unproven bribery scandals) is now getting edgy about staging the next Grand Prix there. This is coming down from the top, I.E. Ecclestone (not Nathan but Berni in this instance).
He is fearful of his Grand Prix providing the ideal worldwide PR platform for protesters.
Well, in case FIFA should not be listening, the World Cup would provide a far greater platform for such events.
It may l be that such problems as emerging in Qatar are way behind us before the tournament, but who knows? The population of Qatar seem tobe pretty football crazy and that might save the day even if politically there remained a problem. Of course, this is all in addition to issues relating to a revised timing of the tournament, the question of climatic conditions within the stadium and in training areas, crowd control and accommodation and even drink!
Perhaps, FIFA ought to have a good risks management 'Plan B'; just in case! 

Had to Happen: (and Midfield Still Needs Sorting)

The honeymoon could not go on for ever. Unfortunately, we fell over on a trip to the cold north where we traditionally do not fair well. I had this down as a defeat on CAFCPICKS at the beginning of the season, and I would not have changed that, even if I could have. Unfortunately, until we get a side who can confidently travel to the coldest northern venues and get 3 points, we will find life difficult. Fortunately, only Oldham (very difficult), Rochdale (and perhaps Walsall) remain in that category.
We have not improved that much, especially in the midfield. We have been riding our luck without a significant increase in creativity and the other results did not even punish us to nay extent the other night, though it is bad news to lose our game in hand advantage over Southampton which will make those games even greater cliffhangers.
In Ecclestone (especially playing wide), Wright Phillips and Aynyinsah (and who knows, even Abbot and Benson) we have a potent force if we can provide a decent supply.
It is mystifying me at the moment how Chris Powell continues to play McCormack instead of Racon. Racon has not been consistent this year, but can provide a degree of creativity.I would like to know if he is suffering from a knock as he did not even make the bench against Hartlepool. If he is fully fit then I will begin to think that the club are in two minds about offering him a good contract (from his point of view) or even suspect that Powell and him are not on the same wavelength. It would be a pity if this kind of thing impacted on selection as one felt it crept into play under Curbs. 
I gather that Benson is injured, hence him being left out but I did wonder initially whether he had been reprimanded for anything in his Evening Standard article.
With the prospect of a sizable gate against Exeter, let's hope we do not lose the opportunity by delivering an anti-climax as we have doe over the years in big games, or games of other significance.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Sunny Day: Time for a Real Meander!

England this time of the year can be a bit like I imagine Scandinavia is; a lot of grey cloud and no sign of sunlight. This can get depressing and result in a pessimistic outlook on all subjects mind, including trying to adopt a cheerful outlook for the rest of the season..
However, today was a crisp, clear and sunny day from start to end. It prompted me to get off my backside, get away from the PC and go for an hours walk across the fields near home.  
This was especially beneficial as yesterday encompassed some unsuccessful Internet purchasing for my wife when her debit card failed at the bank verification stage several times. After continued lack of success, you begin to think of tearing your hair out, feeling that somehow you may just have cocked it up.
Well, early today the bank discovered that they had my wife’s DOB wrong on her master customer record which therefore failed to match the transaction details.
So, all along it was their fault; and it had cost me several £’s sterling on their 0845 help numbers to determine it.. Still, another solved client problem will help their customer services reach this year’s target and maybe lay the foundations for its Director to earn his 6 figure end of year bonus!Anyhow, I was in the right frame to take a relaxing walk across some good typical countryside.

En route I saw a couple of horses flat out; having a really peaceful time.

I got to thinking that it would be great if last weekend’s well fought win at Yeovil and the splendid 4-4 draw between Peterborough and Southampton meant that our own side has been able to relax temporarily to fully absorb the results, and then get ready to fully recharge on the training ground to tear apart (again) Peterborough this Saturday.I think we can do that, but it’s going to be a long slog and we are going to need all the luck/run of the ball to continue to clock up the results thereafter.
A win against Peterborough would set us up for a series of winnable games (apart from a tough one at Hartlepool) leading up to an important game at MK Dons where we are likely to need a point (I am still awaiting an MK Dons total collapse that does not seem to come).

A fully recharged side must conjure up at a gallop a decent run for the crunch Southampton game.

However, unless we improve the creative quality in midfield (by an ‘emergency loan’ our back four are going to be hard pressed to survive the blitzkrieg they will encounter from Southampton, (prob. the best side in the division).
Southampton also have some ‘iffy’ games of their own  before they meet us (Hartlepool, Colchester and Bournemouth away): 
It would be good if they slipped up and began to stutter a little before we meet them.
After the home game against Southampton, we still have to face them away and also challenging away games at Bournemouth and Oldham, not to mention what could be a cliff hanger against Huddersfield at home.
If we are to stand a chance we must stack up the points as our goal difference is pathetic right now.
The composition of the top 6-8 sides is beginning to look sensible. I thought Oldham looked a good strong side at the Valley and they are coming good, and could well be a dark horse.   
Hopefully, we can knock the stuffing out of Peterborough, which leaves Brighton, who already seems to be almost there, Huddersfield and Southampton. 
Fire them up Chris!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Gratefully Received 3 Points: Despite Riding our Luck

Another game where we certainly rode our luck. The goal appeared to be a good one but the ref lost his concentration and blew up before he put it away with the now well publicised change of decision influenced by the fourth official (bless his cotton socks).
Francis had a much better game, especially his runs down the wing and crossing, which just about compensated for his otherwise wayward distribution.
Anyinsah had another good game and seems to be a better bet than Benson right now.
Wright Phillips was certainly 100% enthusistic but did not do much of note until, he put an excellent goal away (but that's what he;s there for).
Wagstaffe was virtually anonymous apart from making the goal which seems to be what he is there for, but I am still not convinced it fully makes up for his general lack of involvement. .
The midfield contribution was pretty poor from a creative standpoint (so what's new).
McCormack seems to be playing oput of position and Racon would have been a far better bet in my opinion. I am beginning to think that he may be in danger of being out of favour, but it seems early days in Chris Pwell's reign for that to be the case?
Contrary to various derogatory rumours following his loan move, Bassone had a more than satisfactory, cultured game, especially going forward, though he was not put under pressure defensively. Worryingly, he went of early after an injury; one hopes this is not a recurrence of problems he had at Leeds. I thought he looked a bit like a more sophisticated Phil Warman going forward (what a complement!).
It would be good to see Ecclestone given more than a 10 minute run at the opposition, but not because he is putting the pressure on with petulant tantrums (as has been reported), and which may present Chris Powell with a short term issue to resolve.