Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Food For Thought: from A previous Diabolical Season

The point gained with a fair stroke of luck at Bournemouth may prove crucial in the run-in, providing we can secure a few more points beforehand. Given the fixture list, the remaining  home games are key to our survival in this division, starting with the home game against Leyton Orient which I feel has now become a crucial fixture. They have been on a good run but we need to raise our game as against Southampton and get a vital 3 point as I cannot see points easy to come by in the remaining away fixtures and the home games against Rochdale and Hartlepool.
In any 'normal' season those teams should provide adequate cannon fodder to secure our future. However, this is no 'normal'season and the collapse in recent games has been as bad and frustrating as many of our New Year collapses in recent years. As we all know, being a CAFC supporter can be a roller coaster experience, the likes of which no other supporters seemed to be 'blooded' on.
If history is to be avoided, we need to win the next two home games as I can recall a nail biting night sitting by the radio in May1964 when we needed to win at Walsall in the last game of the season to avoid relegation.
We were only in with a chance in the final game because the late Cliff Durandt had fired in an 89th minute winner to beat Southampton at home in the penultimate game. I remember seeing him fire in the long rage shot that was going over until it inexplicably dipped at the last minute.
It was a most uncharacteristic performance for CAFC in that the reports stated that we went out there on raw meat and immediately set about delivering crunching tackles, much in the style of Harry Cripps' Millwall sides. By the eight minute Walsall were reduced to 10 men with another hobbling along without making much of a contribution.A winning goal from Mike Kenning in the 63rd minute kept us up and sent Walsall down.
I hope we do not require the same outcome away to Walsall this season. In those days, we had players like Kenning (a bit of a softie but with a thunderbolt shot) and those with true grit such as Sewell, Hewie, Tocknell, Lucas, Kenning and Kinsey: not sure where they are now.
Keith Peacock was also I the side and gine the thought may have crossed his mind about the Walsall fixture.

I would not place bets on many 100% tackles other than from a minority of our current players or managing a draw at Walsall without an uncharacterstic 'superhuman' performance; let’s hope we secure the required points beforehand as my blood pressure is unlikely to hold out as well as if did in 1964 second time around!.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Run-In

Like many, but unfortunately not all, existing season ticket holders, I will be buying one for next season before April 4.
Michael Slater assures us in his most recent letter that all the management and directors are aware that the side needs strengthening and that 'significant investment' will be made in due course to achieve that.
A reasonable point is made that the club wished to avoid 'panic buying' in January. Certainly, inflated fees and contractual demands are to the fore at that time. However, many will nevertheless rue that fact that more was not done (assuming sufficient money may have been available, and it's possible that it wasn't) to make a push for promotion.
Michael Slater has said that "It is not a viable business in this division". That again raises the question he was not asked at the recent Valley Q/A love-in when those who attended gave the presenters an easy time : I.E. how long will the current board provide funds to support the club if we do not win promotion to the Championship?
Until I looked at the fixture list the other night I was confident that at least we can safely wrap up a mid table position and focus close season on next year's campaign. I am now far from sure as I cannot see where the next win is coming from (hope they prove me wrong tonight).
We have to see a major improvement with all the club and its players charged with getting a run together to secure the required points. Recent quotations attributed to those at the top (rightly or wrongly) that most players will not be offered contracts next season is hardly likely to evoke the "Dunkirk Spirit" from the squad in the remaining games.
If "It is not a viable business in this division", then what would the Board plan in the event of relegation, God Forbid!
(Incidently, I ommitted Bessone from my last post: the jury must be out on him. He looked promising but I expressed concerns before he came about his fitness and injury record which have not be neagted since he came. Quite apart from his merits on the park, a realistic  assessment of his fitness is rquired before any decisions can be made).

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Tinkering or Major Surgery?

With all hopes of progress gone for this season (and with a few wins hopefully we will not drop further down the leagues) the time is approaching when plans for next season need to be made. Some may think it's a little early to go on this tack, but here goes nevertheless. Hopefully, it's already well under way within the club.
Certain players are on longer term contracts (e.g. Francis, Doherty and McCormack). They could sit time out unless the club and they feel sufficiently strongly that they should move on. Of these, Francis and McCormack are the most currently vilified by the fans.
Doherty has his critics but at this level has not done badly. Francis has had a terrible run but did not make a bad start at the club so maybe he is capable of returning to form, though some have lost their patience. I have lost my patience with McCormack and hope he moves on.
Summarising my, on the spur of the moment, frustrated thoughts;  RED (keep), BLUE (best to move on); GREEN Undecided
Elliot: injury prone and has had an inconsistent season with his handling and crosses. His poor form has had a chain reaction in a lack of confidence in the back four. He’s a 100% CAFC lad and has not cost us any major fee so he can perform a task for us, but probably as a squad / reserve keep for the immediate future.
Worner: really trying hard and was not bad at all in the last home game but does not seem to have the stature to hold down a place
Back Four:
Jenkinson: It’s early days, but he seems great prospect. But Arsenal's interest rumour are true then they or someone else “may do a Shelvey” on us: I would like to think we can hold on to him for a couple of seasons before cashing in if that becomes unavoidable;
Solly: I worry about his lack of height but he has yet to let us down. Home grown and a prospect for the future; either to fight it out for a right back spot, or perhaps to switch to left back where he has not performed badly w
Dailly: unlike others, I feel he has another season in him, if he wants it; he may do better elsewhere;
Mambo: one for the future; I hope he gets a chance;
Fortune: great respect for his past endeavours in the shirt, but he just seems to have lost his fitness and I cannot see him recovering;
Fry: has served us well but surely he will return to West Ham (especially if they drop) or command a fee elsewhere;
Doherty: Not sure whether we need him for cover when the going gets tough. undecided, but may depend on contractual situation;
Francis: Undecided;
Liera: currently our in form back four man and eager to stay. Great in the air but frail on the ground. On balance, he deserves to stay providing he has a side kick with some speed (Mambo?);
Youga: the best of the bunch if he is fit, and a key loss this season. Would like to think he can return but for most of the season I have assumed he will not. If he's fit, no doubt that he should stay;Midfield:
Jackson: Has done well, on occasions our only attacking option;
Racon: an enigma; has the skill but seems to have lost the art of applying it. When his contract ends he may have unrealistically high demands;
Samedo: Has his detractors (Keith!) and has no creative capability or firepower. But if only we could find the elusive creative midfielder could perform a a needed ‘holding’ role;
Wagstaff: an athlete with limited football capabilities; young and has very prospect of a career, but probably not at CAFC as he does not have the capability to beat a man or provide the required creativity;
Reid: Has played some great games (especially when away) coming on late as a sub. But his crossing is poor and when he has played a full game has disappointed;
Stavinrue: too small, if the club can afford to wait for him to develop fine, if not he would be best to move on;
BWP: Assumed to be on a good contract and therefore will command a place, assuming his leg holds out. Largely ineffective with little contribution if we cannot provide ‘poacher’ opportunities near the goal, which depends on sorting out the wingers and midfield. (I would have spent the money on a good midfielder and kept Sodje if we could had not been able to finance two significant signings). Must contribute more when the chances are not forthcoming;
Benson: Disappointing; I had hopes but it has not worked out; not sure about contract situation;
Anyinsah: providing he can steer clear of injury has been an asset who I think could improve further with a big man alongside him;
Ecclestone and Nouble are loanees and may not be available. Leaving them aside, that sums up to:
Retain: 10
Move on: 6
Not sure: 5

If 50% , say 3, of the "Not sures" were to move we would retain 12, and move out 9.
Not sure how realistic that is in terms of being able to find adequate replacements and mould a cohesive unit close season to make a realistic challenge?
Perhaps Nouble might be available and if he were I think like Anyisah he could improve and maybe become a Leaburn type figure. But if West Ham drop then they may decide he could perform a role there.
I am discounting the young hopefuls coming through as I have not seen enough of them. However, Tumar does not seem physically ready and I’m not certain he will make it, though it would be good if he does.
There are grounds to regret moving on Randolph, Spring and Akpo Sodje, and Grant Basey seems to have got fit and is doing well with Peterborough who may be promoted (last laugh for him).
I wonder whether Lisbie could do us a turn next season???!!!!.
A vital additional factor to take into account is the need for some continuity. If we have a major exodus close season then we will start the season with a team which will probably take 2 months to gel and find ourselves on the back foot straight away.
Lennie Lawrence had the ideal solution when he made five magnificent buys that took us back to the top division: Shirtliff, Reid, Pearson, Pender and Shipley. All were players not carrying a big reputation and fee. That’s a credit to Lennie; it’s a pity he went over to the Palace as I’m sure he could perform a Peacock type role for us (“Been there and done it!”).
Given that promotion has been missed and no doubt our finances will be struggling again next year, there is a need for messrs Slater and co to be prepared to dig into their pockets as Richard Murray and colleagues did to keep us afloat. I hope we can be confident of that.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Poor Performance: But when your'e down

After a bright start, once again the side gradually descended into another poor performance. Having said that, as is always the case when you are up against it the run of the ball just does not go for you: with a crossbar and and goal line clearance stifling our progress. 

Once again the biggest shortcoming remains in midfield. If we has bolstered it some time ago with a good quality creative midfielder then Samedo and Racon could have performed a role, though there is little mileage in Wagstaffe and certainly not McCormack, who after yesterday's game I have added "cannot tackle" to his dubious credentials.

Committing to the purchase of BLP without sorting out a good midfield player was misguided. A "poacher" will not score goals unless you have a creative midfield and wingers who can beat a man and put in a decent cross, neither of which we have. Therefore, BLP is unlikely to make a worthwhile contribution, as has been the case. Unless we can provide him with the opportunity to score from close range then he may become a luxury passenger we cannot afford to play: as all our players must make a positive contribution.

Nouble may make a decent contribution once fit (dare one say in the Leaburn mould), though a return to fitness for Anyinsah (and Jackson) is more important right now.

I am have been a long term fan of Solly but am unsure as to whether he will be exposed in defending due to his lack of height. However, with Jenkinson we have the option of perhaps trying them both out in the same side as full backs (assuming Jenkinson's injury is not serious), especially if Fry is likely to return to West Ham (?).

Fortune has made a major contribution over the years and is repported to be an excellent guy aroiund the team. However, it's obvious he seems unable to return to his fitness levels and speed of past years so Mambo should be given the chance to continue his education in the remaining first team matches if Dailly's injury means an absence for a few games or if he can be brought on as a late substitute.
Have not done the calculations to determine whether we should be realstically worried about a relegation fight, though I guess that some of the experimentations (e.g. Jenkinson, Solly & Mambo) might have to be delayed until we are certain of our safety.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Slide Accelerates: Mid Table Fight Looks On

We are now fast becoming at best a mid table team, and even worse unless we strike some form.
Leyton Orient have now moved above us on their limited resources. I suggested previously that getting rid of Matt Spring may have been a mistake (laughed at by some). He was a talented player, passed the ball around well and was not afraid to get stuck in. He did not fit into the task we set him at the Valley, which may say more for our coaching, selection ands style than his potential.

He has since blossomed at the O's, and that includes dominating the midfield when he returned to the Valley with them.
I have been awaiting in vain the collapse of MK Dons that has not happened. They are now probably not reachable by us and with their catchment area and super ground potential they could be one for the future.
The other sides in the top 6 are all striding away and I wouldn't fancy any of them in a play-off heat scenario, let alone a Wembley final.
It looks like it is all back to the drawing board at the end of the season for what will be a real challenge next year as we are likely to start off with a new side unfamiliar with each other and prob. comprising a similar bunch to many of those at present, unless there really is some money behind the current owners.
At least we have the likes of Mambo, Jenkinson, Solly and a few other youngsters coming through and I would not write off Dailly for another season.
I'm not sure if I really want Palace to come down to join  us as even against their current side I would not fancy stealing many points off them.
What Chris Powell makes of it at the moment is anyone's guess. Quite apart from his own capabilities he must have now fallen in on the paucity of the current squad. Eddie Howe prob. did also, (as maybe Billy Davies did before him?)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

What a Horrible Team

I negelected to express the following in my last post, though I notice they have been echoed elsewhere.
Tranmere were a disgrace, from the management and coaching staff through to the team.
Within the first couple of minutes they were wasting time with feigned injuries and protests, with their goalkeeper leaving enough time for a massage between each goalkick and their manager and coaching staff kicking balls onto the pitch to further delay play.
Charlton were poor, but Tranmere's tactics ensured that the entertainment level reached the pits.
An abolsute disgrace, I hope they go down and don't come back.

Backwards Motion Continues

It may have been a point after 4 defeats but it was a dire game.
Efforts were made early on to play a passing game, but you have to have the players with the skills to do it. We obviously do not.
If a 'passing game' means playing 3-4 balls across the back four to gain 10 yards, and then 3-4 more to go around in a circle, followed by a pass back to Elliot then we have the credentials.
The players were scared to make a reasonable long pass early on (prob. due to current fixation to play a passing game) and only resorted to it in desperation when all else failed and by that time a decent long pass was not on the agenda.
Liera, who had a good game, made some searching passes, and Jenkinson and Dailly were the only players to successfully take on the opposition on a one to one basis, oh for wingers that we had in the past who could beat their man and put in a decent cross.
McCormack was awful, he did not have the confidence to make more than one pass that went forward during the whole game.
Wright Phillips is far too lightweight and if his goal scoring dries up he will contribute little or nothing.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Backwards We Go

Last night's game warrants little constructive or positive posting.
It was pretty rank. Only Dailly, Doherty (before he went off) and Jenkinson deserve any merit.
CJ look a real prospect; perhaps in him (Mambo and Solly) the future looks more rosy, but not for a while.
This game really plunged the depths, made worse by the poor turn out (about which the official crowd figures seemed over optimistic).
Not worth analysing individual performances other than to say that Ecclestone and Wright Phillips looked extremelyy lightweight and too easily pushed off the ball. Anyinsah may have made a difference; who knows whether Benson would have as he only had about 10 -15 minutes to make any impression.
Elliot gifted one of the goals and is lacking confidence but there is no solid alternative at present and immediate dropping to the bench could effect his confidence still further.
As CP said at the recent Valley evening, there will definitely be lows (or words to that effect) and it's come sooner that he expected though in truth the side have been less than impressive even when the results were going our way.
The play-offs look in doubt,  and the current powder puff side would not be best suited to them anyway given the quality of the other sides up there.
Unless CP has some  masterstrokes up his sleeve, a continued poor run could see us dicing with relegation.