Monday, 1 February 2010

At The Crossroads

In the first season of the Championship just after Christmas we were about second and poised for a good push on an immediate return to the Premiership. Team mismanagement, through over use of the loan system and financial necessity, the sale of Andy Reid and injuries put paid to that and we ended up mid table. With the squad we had after years of punching above our weight, we were patting below it. So two years later what has changed, well divisions for a start. We started the year 2nd though and we are at a cross roads in our chase for the poor mans riches of the Championship.
The positives are that we have Parkinson and not Pardew. We have seen that Parkinson is not an impact manager, he slowly builds putting the pieces in place till he has some semblance of a team. Some may say that Parkinson is not the man and that recently some of his substitutions have seemed bizarre, but overall he has performed well and on no money even to have got us to where we are has bee n little short of amazing. Whilst he had some failures last season with his loanees, it must be remembered that they were brought in as we scrapped the bottom of the barrel once everybody else had had a pick of the “crème de la crème” of loanees. This season it has been difficult to complain, whilst Mooney has looked ropey in the last couple of games, despite scoring, he has overall made a positive contribution, Omosuzi has got better and better and in my mind is a strong competitor for the right back position, whilst Ikeme was not a decision many of us agreed with, once he got rid of his ring rustyness he did well.
The negative is that we are skint, where as Pardew could wheel and deal in the loan market at least, we do not have two brass farthings to rub together and we have no topless white knights riding in to save us. We do not have an out and out goal scorer at this level (Chris Dickson’s spell at Gillingham seems to have been the peak of his career and the failure to sell him to Gillingham may be a mistake we rue, come the summer when he hopefully walks away.).
After the recent three home games on the trot we could reasonably expect to have picked up 9 points and with Leeds stuttering their games in hand could have been negated, instead three abject performances have resulted in only 4 points and the gap between 2nd and 3rd widening and next weeks opponents Swindon soaring along on the outside rails.
So we are at a cross roads, we could continue to drive towards promotion or we could as many now believe sink towards mid table obscurity. Many fans predicted relegation this season, so even mid table obscurity can’t be bad – can it? For the sake of our club, we need promotion, our squad is on borrowed time or is it borrowed money, if we are in this division next season then we will lose most of the senior squad, for two reasons. We won’t be able to afford them and we will no longer be able to feed their ambition .
The board have poured £7 million in the club to keep it afloat this season, one has to ask, what about another £1 million please just for a striker – says the man who has little money to contribute himself .
The signing of Reid has been good, but we need to use him and Sam to enable us to go about playing the football that we were playing earlier this season. With the exception of maybe Norwich and Leeds, there are no teams home or away that can live with us as a footballing, passing team and we have to get back to that. We also need to go back to strong foundations at the back, to be a platform for driving forward. If we are solid then we can have the confidence to break forward and put the opposition under pressure. Christian daily has lost some of that assurance that he had earlier this season with the changes of the other three around him, hopefully now we are back to full strength with the exception n of Youga (who it appears from his comments in the shop last week is a while away from contention), the assuredness of the defence will return.
February, beginning with three away games, against leading contenders for the playoffs and March are critical and then we move into the April games of death with Colchester, Norwich and Leeds all at home (Leeds is May, but that is close enough). We are at a cross roads now, because if we do not pick up form now, then April will be meaningless as we are condemned to future years of potential mediocrity.


Ketts said...

Great stuff KK, we have missed your slant on things, welcome back.

Kings Hill Addick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kings Hill Addick said...

I think the assumption that we would struggle to avoid relegation was on the basis that we would have sold most of our best players, and would have invested none of that money on new recruits.

On the basis that Parkinson has been allowed to keep a squad that is one of (of not the) most expensive in this division the expectations can only have risen.

If the board had cut their losses in the summer and sold Shelvey, Bailey, Sam and Racon to finance this season, and it had balanced the books then I would have accepted mid table as we start to build for the future, but as we have spend at least £7m more than we’ve earned this season on the assumption that we will be in the Championship next season the least that will be acceptable is promotion.

The alternative is probably a brush with the real prospect of going out of business altogether. I know that sounds desperate, but anyone that thinks the Olympics in two years is going to make a failing third division club with no real assets worth the £50m* that the board have been rumoured to want for it, must be mad.

I think that based on where we are we should stick it out to try and see if we can just make it to second, or win the playoffs. However, it has been argued that the incremental gambles in January 2008, that failed to even secure a playoff place, ran up the debts that forced the sales of Majid Bougherra and Paddy McCarthy. The lack of these two, particularly the former, was responsible for our relegation for following year – in my view.

Thus, your post is frighteningly accurate – we are “At The Crossroads”. I cannot see any more money being spent, nor can we expect it. Anything short of winning our remaining 18 games could leave us unable to catch Leeds or Norwich. Even 18 wins might not be quite enough. If Leeds and Norwich finish the season with their current averages, we would need 100 points to finish second. That means we’d need 45 points out of a possible 54. Those numbers make spending any serious money now look as sensible as the Andy Gray signing. Any money we spend now would have to be recouped in the summer, along with something like the £7m worth of savings that the board needed to ‘raise’ this summer.

It does look like we are going to be banking on a good showing in the playoffs to save the clubs immediate future, and we thought the playoff final in 1998 was a significant point in the clubs history.

Just for the record, I’m not aiming any criticism at Parkinson. I have disagreed with some of his decisions, but he’s proved to be right most of the time. We have to trust him and hope that we can keep enough form to make the playoffs and find three (or maybe just two) performances when we get there.

We are certainly entering what Alex Fergusson calls the ‘squeaky bum time’.

* The £50m is made up of the Boards Loan Bonds, the Mortgage on The Valley, some short term 'overdrafts' to cover the day to day running of a business, and a notional fee to purchase the club.