March 7th, 2005: Muttering in the ranks

Eighth place in the Premiership and a goalless draw at Fulham may not be obvious conditions for revolt, but there was no mistaking the unrest among the travelling Addicks after Saturday’s third consecutive away draw.

Chants of “four-four-two” and “one Franny Jeffers” were the obvious manifestations, but that aside there was much muttering in the ranks at the Putney end.

Should Charlton go on to match or better last season’s seventh-place, 53-point finish, the frustration of this particular afternoon will certainly be forgotten.

Just at the moment, however, the mood is unforgiving. If the Addicks stumble in the coming weeks they are likely to have to contend with something more substantial than the minority of jeers with which greeted the final whistle at Craven Cottage.

It has to be said that the expectations of some supporters are out of control. Neither is this confined to relative newcomers, since it appears to be shared by some who have been following the club for years and ought to have some context.

Back in the real world, Charlton continue to overachieve. Alan Curbishley has once again found a system to secure an impressive number of points.

Unfortunately, 4-5-1 as practised by the Addicks does not provide much of a spectacle and the manager appears unwilling to change things around. No doubt he is mindful of the way Yeovil Town carved open his team when he played things differently.

This could easily become Charlton’s most successful Premiership season, but to listen to some people it could be their worst.

That’s harsh on Curbishley, but it might be tougher still on the Addicks’ directors as they wait for the season-ticket renewals to roll in.

The fans want more risks taken on the field, but don’t expect them to take the blame if things go awry. 

March 14th, 2005: Up the poll

The rules are such that nothing can be certain, but the indications are that this is probably an election year.

Despite the unexpected appearance of health secretary John Reid at The Valley last week, I’m not talking about the battle to choose the curtains at 10 Downing Street. The poll I have in mind is that to choose the fans’ elected representative on the Charlton board.

The current incumbent, Sue Townsend, is the fifth person to hold the post since it began in 1992. Like all her predecessors, Sue has come in for some criticism from fans who wonder what she actually does and whether she represents their views effectively.

Having worked closely with all five elected directors, I am clear that they have done their best to represent the interests of the wider Charlton support and that each has made a significant contribution.

Unfortunately, fans with less direct knowledge would find that hard to judge.

Collective responsibility imposes constraints on the elected director that generally prevent him or her expressing public opinions contrary to the board’s view.

Fans thus have no way of knowing whether their representative agrees with decisions, or disagrees and is simply being ignored. It’s little wonder that when the last election was held two years ago the candidates nearly outnumbered those who voted.

My own view is that the elected director does have an opportunity to raise the alarm if something is seriously awry and that in practice there has been some useful input to the board on day-to-day issues.

My criticism would not be of Sue but rather of the context in which she has to operate. The board likes the kudos it gets from having an elected director. It needs to do more to help make the role effective.

March 21st, 2005: Fish back on the menu

Before kick-off at The Valley on Saturday there were two team changes attracting unfavourable comment.

Jonatan Johansson’s recent cameo appearances as a substitute have not won many admirers, partly because the fans would prefer to see Francis Jeffers.

On Saturday, they would probably have settled for Kevin Lisbie, whose return from suspension might have been expected to be followed by a return to the bench.

But any jeers for Johansson turned to cheers when he scored the equaliser. He had missed a straightforward chance earlier on, but his overall contribution was more than adequate.

Ultimately, it was the reappearance of Mark Fish in central defence at the expense of Chris Perry that left most fans puzzled.

The popular South African has made a considerable contribution to the cause in the past, despite being prone to the odd calamitous misjudgement.

But he was widely blamed for two disastrous defensive performances that saw the Addicks concede eight goals in their first two away games of the season and there have since been question marks about his fitness.

The outcome of Saturday’s game was eventually determined by Talal El Karkouri’s controversial sending-off, but Charlton’s early defensive play was less than assured.

The fact that the Addicks went on to concede four goals was unfortunate for Fish, in particular, although most people left the ground dismissing the outcome as a freak.

Until West Brom got their second, Charlton had still looked potential winners.

Overall, it was better for the Addicks that they beat Spurs in midweek and lost to strugglingWest Brom than the other way around, because they are in direct mid-table competition with theNorth Londonclub.

Saturday’s reverse also put pressure on relegation-threatened Palace, which pleases some of us. But it was an afternoon that left the home fans baffled, as well as frustrated.

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