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Be Careful What You Wish For Arsenal Fans

In a week that has seen so many fans of a variety of clubs calling for their respective managers heads, I would like to send a word of warning to said fans. As a Charlton fan, it is fair to say that over the last few years, we have had some of our darkest days, losing our ground excluded. It certainly hasn’t been a great time to be a Charlton fan, and finally, after five or six seasons, it finally doesn’t feel too optimistic to look up the leagues instead of down. Our dramatic slide all started with a change of manager.

Some of the managers that fans are suggesting they would like axed include Steve Kean, Arsene Wenger, Alex McLeish and looking down to the Championship names like Paul Jewell. Whilst I understand that the respective clubs have had their managers for a varying number of years, have different aims and goals, and certainly different money with which to act, I think that the Charlton story of the last few years can be linked quite closely to each and every one.

After seven successful years in the top flight, with Alan Curbishley, manager of fifteen years, slowly building the team year by year, with little money, Charlton were becoming established in the top flight. Seasons went by where they dominated many of the teams, one season in particular where their record against the other London teams, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal especially, was very impressive, and slowly but surely they were creeping up the league. Similar to Stoke or Fulham of recent seasons, they slowly built up the calibre of players that were playing, combining them with some youth talent, and were shaping into a side that could perhaps push for Europe.

The board decided that a change was needed. Being a younger fan I don’t know exactly why this was, but they wanted a change. Perhaps the visions of the owners and manager were different, perhaps they felt that Curbishley had run his course or perhaps they simply wanted the club to have a facelift. Whichever of the above, or any other reason for that matter, Curbishley left at the end of the 2005-2006 season, and was replaced by Iain Dowie. Dowie was given more money that season than Curbishley had had for many years, possibly ever, and began spending that money almost immediately.

By November, 12 matches into the Premier League season, and with only two wins, Dowie was shown the door. Rightly or wrongly, his managerial career at the Addicks was short lived, and with only Darren Bent to have scored more than one goal, Charlton were languishing at the bottom of the league with only eight points. So began a horrible slippery slope, made similarly famous by clubs such as Leeds, Manchester City, and more recently Southampton and the two Sheffield sides. After Dowie came Reed, Reed gave way to Pardew, and Pardew gave way to Phil Parkinson. Five seasons and four managers later, Charlton found themselves in league one again, and somewhat surprisingly, allbeit after a couple of dodgy results, Phil Parkinson was sacked in January, and a few days later, Charlton legend Chris Powell, a novice in managerial terms, took the reins.

It’s fair to say that Powell limped through to the end of that season. It’s even fairer, for those who know the team, to say that it was the team that limped through, many aware that they would not succeed in the plans Powell had for the club, and were just looking ahead to May when they would be shown the door. And so was the case, with tens and twenties of players arriving and leaving the club in a huge summer overhaul with very little money. All positions were replaced, many positions were covered by a second player, and Powell began the difficult job of shaping together a completely new set of players. But they were his players.

This season has so far been a complete revelation. Perhaps the most important characteristic that separates the Charlton squad of 2011-12 from the previous few seasons, is they look like they care. This feeling is shared with the fans, who also can see that feeling radiating through the squad. This was no more apparent than when Charlton played Fulham during the FA Cup. 7000 fans made their way across London, fully expecting a loss. 4-0 was a flattering scoreline for Fulham, and the Charlton players more than held their own for large parts of the match. At the end of the game, Powell collected his players in the middle of the pitch, and together they walked over to the away fans, not one of the 7000 had left, and the fans and players shared a moment of mutual acknowledgment. The fans acknowledged that they finally had a set of players that cared for the club, whilst the players realised just how much their effort was appreciated. Perhaps now, a new era for CAFC begins.

Now despite the fact that Charlton are finally looking up again, I think many things that have occurred since Curbishley’s exit, should act as warnings for some fans calling for their managers heads. Wenger, like Curbishley, has brought some of the biggest success to the club he manages. At Arsenal, he has built up an ethic of great flowing football, and the team continue to perform to a high level. Whilst there are issues at the back, and the calibre of players this year perhaps looks at its weakest for a while, they are still in the Champions League, and are still in the fight for fourth spot in the Premier League.

The question Arsenal fans have to ask, is what will a new manager bring? Apart from disrupting a squad that are clearly working hard for the manager, can he really bring in such a strong new method or new players that it’s going to make a huge difference? Whilst Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for a few years now, and this is clearly something they aim to get to every year, the squad is reforming. Wiltshire is still to return, Song is looking stronger in the middle, and Van Persie continues to work wonders up front. Wenger has worked miracles for the club, and perhaps it’s not time to say goodbye just yet.

Villa fans were certainly never keen about the Alex McLeish appointment anyway. A similar scenario to Dowie taking over at Charlton having been at Palace. However, results have not been too bad, and with limited resources and a fairly limited squad, he seems to be doing okay. Of course, for a few years Villa have beenin or pushing for Europe, and this doesn’t look like happening this year, but give him another summer, whilst you’re not in any danger, and like the title says, be careful what you wish for. Continual changes of management could simply disrupt the little rhythm that does currently exist, and suddenly drag you into a relegation fight that at present you’re not in much danger of being in.

Throughout this season, Steve Kean has handled some of the most disgusting abuse with the most professionalism I have seen from a manager. I am in agreement with many of the fans, that he is not a proven manager, and Allardyce would have been more successful, but through the most horrific circumstances, he continues to hold his head high, the players are rallying for him, and Blackburn, for the most part, have played a very good standard of football for their position in the league. Once again, you must ask what a new manager is going to bring to that squad. Blackburn have a young set of players who are learning the game together and playing a good style of football. With the defence strengthened, and Robinson continuing strongly in goal, there’s no reason they won’t climb the league with Kean.

Ipswich have seen an awful slide down the division through this year. With the leakiest defence in the league, and a group of experienced players on decent wages failing to perform, it’s hard to see where their success is going to come. But with the end of the January transfer window fast approaching, isn’t it now too late to be calling for Jewell’s head? The team is not good enough. Over recent games, he has selected more of the youth players, in a decision similar to one Lambert made at their neighbours Norwich City. The youngsters look more hungry, more passionate, and perhaps with them now taking the reins, Ipswich will drag themselves back out of trouble.

I’m not saying that sacking a manager is never right. I just think that in their current situations, these clubs need to be careful what they wish for, because the slide down the leagues can be quick and unforgiving.

 

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Don Cee

    22 January, 2012 at 20:44

    Let’s be realistic, Arsenal football club is going to attract a much higher profile and capable manager than Charlton Athletic ever could! One man does not make a club (with the exception of Sir Alex!). Arsenal fans want success and demand success and Mr Wenger has failed to deliver of the last 6 years. No other manager of a top flight club would be allowed to take a club from the top two to be competing for 4th place. You are entitled to your view but some of us have high standards. The problem for Arsenal is looking at clubs like Man U, Chelsea, Spurs and Man City all excel and us go backwards. And it is NOT repeat NOT repeat NOT about money. It is about success. As a sports man, you want to win. The manager was the one with the stupid 30 plus 1 year maximum contract which forced a lot of experienced and talented footballers out of the club. The manager is the one with the Kids experiment which has gone horribly wrong. The manager let Kolo Toure and William Gallas leave, the manager played Bendtner for so long. Players like Nasri, Fabregas, Clichy et all would have stayed if Aresenal were likely to win the title even if they money was not as good. When we were winning things, players like Henry, Viera, Pires, Bergkamp were certainly not the best paid players in the league, but they stayed becuase success has more value. My Wenger,….. time to move over i say!

  2. g clarke

    22 January, 2012 at 20:48

    wenger should move on to better club

  3. Magneto

    22 January, 2012 at 20:49

    This is a good, timely article.

    It makes wise points that fans of Arsenal in particular
    would do well to heed.

    Let’s hope that CAFC get promotion under Chris Powell to
    the Championship at the end of the season.

  4. Tom

    22 January, 2012 at 21:07

    Frankly we can do without fans from charlton trying to advise on what’s best for arsenal. Completely different club mate, and if we want to say we’re unhappy with our managers decisions then we’ll bloody well going to do it and have ever right to do so. If wenger goes I’m pretty sure arsenal can attract a higher calibre of manager then charlton

  5. davegooner

    22 January, 2012 at 21:10

    g clarke, i wish he would move to a “better club” and stop destroying our great club. He can go wreck another club!!

  6. A Charlton Fan

    22 January, 2012 at 21:28

    Good article mate.

  7. Tom

    22 January, 2012 at 21:51

    To any Arsenal fans, my intentions were never to directly compare the two clubs. I am aware that the history of the two clubs is vastly different, however we must also remember that if it weren’t for CAFC’s end of season blips, there were a few years (all be it we were punching above our weight), when we were in the upper echelons of the Premier League. Every fan has the right to form an opinion of their manager of course, but I feel that the article is as relevant for fans of Arsenal as it is to those of a team bottom of the Blue Square Premiership. For example, Chelsea had a few successful years, yet a fairly steady stream of managers has not brought success to them. The article is aimed more generally at the potential destruction a knee-jerk reaction can cause. There are, of course, many examples of manager changes bringing success, the decision just needs to be made rationally, but thanks for all your feedback!

  8. Andrew

    22 January, 2012 at 22:44

    With the greatest of respect Charlton and Arsenal cannot be compared. The basis of the article laments the loss of Curbs and I agree it was not the right thing for Charlton and their fine manager. In our case AW has ‘lost it’ he is utterly stubborn, dreadful (always has been) at substitutions but cannot motivate or inspire what is now a very weak squad. The Charlton fan author of this article should have seen Sky at three yesterday when the invincibles team was shown wrapping up that seasons title against Leicester. What a massive difference and how far we have fallen.
    Gone are the proper men of the club and wispy failed boys are what we are left with. RVP’s anger at the ludicrous substitution of Ox today was obvious. This once great club has been reduced to mediocrity by this egotistical and stubborn clown. I gave up my season tickets this year out of financial and team personnel reasons. Last week Alan Green said that AW ‘was responsible for a legacy of five years of constant improvement’ where has he been for the last five years.
    AW needs to go, thanks for the memories and the stadium but please please go. Just to be constructive, I’d like to see Bilic head up our club and live every ball passionately with the players. Not a spoilt idiot waving his hands about when it all goes predictably wrong and rounding on his financially put upon fans or a ref or a pitch or whatever other excuse he uses to disguise his own ineptitude. Thanks Arsene but please…Allez

  9. Olinga, Ugandan voice

    22 January, 2012 at 22:47

    Tom, Bullshit! Is wenger not going away? Is he a statue? Do u want fans to wait until arsenal descend to league one like charlton? Are u not ashamed of Norwich ambition? Loser! Sleep in ur class. See u in conference north, whatever. U and charlton fans must be DEEENCH! Palm nut!

  10. danny

    23 January, 2012 at 09:06

    Some of you Arsenal fans are a deluded bunch of idiots. Be careful what you wish for. What happens if you get rid of Wenger and get someone else in who flops then the one after that flops. I hope you he goes and you struggle for many of years. scum bags

  11. AC inaccuracy

    23 January, 2012 at 09:19

    Just to correct one inaccuracy, you say ‘The board decided that a change was needed’ to remove Alan Curbishley, but that wasn’t what happened. There were a lot of fans who thought a change was needed, who had got used to being mid-table and wanted more, but the board rightly wanted him to stay. AC resigned. In that respect the situation is the same as Arsenal the board are more realistic than the fans.

  12. Tom

    23 January, 2012 at 09:21

    As a neutral fan in the Premier League, I always have wanted Arsenal to win the league. I love their style of play and always enjoy watching them, so this is in no way an attack on Arsenal.

    I saw the second half of the game yesterday, and I too was both bemused and frustrated when Arshavin was brought on. I was even more surprised to see Arsene then defend the substitution in his post match interview.

    I do not agree that the squad is very weak. The increasing influence that Wiltshire, Ramsey, and Chamberlain are having is encouraging. After several seasons of dodgy keepers, Szczesny has, whilst I don’t claim he is unbeatable, certainly improved that area. Compared to the keepers at Chelsea and United, he is looking more solid. We had Song on loan the year before relegation, and I think he has come on strongly, and Frimpong, temper aside, is growing into a strong player at Wolves.

    Replacing Fabregas was always going to be an impossible task, and I don’t think Wenger has covered himself in glory over the summer by not finding that new creative spark. Perhaps with a full strength midfield, there will be a change. I believe that the center of defence needs a lot of work, and a second forward to work with Van Persie. Just remember though Arsenal are through in the Champions League, what would happen if you won that?

  13. Tom

    23 January, 2012 at 10:51

    Apologies for the inaccuracy. I was at that game (although I was young), and I remember him announcing it. I also remember a few older fans around me, who were suggesting that the board were in agreement with the fans that mid-table was not good enough. I appreciate the correction, as the memory of it may have been blurred

  14. brokennoseofstevebrass

    23 January, 2012 at 13:14

    Really well, thought out blog my friend. I can’t see where Arsene Wenger is taking Arsenal, that’s my problem. He hasn’t moved them forward, and they still seem to be going backwards. I understand the Gunners fans’ frustration. But who would replace him?

  15. c4fc

    23 January, 2012 at 14:00

    A tricky dilemma sometimes. No one is a fortune teller which makes this decision so difficult. Better the devil you know or…??? Sticking with Charlton, they persisted with Phil Parkinson, who also has Arsenal links as a scout for you until quite recently, and despite him presiding over the club’s longest ever winless streak, the board persisted. There were financial problems making it difficult to fire him, despite his abject performances and the squad that he concocted (38 different players turned out in his starting eleven in his relegations season. A more decisive board would have rightly axed him and maybe one relegation could have been saved.

    Parkinson and Wenger are not frequently mentioned in the same sentence or even article and Wenger has a long proven track record with Arsenal; you could do a lot worse. Ask Bradford City the same question and the answer might be an emphatic No!

  16. Kings Hill Addick

    23 January, 2012 at 19:58

    Curbishley had a year left on his contract and refused to extend it. It was clear both at the time and retrospectively that Curbishley wanted a year off with full pay – and that is what he got.

    Richard Murray had been trying to change Curbishley’s mind for months, but thought that it was better with a new manger than one with just one year left.

  17. Tom

    6 March, 2012 at 20:23

    Don’t want to tell everyone I told you so, but you’re now within a realistic shout of getting third spot and finishing above Spurs, and your not doing too badly tonight just at the moment either, even if you don’t go up.

    Fickle Gooners will no doubt never admit that they were wrong, but perhaps the fact that I support Charlton didn’t matter after all, seeing as Arsene has turned things around.

    Again, not claiming he is the answer just yet, but he’s certainly giving it a good go!

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