Friday, February 03, 2006

What a week it's been

This blog has had more hits than its had in its existence this week and the lists and the message boards have been swamped with traffic. The controversy has not died down, but this might be a time to stand back and reflect a little on what it all means in terms of football and the club.

We live in an era of player (and agent) power. Managers find themselves condemned because they have 'lost the dressing room'. Is it such a bad thing when a manager asserts his authority against a big ego?

Murphy's defenders would say that it shows that Curbs cannot handle big players. But should he handle them by giving them into their demands, by playing them when he thinks they are not giving their all? Or because their wife slags off the referee in The Times for sending her husband off when he has a petulant fit of temper? Can one imagine Sam Bartram or even Killer getting their wife to air their grievances in the press?

I know some people will not believe any stories about problems at the training ground without a sworn affidavit from the player concerned. But things are leaked on a no attribution basis. The club has ways of getting its side of events out when official channels cannot be used. And what is clear is that Danny Murphy was not the toast of the dressing room.

Another current complaint is that we are not playing attractive football. However, what is overlooked is the extent to which the structure of the Premiership encourages cautious, defensive football. The financial penalties of relegation are so great, and the imbalance of resources between clubs so grotesque, that most clubs play to avoid the drop.

Yet another grumble is that Charlton lacks ambition. But do we want vaulting ambition that overreaches itself? Or the prudent, steady expansion that Charlton has favoured? Look at Leicester, Ipswich, Derby or above all Leeds. Or look at Sunderland, mired in debt, and likely to finish with the lowest total of points in the history of the top division. It's all to easy for a club to fall below the Championship into League 1.

Fans are rightly proud of the club's community work. But the 'more than a football club' slogan does worry me sometimes. Does the club's dedication to a politics of engagement and social inclusion distract management attention from what is happening on the pitch?

I have provoked some people on the list by stating that football is a business. Of course, it's not a business like any other. Few clubs seek to make profits and when someone does try to make money out of the franchise, they often come a cropper as is happening with the Salford Red Sox. Fans have a loyalty to the club which they do not have to a supermarket (although research shows that there are more 'floating' fans than most people would allow). (Anyone who has a broader interest in these issues can read a paper I have written with some Charlton content at Football . You need to scroll down the page to the football link).

Nevertheless, clubs have to make commercial decisions and they can't inform fans of every twist and turn in their transfer strategy without undermining their position. And I think there were genuinely very late developments in the Murphy saga. Having said that, I do think that the public relations aspect has been handled poorly and this is something the club ought to consider.


Blogger se3addick said...

Having spent 20 years as a buyer for a major UK supermarket I'm very clear indeed about the need to keep under wraps any important information that might weaken my negotiating position. I'm thoroughly in agreement with Charlton conducting their transfers in the greatest secrecy, and have rarely been disppointed when the newcomers have been announced.

What does irritate though is the highy implausible set of half-truths put out about Murphy, when simple silence would have sufficed.

As for Charlton's ambitions I'm happy for us to be a mid-table club in the Premiership, not too worried about relegation and not too optimistic about Europe. What I do find increasingly frustrating is the way that talented players seem to get the confidence sucked out of them. Wigan are flying this season, and I'm prepared to believe that this is in part due to the motivational work being done with the players.

Getting new players in seem in part to be a way of refreshing the squad through introducing a shot of confidence. I'd far rather see the club pay out £100,000 a year for a skilled sports hypnotherapist or neurolinguistic psychologist who could get inside the players' heads, and help them to play consistently at their best.

Curbs seems to be past the worst this season; well, look at the way his complexion has impoved since New Year :o)

12:28 PM  
Blogger hartley said...

Many say that Curbs is not a man manager. Well, good for him. When folks say that, what they really mean is that he isn't coddling his players. Murphy is no man. He has not heart. He has some ability but many faults -- apparently both on and off the pitch. What Charlton need are men that play with heart game in and game out. Addicks are men who when knocked down pick themselves up and go at it again. Murphy wanted someone else to pick him up. Well, Hotspurs will do that for a while, but then they won't. And where will Murphy go next? Newcastle? Blackburn? West Ham? Bolton? One of the other BIG clubs? I think we might easily see him finishing his career either playing for the likes of Millwall.

3:21 PM  

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