Half-glimpse of light at end of the tunnel

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The Independent Football

It could be seen as an exercise in supporter-democracy. As Charlton slid to humiliating defeat at home to Wycombe Wanderers last Tuesday, those who had not succumbed to numb resignation booed the recently appointed manager, Les Reed, and chanted "Super Alan Pardew". Within a week, Reed was sacked and Pardew anointed as his successor.

Where they had helped convince the club's directors, however, the vocal home crowd had no such influence on Graham Poll and his assistants, who were the ones jeered off the Valley pitch last night after a dreadful decision in added time led to an equalising goal that denied Charlton the victory they deserved. Pardew knows the team have lost a huge psychological advantage as well, crucially, as two points they cannot afford in pursuit of his former club West Ham and those above them.

Charlton's third manager of the season had set a minimum target of four points from this week's two home games - Aston Villa are the visitors on Saturday - and it seemed a long way away when some familiar, slack defending allowed Brian McBride his early goal. Fortunately, Fulham's defence often looks as bad as Charlton's has this season. As Pardew grew more animated, Antti Niemi's weak punch and then a ghastly mix-up down the middle allowed Charlton to lead by half-time before suffering their grievous late blow.

What he had asked for was clear. A 4-4-2 formation gave Darren Bent some much-needed help from his namesake Marcus, and there was a regular diet of long balls to utilise their pace. Significantly, only one of the many outfield players signed by Iain Dowie, Djimi Traoré, was picked, with old hands Matt Holland and Radostin Kishishev bringing increased work rate to the midfield.

The crowd responded too, appreciating amid the disappointment a more vigorous performance than those which had caused "You're not fit to wear the shirt" to be added to their repertoire.

Like anyone taking over at a club where he once played, Pardew arrives with a useful fund of goodwill, reflected in the ovation with which The Valley greeted him. Dowie was a new broom who swept too thoroughly clean for some tastes without achieving results; the less threatening Reed was supposed to be a safe pair of hands, but soon lost support among the players and then fans.

So, no more Mr Nice Guy. Pardew may also have to take his broom to the dressing-room and sweep away those he deems insufficiently committed to the cause. Honesty of purpose was one of his qualities as a player, and remains one that he values highly.

A "proper player" Alan Curbishley called Pardew, whom he signed on a free transfer and later employed as a scout. Now, having swapped clubs, the two men are locked together in horrible combat at the foot of the Premiership, hoping there is light at at least one end of the (Blackwall) tunnel.

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