This evening's game gives our supporters and the watching TV audience the opportunity to hopefully see the good side of our club.
There is no question that we have played some fine, fluid football during the season but our hopes and dreams were dashed at both Cardiff and here in the home Cup tie with Chelsea.
At our best we can out-pass teams well and get the positive results. When our opponents interrupt our flow with a niggley approach, try to narrow the game or use an offside ploy then we can lose our rhythm. This is normal.
It has also been suggested that the pitch had been a contributory factor to our recent disappointment — I don't necessarily go along with that. Of course, I know that our pitch this season, like most pitches up and down the country, has not been in such good condition but we have had an abnormally high rainfall this winter and with the structure of the stands, drying conditions haven't been easy.
Indeed many clubs have re-laid pitches at some expense and, in the summer, we have plans to bring our pitch up to prime standard.
Charlton, our visitors tonight, will appreciate the ambience of our stadium and the attraction of trying to outwit our players and dent our home record. They are a club who have been a magnificent example to everyone in football. The way they have conducted their business and slowly come out of their Selhurst Park and Upton Park refuge to regain their rightful home at The Valley, the scene of so many great games and massive crowds in the past.
Their stadium now is a wonderful example of what shrewd management, on and off the field, can do.
They have bought wisely and they have managed skilfully with a manager who hasn't, as far as I am aware, so far succumbed to being represented by an agent. Many managers have aligned themselves to agents and some are employing family members or working on behalf of specific clubs also. Years ago managers relied on their own efforts.
Last season we negotiated a deal for Luke Young with Alan Curbishley which was done professionally from day one. The player was not tapped up, he was kept informed of a club's enquiry and Alan Curbishley persevered in his pursuit of the player because he knew that we were telling him the current position in an open way, with no third parties re-routing or railroading the deal.
Alan's other signing in the summer, Jason Euell, has also settled well recently and in acquiring two British players for around £7million they have set an example to what Premiership clubs must do.
There is certainly a big question mark within the game at the moment — whether television monies are sustained or not.
The facts are that soon players over the age of 24 will have no market value and, despite the much hype that they receive in press comment, it remains true that there is a very poor measurement of values in football. This means that many players have been sold for far more money than they are maybe worth. Who makes the market forces?
As a consequence of this many clubs, witness Leeds, are left in a situation where they may have to sell players to redress a massive cash deficiency. If a club has acquired many foreign players then, for sure, they will have to have some good young British talent within their current ranks to take their places because they will not be able to afford to go and buy replacements.
Maybe it will mean a settling down and a more sensible approach by clubs to the transfer market. To breed loyalty it is far easier to develop from youth so a youngster gains some commitment and feeling to the club that gives him a chance.
Soon we will be looking at our retained list. Although our Reserves have more than held their own this season with a young team several will have the disappointment of not having done enough to impress the management sufficiently to be retained.
In keeping with our policy of trying to help young players we are already notifying clubs of whom these players may be. Unfortunately this summer looks as though it will involve the biggest clearing out yet of young professional players and it is an occurrence that needs correcting. I believe that the squads of most senior clubs are too big at present and are carrying players just to make up depths of squads.
It is for this reason that we have been so pleased with the progress of the likes of Ledley King. There is no question that the future of any club now is firmly in the court of their youth development.
Sitting next to Sven Goran Eriksson at the Chelsea game I know that he couldn't help but be impressed by Ledley King. Not only by his distribution and coolness when under pressure but also by a couple of tremendous saving tackles when retrieving the ball from the dangerous Hasselbaink.
Last Tuesday our Under-18 team secured a place in the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup, for the first time in several years, beating Blackburn here 2-0. These boys may not realise it but they have as big an opportunity as any group of boys at any time in the club's history where they are going to be required to fill the void because of the scenario I expressed earlier in these notes.
Enjoy the game.
Now more than ever we must keep faith with our principles and support the management and players. In the last 14 days we have seen setbacks. Now is a test of our character.