Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dark Days

It has come to this then – the official site hoping for Charlton to win all four remaining games, and for two of the four other teams directly above Charlton in the table to not get anything in their games left! Well, that ain’t gonna happen, is it?

Charlton fans everywhere, and blogs like this, have long since recognised that Charlton are doomed to relegation to the third tier; it was just a matter of when, rather than if. And the when will probably happen this Saturday, at The Valley, during, or more probably after, the game against Blackpool.

I’ve attended two other games at The Valley that resulted in Charlton’s relegation – other seasons where we faced the drop came well before season’s end, and/or away from the Valley - and both left me with watery eyes but not really crying. The first relegation I witnessed was way back in the dark days of 1972, it was a final home defeat to Millwall that saw us drop between similar divisions. On that day, a massive crowd turned up for the floodlight game, and the gates were closed early in Valley Grove, such was the crowd numbers. Luckily, a turnstile door sprang open (possibly with the help of a hefty boot or two?), and I followed two guys quickly through, with the second only being let in by the policeman the other side as he said he had a kid (me) behind him… I doubt it will be that busy this coming Saturday, or will I have any trouble gaining access to the ground! Then in 1999, a last day home defeat to Southampton saw our initial Premiership season die at the very death; we clapped the players as they paraded around the ground afterwards, safe in the knowledge that they were quite capable of bouncing back. And that’s what they duly did, winning the Championship the following season.

And next season, in the third division, or league one, or whatever it will be called when we arrive there, we must hope that we can replicate that team of 2000, and bounce back by winning the league. We won’t have all the players that Phil Parkinson (left) has at his disposal this weekend, and we may not even have Parky in charge of picking the team, but the only contemplation at this stage is that Charlton are going to bounce back, are capable of getting back up into the Championship, and will in fact have a very good year after a few poor seasons. We must think like that!

It is way too early to contemplate what sort of team may turn out for Charlton week in, week out, in 2009/10, but safe to say that it could be very different to that we have been used to. I’m sure we’ll have a crop of youngsters – Shelvey (hopefully), Wright, Solly, Yussuff, Clark, Stavrinou, and probably other homegrown talent like Basey, Wagstaff, Dickson, and Elliott. Along with that, there will be some more experienced players, maybe Youga, Fortune, Sam, Bailey, Racon, Spring and Semedo? Then we might sign the odd decent player on a free transfer (maybe Murty?), or even cough up a few quid if the right man comes along and is available (Rooney?); this will be coupled, no doubt, with various loan signings – probably not as many as we have seen this season, but a few will be required to fill gaps when and where we cannot sign anyone permanently. We have to expect and recognise this. This is our lot next year; we are where we are, and only the players and finances (which are directly connected) can change this fact.

I read two great pieces written about our fantastic club this week – the first was a piece on Doctor Kish’s mad-cap website and the other was on the Charlton Life forum.

Both articles put into words (much better than I can) what we feel for our club, Charlton, and ask what we can do for it; others very publicly go out of their way to support our team, financially, putting in long hours, publicising the good things, and making us all proud. Other so-called fans though, are just putting the boot in when the club is down; I’ve supported Charlton for over 40 years, seen those relegations mentioned and others, plus wondrous promotions – this club is a roller-coaster and has good weeks and bad. It hurts just as much to lose against Arsenal as it does Millwall; a win against Liverpool brings as much joy as one against Tranmere – think about it. It does. Three points are three points, and a win on a Saturday sends us all to work with a smile on Monday morning.

I’ll be there this weekend, supporting my team. It will hurt terribly when relegation is confirmed, but I will still come to the remaining games, still shout for my team, and still hope that next year will bring success.

This Saturday, I expect Parky will pick the same team again –

Rob Elliott
Danny Butterfield
Darren Ward
Mark Hudson
Kelly Youga
Therry Racon
Zheng Zhi
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Jonjo Shelvey
Tresor Kandol

Subs from Randolph, Weaver, Moutaouakil, Solly, Holland, Basey, Spring, Ambrose, Dickson, Todorov, Burton, Tuna.

The reason I don’t expect it to change is because it is the best Charlton team of this moment. Parky is obliged to play his best team for the fans who paid out for season tickets this year, and it has the best chance of winning, and helping boost season ticket sales for next year. Once we are relegated, that thinking may change, but not by very much.

Blackpool travel to The Valley knowing that they are pretty safe from being dragged into the dog-fight that is taking shape above the Addicks in the league table. They are five points clear of trouble, with three games left for them. They have also suffered only one defeat in seven games, and have a forward in goal-scoring form (a rarity at The Valley these days!) in the shape of DJ Campbell.

Pedro45 thinks that the Blackpool rock will break on Valley shores, and that the Addicks will continue to be hard to beat, and predicts a 2-1 winning score-line. We have been unlucky over the last few games when hitting the woodwork, and all three recent goal-less draws could have resulted in wins with a little more luck and composure. If we can get in front, we are capable of hitting our opponents at pace, and simply ripping them apart.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Jonjo Shelvey. Our youngster is the key to success at the moment, and we all want him to stay at the club for many years to come. That will only happen if we are successful, and success will come if Shelvey (left) stays – it’s a double edged (Valiant) sword. Shelvey is playing just behind, and sometimes alongside and in front of – Kandol at the moment, allowing ZiZi to manage the middle of the park with Racon. He can run all day, and has a good shot in both feet; I think he could really cause some damage to a fragile Blackpool defence.

We have three games left at The Valley this season - these three games could be our last chance to see Zheng Zhi play in the flesh for Charlton; our last chance to see Nicky Bailey in the red Addicks shirt; the time when you can say you saw Jonjo Shelvey win games for Charlton. Let’s make the most of it.

Come on you Reds!

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Pedro. A good piece, but i remember the end of our first Premiership season differently.
I think we lost at home to Sheff. Weds. Which didn't matter anyway, because we needed not only to win our game, but for Southampton to lose at home, but they won.
If i had my 'Charlton home and away' book at hand i would check. But it's in the loft, so sod it!
Quite right Daggs; it was Southampton who benefited from our loss to Sheffield Wednesday in 1999.

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