There are few better times of the year than the one that surrounds the start of a new football season. Those that ended last season with a three game winning streak are definitely going up, those that lost their final 14 games have a fresh start and those that have entered the division will be going straight back up/staying up. In other words, there’s a degree of positivity, or at least hope, emanating from all 24 Championship clubs.
But there’s also anxiety. If positivity is the default setting for some football fans, worry and panic is the regular emotion for the rest. What if that good run last season was actually the result of the opposition already mentally getting involved in some sort of scandal on a party island? What if this division is a step too far or what if relegation has crippled us? What if the new signings can only emulate Piotr Parzyszek?
And a conflicting combination of both sides of the football fan emotional scale suits the feeling of the two clubs who will meet at Griffin Park in this weekend’s opening fixture.
For Brentford, it’s the excitement of a team of promising players representing the club in the second tier football for the first time in Moses Odubajo’s lifetime, contrasted with the worry that this inexperienced side might not have enough to compete in the Championship.
For Charlton, it’s the hope that the players, and the head coach, recruited from far and wide will live up to their reputations and push the Addicks up the table, in tied with the worry that a disjointed squad will fail to gel, the imports will fail to adapt and another uncomfortable season will unfold. Oh, and they have to watch Tal Ben Haim play football.
So this London clash carries with it a great deal of importance, more so than your average contest between two sides from the capital. For the winner, there’s an increased sense of positivity for the season ahead; the loser is left concerned and worried this campaign might not be so great after all.
At a time when Brentford were also-rans in League One, building something promising under Uwe Rosler but not quite ready to push for promotion, they put up a respectable fight against Chris Powell’s Championship bound table-toppers.
A bizarre headed goal from Michael Morrison gave the hosts the lead midway through the first half at The Valley, but the Bees made their opponents work for their win.
It was only when Danny Green wrong footed ‘keeper Richard Lee and slot into a goal that was largely empty in stoppage time that the three points were secured.
You can work out more about a team’s chances of winning the opening game by comparing the horoscopes of both managers than by analysing pre-season performances or results. But what is worth looking at is Brentford’s home form; six league defeats in the past two seasons. League One or not, that’s an incredibly strong record.
Brentford will be without summer signing Scott Hogan with the former Rochdale forward absent through injury, but the rest of their additions will be available to make their first appearances for the Bees.
At times last season, Brentford’s forward threat allowed them to completely decimate sides in League One, and that forward line has only been strengthened over the summer. The impressive Odubajo will start out wide, while Tommy Smith and Nick Proschwitz, both signed this week,will compete with Andre Gray for a starting birth up top.
There will also be a place in the side for Adam Forshaw, although it remains to be seen if the speculation linking him away from the West London club will impact upon his performance, and former Charlton target Alan Judge, who has joined permanently after a successful loan spell last season.
But Mark Warburton’s side aren’t the sort of attacking force who ignore defensive duties. Tony Craig, Harlee Dean, James Tarkowski and Jake Bidwell will be the likely names who form Brentford’s back four, with a transformed Alan McCormack and Marcos Tebar set to sit just in front of the defence.
There’s also David Button between the posts; another former Addick who’s bound to have the best performance of his life against his old club.
Bob Peeters, in his first game in charge of Charlton, looks set to be without both Franck Moussa and Callum Harriott, who are both nursing knocks. Should the pair be absent, it leaves the Addicks without much room for variation in midfield; Lawrie Wilson will start wide right, Johann Berg Gudmundsson will start wide left and skipper Johnnie Jackson will partner Yoni Buyens in the middle.
Should Peeters opt for a formation that carries five in midfield, then Jordan Cousins will come into the side. But it would appear the Belgian coach will go for a standard 4-4-2, with Igor Vetokele and George Tucudean partnering each other in attack.
There are also questions as to who will join Michael Morrison at centre back, with Andre Bikey, Tal Ben-Haim and youngster Joe Gomez pushing to start.
But the biggest question Addicks have is as to whether their new side has gelled in time. Peeters spoke with caution after last weekend’s friendly victory over Portsmouth, and it might well be the case that these opening fixtures don’t go quite as smoothly as will be hoped.
KEY BATTLE: MOSES ODUBAJO VS CHARLTON’S FULL BACKS
If Odubajo’s pre-season form is anything to go by, then the winger will be just as penetrating in the Championship as he was in League One. With pace, trickery and a wicked shot, the former Leyton Orient man can change a game in an instant.
He’ll likely start on the right, where he will face a fit again Rhoys Wiggins at left-back, who will be eager to make up for a disappointing campaign last time out. But Odubajo is the sort of player who likes to roam, and he’ll also contest with Chris Solly, who would appear to be fully fit again after knee trouble last season.
Odubajo might not be Brentford’s only threat, but he’s arguably the biggest. It’ll be a tough start to the campaign for Wiggins and Solly, who will have to keep him quiet if Charlton are to take the points from this one.
PREDICTION`: Something of a must win for the Addicks given their run of fixtures after this game, where they face three of last season’s top six, but Griffin Park is your classic #toughplacetogo. A point would be a positive result. 1-1.