The sound of cracks being papered over were heard alongside the cheers that celebrated Charlton’s first league goal since Boxing Day. Jordan Cousins’ 83rd minute strike, a scrappy goal fitting of a dire affair with Rotherham, looked to have given the Addicks three points their lacklustre performance did not warrant.
Alas, there were few too bothered about whether what appeared to be Charlton’s winner was deserved. It would have been their first win in twelve, and recent confidence-lacking displays suggested this was the only sort of victory Guy Luzon’s side could hope for.
In fact, such a victory might well have provided cause for further hope. At the very least, achieving a win so desperately needed to keep Charlton out of danger would increase a level of self-belief in the side that couldn’t possibly have sunk any lower.
But come full-time, the paper over the cracks had fallen through; those cracks made 100 feet wider, and the abyss below as deep as the depths of despair The Valley crowd were left in. The softest of goals, with Adam Hammill’s cross converted by regular Charlton tormentor Danny Ward, drew the Millers level in stoppage time.
The response to going ahead – nervy, cautious and one fitting to a side clueless as to how to achieve victory – meant an equaliser was predictable, and a share of the spoils a more adequate reflection of the nature of the contest, but such logic could provide no solace.
If anything, it made the situation worse. That there could be no argument of poor luck, and no suggestion that such a moment wasn’t self-inflicted, meant anger, hurt and frustration filled the volatile SE7 atmosphere.
The stunned silence that followed as deafening and as telling as the boos that met the full-time whistle. The late goal taken in isolation depressing enough, but when considered in conjunction with the heart shattering events of recent weeks and months, it’s just another unfair punishment for those Addicks desperately attempting to overcome apathy to support their side.
The club they love now a source of little more than pain. The cracks in hearts just as big as those in Charlton’s side.
At a time when it is hard to feel confidence in a positive result, the team news offered little inspiration.
While the battling spirit among those who played against Wolves was commendable, there remained a desperate need to improve in attacking areas, especially given Luzon’s more direct approach.
Alas, the sub-six foot partnership of Igor Vetokele and Callum Harriott again started in attack; Tony Watt’s apparent inability to start a game reaching a worrying stage.
In fact, the only change from the encouraging defensive display at Molineux saw Rhoys Wiggins come in for Morgan Fox. A defence seemingly finding its feet again boosted further.
But Charlton, and Wiggins, started the game in such a horrendous manner that it was if the resolute efforts of seven days ago had not occurred. The Welshman’s numerous mistakes bordering on embarrassing, while communication, organisation and composure across the entire back four was completely non-existent.
Confusion was rife, and accusery glances were made in all directions as Rotherham came agonisingly close to taking the lead. Ben Pringle’s crisp delivery met by the unmarked Connor Newton, but his first time effort, looping over a stranded Marko Dmitrovic, came back off the inside of the post.
It was enough to get The Valley crowd going, the Covered End appreciating support was needed, but Charlton’s defensive efforts continued to be full of faults. The impressive Connor Sammon supplied Matt Derbyshire, who could only stab wide from an unkind position.
But as the spark from the Millers’ opening spell died down, the Addicks began to respond. A clever corner routine saw Chris Solly’s cut-back fired over by Vetokele, but it was a suggestion this was not going to be a completely toothless performance in front of goal.
And such a claim was only supported in Charlton’s next move forward, as the hosts themselves came agonisingly close to grabbing a lead they so desperately required.
As the Addicks broke, it looked as if Vetokele had played the wrong ball, sending Harriott free down the right while the unmarked Johann Berg Gudmundsson had a direct path to goal.
Gudmundsson, however, continued his run, and was there at the back post to collect an overhit cross. Providing a touch of class so often missing throughout this Charlton side, the Iceland international’s subsequent chip over Rotherham goalkeeper Adam Colin was exquisite, but not quite accurate enough. Colin gleeful to claim the ball after it came back off the inside of the post.
The anguish the horrendous start provided now replaced by something resembling hope. At the very least, there was an expectation that such an opening would give Charlton the confidence to persistently get at an uncomfortable Rotherham back four.
Instead, the attacking intent that had briefly appeared vanished without a trace. There would have been rewards for running at the away side’s back four, but cautious passing, when Charlton weren’t aimlessly pumping the ball forward or carelessly giving it away, and minimal pressure applied to the Millers when in possession meant they were allowed to go about their business largely untested.
Even when the occasional passage of passing play worked the Addicks into a decent position, the final ball was so derisory that the negative, backwards passes actually seemed comparatively productive. A wayward Harriott strike and an acrobatic Andre Bikey effort that cleared the bar by a fair margin the only additional efforts Charlton could muster before the break.
The only saving grace come the half-time whistle was that this dire 45 minutes was over. Rotherham slightly more composed than the Addicks, but as toothless and unimaginative as their opponents. A half of football that didn’t deserve to be played at Championship level.
In fact, there was more energy and entertainment on display inside Guy Luzon’s technical area. One moment emulating Andre Villas-Boas’ trademark crouch, the next leaping up and seemingly chasing the ball as it travelled up the pitch; such liveliness needed to be injected into his side.
And while it still required effort to keep yourself awake, there was at least a marginal increase in the likelihood of Charlton scoring after the interval.
Interrupted by a tame Paul Green effort, easily collected by Dmitrovic, there was seemingly a greater desire to get forward, culminating in some desperate Rotherham defending blocking away successive efforts from Cousins.
But still it wasn’t working. The intent there, but neither the organisation nor execution to turn that intent into something more tangible. The midfield too slow in possession, the wide men lacking the self-belief to beat their opponent and the front pair simply not functioning.
Change was needed, with Watt warming up, but Luzon remained unflustered, possibly encouraged by Milos Velkovic’s drive wide and the fantastic work from Vetokele to tee up Gudmundsson, whose fierce strike was deflected wide.
“Roland, make a sub” the cynical cries from the Covered End as the hour mark approached, but there was yet more frustration when the change they demanded arrived.
Vetokele, just starting to click into gear and one of few whose effort could not be questioned, replaced by Watt. I find it hard to believe a new head coach has been told he doesn’t know what he’s doing 63 minutes into his home debut before.
Unsurprisingly, with Harriott anonymous, the introduction of Watt didn’t have the impact it should have done.
Instead, Rotherham grew back into the game and were left furious after Sammon’s effort appeared to be blocked by the arm of Bikey. Despite surrounding the referee in unison, their claims were somewhat dubiously waved away.
But so too was there a strong shout for a penalty for the Addicks, with Watt finally coming alive with a little over 15 minutes to play. His turn to break into the box was excellent, but the ball just got away from him at the vital moment, meaning he could only stab towards goal. Not only did the ball appear to be blocked by a hand, but the Scot was taken down as he shot. Referee Duncan seemingly in no mood to award a spot-kick.
Thankfully for the Addicks, his assistant was in the mood to raise his flag, denying the offside Derbyshire after Ward had capitalised on some dreadful defending to play him through. The gaps in Charlton’s defence, however, were again worrying.
And with the lively Ward forcing the first real save of Dmitrovic, parried and held at the second attempt, there was a fear that Rotherham were prime to steal all three points late on.
Instead, out of nothing, Charlton found the fortunate and scrappy goal they had been craving for weeks.
The gangly debutant Christophe Lepoint, not long off the bench, did well to hold up the ball up inside the box, and just about forced it to an unmarked Cousins. It was the simplest of finishes, but the academy graduate made sure there was to be no mistake, rifling the ball past a motionless Colin.
But while the celebrations were passionate, and the Covered End found its voice again, there remained a feeling of fear. Charlton’s defensive frailties and the little bit of spark in Rotherham’s attacking play meant this was far from over.
And those fears only increased as the timeliest intervention from Solly prevented Hammill from heading in at the back post, and Dmitrovic was called upon to deny Green in emphatic fashion from the following corner. Deep breaths.
Still Rotherham pressed forward, with Charlton, not helped by Lepoint’s struggles in the middle, seemingly unable to get a hold of the ball. Kari Arnason and Craig Morgan headed harmlessly off-target, but Hammill’s curling strike flashed agonisingly wide of the post.
Such pressure meant there was a collective groan as four minutes of stoppage time were signalled, and it took just an eighth of that time for the Millers to draw level. Hammill unpressured as he crossed, Ward unmarked as he finished; a goal gifted to the opposition that summed up the inept nature of Charlton’s overall performance.
There was to be no response thereafter, just groans as the half-hearted attempts from the Addicks to get forward resulted in something less than nothing. A poor display, saved by a much needed win, had become an abysmal afternoon, made worse by a crushing equaliser that has dented confidence among the players and belief in the club further.
The boos at full-time justifiable for a side whose winless run has left them just six points from the bottom three.
And to take that goal in isolation, it is a desperately poor one of the Addicks to concede. Not just the nature of it, but the fact a win would have given them both an element of breathing space to the bottom three and the momentum to push on.
In truth, it was an equaliser worthy of the performance from Charlton. Luzon seemingly believed his two banks of four approach would again work well, but this sort of game required anything but, and wasn’t helped by the fact those banks weren’t organised.
Passes sideways, backwards, or misplaced, next to know creativity and an error-filled effort at the back that allowed Connor Sammon to dominate. Yep. Connor Sammon.
So too was there seemingly the return of a poor attitude among the players. Fight and effort lacking, particularly from Yoni Buyens, whose performance belonged to a man whose interest in playing for Charlton is limited.
This coming against a Rotherham side who, to their credit, performed tirelessly and fought well, but one who were below the Addicks in the table before kick-off. There is no excuse for such a display, both in terms of footballing ability and mentality, against a relatively lowly side.
It’s now reached the point where you fear that even quality signings in the required positions will not have a sizable impact on Charlton’s performances.
Firstly, because the environment the squad are in won’t be solved by new additions. They too will quickly become engulfed in the lack of confidence among the squad. That it remains unsolved so many weeks after it was a clear issue is telling.
And secondly, it’s hard to trust those at the top of the club to bring the right players in. While it’s unfair to judge on one performance, and he did prove the assist for the goal, Lepoint looked absolutely horrendous, and nothing like the sort of player that’s needed.
In fact, that such a performance occurred today is fitting.
One year on from the sale of Yann Kermorgant, an incident that hindered the trust many had in the ownership and their transfer policy, trust has only decreased to a level lower than the players’ confidence.
There is now no spine, no leadership and no indication that the experienced Championship players the Addicks require to get out of the situation they’re in will be purchased. Johnnie Jackson the lone leader, but even his return is unlikely to make a difference.
The network signings and the players from Europe are all well and good, but only well and good if they’re aiding a spine. This side has no backbone; the fleeting appearances which suggest there is one simply deceiving.
Nor does it appear Luzon is the man to lift Charlton away from danger, but we all knew that. The only man he was ignorant enough to believe he was was the man who employed him.
Until that stubbornness and ignorance changes, improvements on today’s performance will only provide false hope.
Misery upon misery.
#9 – Jonjo Shelvey
Most of Charlton’s best players over the past eleven years have been hard-workers, rather than technically gifted entertainers. That’s not to belittle their ability, but more often has an Addick left you inspired by their fight than wowed by their fancy footwork.
So it comes as a frustration that one of the most able and exciting players who have worn Charlton red in my time as a supporter was criminally underused. A teenager he may have been, and consequently still raw enough to occasionally frustrate, but had Phil Parkinson been brave enough to build his team around Jonjo Shelvey, he surely would have been rewarded.
In fact, Parkinson did just that for a period at the start of the 2009/10 season. Give a free role behind Deon Burton, Shelvey was a joy to watch. His composure on the ball as a teenager only matched by Diego Poyet, his passing was creative, but sensible and safe when it needed to be, and there was even a defensive quality that advanced midfielders rarely possess.
So too was there a maturity and an intelligent footballing brain that meant those times where rawness was shown were few and far between. But it’s that footballing brain that was part of Parkinson’s justification for only using him 25 times in the league that season.
Shelvey was, or so the rumour goes, “too good”. Too good for the likes of Akpo Sodje and David Mooney to capitalise on his genius, and too good for Parkinson to find a role for him in his style of play.
For a manager whose tactics were based around getting it forward quickly and using the midfield more predominately as a first line of defence, utilising Shelvey was always going to be detrimental to side’s balance. A luxury that couldn’t be afforded; instead we had to watch Sodje run in quicksand and Mooney lose every physical battle.
Alas, Shelvey was a luxury I still feel fortunate to have seen play for Charlton. Equally, I feel fortunate that he was the first real academy graduate whose career I will be able to track from start to finish.
Apart from being an absolutely fantastic footballer and a joy to watch, that he was the first in a long line of academy graduates to be proud of that have come into the side since I’ve started supporting the club is part of the reason why he makes this XI.
In fact, Shelvey was arguably one of few things to be proud of while supporting Charlton during an incredible tough period. Even his debut in 2008, coming a week after Championship play-off hopes had been ended, provided hope of a better future.
Becoming the youngest ever Addicks as he took the field at Oakwell, a 3-0 defeat against Barnsley took nothing away from a composed and classy performance from the 16-year-old. Even on first viewing, it was clear Charlton had themselves a real gem.
And that was only confirmed the following week. During Charlton’s 4-1 win over Coventry, Shelvey dictated the game from a slightly deeper midfield role than the one he now operates in. Again, his composure and class on the ball really stood out; technique that players much older than him would have died to have half off.
Players 22 years his senior would have wished to have been at Shelvey’s stage of his career, but it was fitting that Chris Powell, making his final appearance for the club, replaced a man who was seemingly the future of the club. Both worthy of ovations they received from the Covered End.
But quickly it became apparent the future at Charlton wasn’t going to be a bright one. Shelvey scarcely used as Alan Pardew and his side kept finding new ways to disgrace themselves.
It wasn’t until Pardew was sacked and replaced by Parkinson that Shelvey began to play a more prominent part. Sixteen appearances and four goals followed, with the first of those goals, coming against Norwich in the FA Cup, making him Charlton’s youngster ever goalscorer.
Again, there was composure and class in his performance, while a five in midfield formation meant he was given the freedom to play in a more advanced role.
But with the Addicks still showing no signs that they would get off the foot of the table, and Shelvey quickly approaching his 17th birthday, there was a real fear he would be poached before Charlton could hand him a professional contract.
Thankfully, in a rare moment of not being monumentally useless, the club managed to tie the playmaker down.
While people attempted to mock me about Charlton’s league position, I would simply inform that we had a future world class player in our ranks. They didn’t believe me, but that I could say that with some conviction as the Addicks headed to League One provided some solace, and also some positivity that his presence would get us back into the second tier at the first time of asking.
He may not have played as much as you would have liked, but he certainly played his part in Charlton’s promotion challenge. Not necessarily consistent, but certainly the most talented player in that side and capable of changing games despite still being a teen.
However, there was disappointment when Shelvey departed for Liverpool before the season finished, meaning he wasn’t around for Charlton’s play-off semi-final against Swindon. Should the teenager have been available for that second leg, when the Addicks dominated but failed in the final third towards the end of the game, he might well have made the difference.
Nonetheless, a feel a sense of pride in what Shelvey has achieved in his career. He remains the sort of player who is a joy to watch, and knowing that Charlton played a massive part in producing that is a great feeling.
And while there has been some doubts about his attitude in recent weeks, it’s clear that that is the only real stumbling block to Shelvey adding to his England caps and proving more moments of magic for Swansea.
The first academy graduate I saw progress through, and he’s going to take some beating to ever not be the best.
An attempt to lay a foundation has been made, but it remains unclear if that attempt will prove to be successful.
If Charlton can take the organised, resolute and determined display against Wolves, duly rewarded with a first point in three, forward and build some substance upon it, then the fears of being sucked into a relegation battle will quickly be calmed.
For there is certainly more work to do. There was plenty of positives to take from Guy Luzon’s first game in charge of the Addicks, but a lack of self-belief and potency in attack was still evident. The threat going forward, and the goals, needed for Charlton to win games still lacking.
And Saturday’s game at The Valley against Rotherham is realistically a game the Addicks must win. Sides in the bottom third of the table are beginning to pick up points, and this is the sort of contest Charlton desperately need to claim three points from.
But should the determination of the Wolves performance not be emulated, and a tameness in attack remain, then those foundations will quickly cave in on themselves. A failure to record all three points against the Millers will leave Charlton in a rather uncomfortable position in the table, and with just one win in 15 league games.
By 5pm on Saturday, it will be fairly evident whether the end to this season will be a relatively incident-free one, or a stressful slog to the final weeks.
LAST MEETING – ROTHERHAM 1-1 CHARLTON
Luciano Becchio’s header secured a point for Rotherham as Bob Peeters’ Charlton performed a little lethargically on their first visit to the New York Stadium.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s excellent strike gave Charlton the lead towards the end of the first half, but the Addicks lost their composure after the break.
In fact, there was something of a feeling that they were quite fortunate Becchio’s goal was the only one Rotherham managed to score. The Millers much the better side in the second half, but lacked a real cutting edge to provide a real threat in front of goal.
Having gone five without a win in all competitions, Tuesday’s emphatic 4-2 victory over Bolton came just as it seemed confidence among Steve Evans’ side was descending into an un-revivable state.
It also moved them five points above the bottom three, and means Rotherham now head into Saturday’s fixture brimming with the confidence that a win of that nature provides.
Alas, the Millers have won just twice away from home all season. Wins by a margin of one against fellow strugglers Millwall and Wigan the only times fans of the Yorkshire club have been able to celebrate three points on the road this season.
No win in eleven in all competitions, just one victory in 16 and two goals scored in the previous seven fixtures. To call Charlton’s current form disastrous would be a little too kind.
And while the performance against Wolves offered hope of future improvement, there remains a number of problems to solve.
Confidence, unsurprisingly, is low, ball retention is very poor and a genuine threat in attack is effectively non-existent.
There also remains a feeling that should Charlton concede, heads will drop immediately and something resembling a disaster will follow.
Evans is likely to name an unchanged XI following his side’s victory over Bolton in midweek.
Rotherham’s boss has been busy in the transfer market, with new additions Zreki Fryers and Conor Sammon making an immediate impact.
There should also be a place from the start for former Addick Frazer Richardson, while Richard Wood could be on the bench.
Charlton will have Christophe Lepoint available after the Belgian midfielder completed his move from Gent.
The 30-year-old, however, hasn’t played since Boxing Day, so is unlikely to be fit enough to make his full debut against Rotherham.
But one man who could finally be fit enough to start a game for the Addicks is Tony Watt, who would come in for Callum Harriott in attack should that be the case.
Elsewhere, Johnnie Jackson hoped for a return this week, and the skipper would surely come back into the side should that be the case.
KEY BATTLE: THE TAME VS THE TOOTHLESS
Only Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool have scored fewer goals this season than Charlton (24). Rotherham have scored just one more.
No club has conceded less than Charlton (34) outside the division’s top nine. Rotherham have conceded just one more.
In other words, if you’re turning up at The Valley on Saturday, you might want to bring a phone with you and watch some YouTube compilation clips, because there’s not going to be many scored live.
Such statistics suggest that it would be a shock if more than a goal separates the sides. Two decent defences playing against two forward lines who are painfully poor in front of goal.
This is, after all, a Charlton side who haven’t scored a league goal for over a month.
But it was less than a fortnight ago when the Addicks let in five, and Rotherham come into the game having notched four times in midweek.
If the Millers grab the game’s first goal, their confidence will multiple and heads will once again drop in the Charlton side.
It’s absolutely vital that Luzon’s side score first, or at least keep it tight for as long as possible.
With a disgusting display two weeks ago and one with battling qualities seen last week, it’s hard to know which Charlton will turn up. Regardless, one with a bit of firepower is needed or it’s going to be another frustrating afternoon in SE7. Charlton Athletic 1-1 Rotherham United
#8 – Bradley Pritchard
To attempt to make this selection universally justifiable would be pointless. It’s not. There is not a chance that Bradley Pritchard did anywhere near enough in his 89 appearance for Charlton to be considered one of the best eleven players since 2004.
Nor is he one of the best three centre-midfielders. The tireless Radostin Kishishev, the not universally appreciated Jose Semedo and the brilliant when on-song Dale Stephens more deserving of a place.
But my admiration of Pritchard goes beyond taking a detached analysis of his footballing ability. Because purely taking a detached analysis of any footballer is
actually quite sensible really bloody boring.
For Pritchard was something of an accidental professional footballer. His story is well known, snapped up from non-league Hayes and Yeading after combining his semi-pro career with an analyst role at Charlton.
It seemingly meant that the Zimbabwean appreciated every single second he spent wearing a Charlton shirt. A smile was rarely absent from his face, and his unrelenting energy and effort meant that you could never accuse him of not giving his absolute all.
A player whose attitude epitomises the way I feel about the club, whose effort matches the support I pour in and who behaves in the same way I probably would if I got a Charlton shirt chucked my way and was told to deliver some crosses to Yann Kermorgant, is a player who covers up any flaws in his natural ability and allows me to completely adore them.
And it’s for those reasons that, while I’ve been frustrated with the departures of several players over the past 18 months, I wasn’t particularly upset when it was announced Pritchard had been released.
Instead, my sadness had seeped out gradually while his performances became very un-Pritchard-like over the course of his final season as an Addick. There was little confidence, drive or energy; without those factors it became painful to watch, especially in the home FA Cup tie against Oxford United.
In fact, I accepted during that cup tie that Pritchard days as an Addick were done. For his own good, he needed to go somewhere else, to rediscover those qualities that made him one of my most-liked Charlton players.
And having seen him play during Leyton Orient’s live-on-Sky games against Preston a week or so ago, I think it can be said something like the Pritchard of old was visible. He did the simple things well, there was unrelenting energy and a sort demeanour about him that suggested that, despite Orient’s current plight, he had moved on from what were evidently a difficult final few months in SE7.
But to dwell on his final period as an Addick would be unfair, and take away not only from those fighting qualities that won me over, but also the genuine footballing ability he offered for two-and-a-bit seasons.
First of all, there was his role in the most important games of Charlton’s League One title winning campaign. There was always a danger he would be lost in the melee of midfielders Chris Powell brought to the club in 2011, but he proved is worth some typically diligent displays, especially seen in three consecutive weeks against Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United.
Oh, and he provided the
over-hit genius ball for *that* Yann Kermorgant volley.
Then there was his first season as a Championship footballer, where he mustered eleven assists in 42 appearances. Only Tom Ince, Robbie Brady and Chris Eagles created more goals.
Deployed largely on the right, Pritchard was incredibly consistent, and supplemented his hard-working and gritty performances with a handful of simply outstanding displays. Against Cardiff City, Leicester City and Barnsley, he performed unbelievably well.
There were even three goals, including his emotionally celebrated first Football League goal against Brighton. They just about made up for his not infrequent horrors inside the box.
And it was a horror performance that seemingly killed off Pritchard’s confidence, effectively signalling the end of his Charlton career at the start of last season. Bullied in midfield against Millwall, the Zimbabwean was largely at fault for the goal conceded and suffered accordingly.
He simply wasn’t the same again, which proved doubly frustrating given that he had put in an outstanding shift in the win over Leicester a few weeks previously. It was performances like that one against Leicester that epitomised why I loved Pritchard; fight, energy and the ability to go with it.
But maybe the thing that summed my admiration for Pritchard up best was when I briefly met him following a pre-season game for Leyton Orient at Northampton.
He responded like a kid opening a Christmas present when I gave him my ‘Pritchard 14’ Charlton shirt to sign: an excited “ah wicked” before questioning why I hadn’t binned the shirt yet. He was probably more excited to see it than I was to see him.
He wasn’t the best, but he bloody loved playing for Charlton, and it made him so easy to adore.
While Saturday’s goalless draw with Wolves reminded supporters that there is at least some quality within Charlton’s squad, there is still a desperate need to make signings before the deadline passes next Monday.
It will probably prove to be the case that the names of new additions will be hard to predict, with Roland Duchatelet supplementing Guy Luzon’s squad with players from abroad. Nonetheless, it’s clear to see what positions Charlton need to strengthen in.
In what will be a season defining few days, recruiting in the positions below, and recruiting players with proven quality and experience, is a must.
How much do we need one?
11/10. If only to stop Andre Bikey going up top.
Because it’s the year two thousand and fifteen and we still haven’t replaced Yann Kermorgant. Sob.
There’s been a need to find an adequate link-up striker since the Frenchman was seen holding up a Bournemouth shirt during last January’s deadline day, but now that need is desperate.
It would appear that Luzon’s style of play is very direct. The chances of long-ball football being successful when your forwards are either sub-six foot or not exactly dominate in the air are slim.
Who could we sign permanently?
Wigan Athletic’s Marc-Antoine Fortune has recently been linked, while rumours of fellow Latic Andy Delort coming to SE7 don’t seem to know when to die, but neither would be too inspiring. Scoring past Yohann Thuram doesn’t make Fortune a competent player and Delort’s struggled to make an impact in England.
Chris O’Grady and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas are also names that have been mentioned, but if O’Grady goes anywhere it will be to Sheffield United and Emmanuel-Thomas won’t be a realistic target. Should a permanent signing occur, it will likely be a wildcard from abroad.
What about loans?
While it would seem Leicester City are holding out for some cash for the New Zealand international, acquiring Chris Wood on loan would be a real coup. It’s unlikely the Addicks could afford, or would be willing, to pay a fee for the striker, but covering the cost of his wages would be a worthwhile investment.
A more realistic option would be Southampton’s Sam Gallagher, who made 18 appearances for the Saints last season. The 6’4 19-year-old has missed the entirety of this season with injury, bet is said to be close to a return and would be a useful addition.
And the network?
Nigerian striker Kim Ojo, a 6’4 Nigerian, has scored three goals since 2012, and only once since joining Ujpest from Genk in the summer. The 26-year-old, however, did score an impressive 33 goals in 69 games for Norwegian outfit Brann across two seasons in 2011 and 2012.
Carl Zeiss Jena forward Jakub Wiezik, a 6’5 Pol, has six goals in 14 games for the German fourth tier side. The prospect of Polish Jake is almost too exciting to cope with.
What if we don’t get one in?
Cry. See that Kermorgant has scored for Bournemouth. Cry some more. Recall Joe Pigott from Southend. Breakdown.
How much do we need one?
9/10. While Johann Berg Gudmundsson can play centrally, you would rather he played out wide.
The signing of Milos Veljkovic leaves the Addicks well stocked when it comes to deep-lying midfielders who like a battle and do the simple things well. The Tottenham loanee joined by Johnnie Jackson, Yoni Buyens and Jordan Cousins.
But none of Charlton’s central options are particularly dynamic. None of them have the ability to beat an opponent, and while they can prove to be match-winners in a defensive effort, they won’t be winning games with a piece of brilliance in attack.
Who could we sign permanently?
Watford’s Lewis McGugan spent time on loan at Sheffield Wednesday recently, and has been made available by the Hornets. The 26-year-old is an inconsistent performer, but 10 goals in 34 games last season shows his talent.
Internet rumours have linked the Addicks to Club Brugge midfielder Lior Refaelov and Joey Barton’s best mate Yossi Benayoun. But those two rumours stink of people putting two and two together and getting five – the pair are both Israeli.
What about loans?
Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard recently returned to training after injury, and impressed while on loan at Birmingham and Brighton last season. With Angel Di Maria and Juan Mata ahead of him at Old Trafford, you would think he would be available for loan. Lingard, however, may be a player just a touch too good for us.
A more realistic signing may come from Arsenal. Having turned Francis Coquelin into the best player in the world, Arsene Wenger may well trust with another one of his bright talents. Midfielder Gedion Zelalem has made two appearances for the Gunners, and the 17-year-old would be a useful addition to Charlton’s squad.
And the network?
I’m just going to leave this here.
Okay, he couldn’t last 90 minutes, and his relationship with Luzon means there’s a better chance of Jonjo Shelvey coming back, but Astrit Ajdarevic evidently loved playing for Charlton, and it showed in his performances and on-the-pitch attitude.
What if we don’t get one in?
Hope some wingers are signed.
How much do we need one?
9/10. You can also make an argument for wanting two.
With Callum Harriot seemingly being converted into a forward, and frustrating even if he does play outwide, Lawrie Wilson doing his best to reverse his song and Frederic Bulot’s future unclear, there’s a lack of quality out wide.
Who could we sign permanently?
Having been released by Crystal Palace, Jimmy Kebe is available on a free transfer. Kebe, however, failed to impress while on loan at Leeds last season and probably wouldn’t be better than what we have already.
It has been suggested that Rotherham winger Ben Pringle may be available, while Duchatelet would have to make a massive U-turn in order to sign Cameron Stewart.
What about loans?
Should Wenger be feeling extremely generous, he may wish to loan us a second rough diamond to transform into the best player in the world. Serge Gnabry, a highly rated winger, has been injured since April, but has recently declared himself fit, and a spell in the Championship would surely help all parties.
Elsewhere, the talented Jack Grealish has voiced his frustration at not playing for Aston Villa, suggesting the Irishman is available for loan.
And the network?
Hungary international Krisztian Simon has six goals in 17 games for Ujpest this season, and spent time at Wolves as a 17-year-old.
What if we don’t get one (or two) in?
Square pegs in round holes.
How much do we need one?
5/10. It’s not a priority – there’s enough cover.
Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim have done their best impressions of the expected Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim in previous weeks, and a part of that might well be down to the fact they don’t have adequate competition.
Joe Gomez is a prospect, and can be trusted at full-back, but you’d feel slightly uncomfortable with a 17-year-old at the heart of the defence and Oguchi Onyewu just seems to have been signed to make up the numbers.
Who could we sign permanently?
Roland Duchatelet signing a player, especially from England, on a permanent deal that isn’t justifiably needed? You must be new here.
What about on loan?
Having been out injured since March, Bongani Khumalo has recently returned to full-fitness and has been playing for Tottenham’s U21s. The South African spent last season on loan at Doncaster Rovers, and impressed in their 3-0 win over the Addicks.
A more ambitious target would be Harry Maguire, who has found opportunities limited since joining Hull City from Sheffield United.
And the network?
Former Wigan right-back Ronnie Stam is on the fringes at Standard Liege, and can also play at centre-back, while 19-year-old Corentin Fore recently made his debut for Liege in the Europa League and is the sort of player Duchatelet would send to Charlton.
What if we don’t get one in?
Sigh deeply as Michael Morrison performs for Birmingham, and hope Bikey and Ben Haim play like a pair of Beckenbauers and not a pair of Brambles.
This did not heal the wounds that had grown wider and wider over recent weeks, but it offered temporary pain relief for the depressed, the downbeat, and the disillusioned.
The result not necessarily one that would be celebrated normally, but the adverse circumstances in which Charlton recorded their first point since Boxing Day meant the goalless draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers provided a desperately needed boost.
It was not a perfect performance, with a toothless Wolves unable to exploit a sometimes shaky Addicks defence and new head coach Guy Luzon still having a list of things to work on longer than the length of this winless run. But it was an organised display that saw each man in red show fight, endeavour and effort for 90 minutes; qualities that recent evidence suggested Charlton no longer held, and qualities that were needed to halt persistent attacks from the hosts.
You didn’t walk away from Molineux under the impression that the problems at this football club, on and off-the-pitch, had been addressed in one afternoon. You did, however, feel a heat-warming sense of pride in the men who had given everything for the badge on their shirt.
That the credibility of the controversial decision by Luzon to drop goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, the only player to come away from last weekend’s 5-0 thrashing at Watford with any credit, and replace him with the network’s Marko Dmitrovic wasn’t tested amplifies how defiant Charlton were.
But it was a defiance that wasn’t expected before kick-off. While the inclusion of new signing Milos Veljkovic, replacing Lawrie Wilson, offered hope of greater resolve in the middle, Morgan Fox bizarrely starting ahead of Rhoys Wiggins and the out-of-sorts Andre Bikey keeping his place in the side had most throwing in the towel before Andy D’Urso had blown the game’s first whistle.
And the potential faults in Charlton’s backline were exposed as early as the second minute. Rajiv van La Parra’s change of pace too much for Fox, but the winger’s cross could only be headed into the side netting by James Henry.
The flip-flap loving van La Parra, who had the Molineux crowd roar in anticipation each time the ball came his way, proved to be a constant menace for the Addicks, linking up superbly with full-back Dominic Iofra on the right.
On several occasions Wolves got in behind down that flank, but Bikey and Fox, although regularly having to back track and recover, were just about doing enough to prevent van La Parra from executing an accurate final ball.
Charlton, too, were having difficulty finding a way through the opposition back four. While certainly looking more composed in possession than at Vicarage Road, a lack of self-belief in the final third meant promising positions were frustratingly wasted.
Playing more directly than in the past, Callum Harriott and Igor Vetokele were struggling to hold the ball up, while opportunities to run at Wolves’ back four were carried out half-heartedly or passed up in favour of more cautious tap back to another red shirt. Tedious for the neutral; frustrating for both sets of supporters.
But, through the metronomic play of Jack Price and Kevin McDonald in the centre, Wolves remained largely in control of the contest, with the pace down either flank always keeping Charlton on their toes.
Clear cut chances, however, remained at a premium. Hassling in midfield and defiance at the back meant Kenny Jackett’s side were severely restricted; Dave Edwards blasted over having responded quickest to a blocked shot, Iorfa couldn’t apply the finish his fantastic run deserved and Dmitrovic was happy to watch as Henry’s strike flashed across the face of goal.
In fact, Dmitrovic’s goalkeeping ability wasn’t tested until the half’s closing stages, and not before the Addicks had come agonisingly close to taking the lead. Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s cross-cum-shot narrowly escaping a sea of red in the Wolves box and curling just wide of the far post.
The Serbian ‘keeper made sure Charlton went in level at half-time, collecting an over-hit through ball with Benik Afobe approaching before collecting van La Parra’s poor cross after the Dutchman had made Fox look rather silly.
But Luzon’s side, but for those moments where a Wolves man had ghosted past a red shirt, were far from being made to look silly in the first period. The quality wasn’t great, possession could have been looked after better and there was next to no cutting edge in the final third, but the resilience shown was pleasing. Two banks of four doing the job asked of them.
Nonetheless, there was a feeling that a better, more potent, side could take advantage of a Charlton backline who were defending a little desperately at times. A feeling, also, that one goal would again see heads drop and set the hosts up for a comfortable victory.
The introduction of Nohua Dicko at half-time suggested Jackett felt the same, and he was intent on exploiting the weaknesses in his side’s opposition. More defiance required from the Addicks.
And that there was as Wolves started the half in impressive fashion. In fact, they would have been ahead just three minutes into it had Bikey not got something in the way of van La Parra’s goal-bound header. In recent weeks, such an attempt would have certainly crept in; fortunes changing for the Addicks?
If chances not creeping in suggested they were at the back, then chances not quite creeping in suggested they weren’t in attack. Harriott, suddenly clicking into gear, drove forward with intent before seeing his well-hit drive tipped away by former Charlton stopper Carl Ikeme. Promise and frustration in equal measure.
But there was soon to be more promise on show for the Addicks, not least with Wolves evidently beginning to rush their play and losing composure for a period. A Fox cross marginally avoiding everyone in the middle, a Cousins header saved well by Ikeme and a timely intervention from Richard Stearman preventing Vetokele running through on goal the result of a growing sense of intent among Charlton’s side.
Although briefly quelled, with van La Parra stabbing straight at Dmitrovic, such intent was almost rewarded when an unrelenting Vetokele, playing at somewhere near his best for the first time in months, pressed down on goal despite having Wolves defenders for company the entire way. It took a combination of those defenders’ efforts and Ikeme to prevent the Angolan from scoring.
Sensing the tide of the game was changing, Luzon threw on Tony Watt for the hard-working, if largely ineffectual, Harriott, and immediately his directness and ability on the ball began to cause Wolves problems.
Alas, Wolves themselves had started to again ask serious questions of Charlton, with the wings exploited and Dicko’s dramatic fall leading to laughed off claims for a penalty. By organisation, by effort and with the help of some amount of luck, the Addicks continued to stand firm.
It meant when Watt raced past a Wolves backline seemingly scared to make an attempt to dispossess him, Charlton had a glorious chance to give themselves three points to defend, as appose to just one. Ikeme, however, saved well from the Scot.
And with that, attentions completely turned to protecting the point by any means necessary. Bikey and Ben Haim would have sacrificed their mothers if they had to, with the pair throwing themselves in and around Charlton’s box with a fierce desire.
And when they were beaten, Wolves failed to take the opening. And what a glorious opening it was. Had Afobe directed his header a fraction either side of Dmitrovic, the hosts would have claimed all three points. Instead, the former Arsenal man could only send the ball straight into the clutches of Charlton’s stopper.
Wolves’ frustration was clear to see, and expressed by Dicko deep into stoppage time, as the forward reacted aggressively to being dispossessed, and sparked a shoving match with Charlton’s centre-backs. Not in that battle, nor in the battle throughout the 90 minutes, were Bikey, Ben Haim and their teammates going to be beaten.
A performance that, although included some threat on the break, was built around grit, fight and a resoluteness at the back that wore Wolves thin. Charlton had come to frustrate, and for once had not frustrated their own supporters. Something resembling a cheer emerging from the away end, followed by applause for the players who had given them something so desperately needed; something to be proud of.
That pride reserved both for individual performances and a collective effort that meant Wolves rarely looked like completely breaking the Addicks down.
At the back, there was both composure and execution that had been missing for weeks. Individual mistakes few and crosses and corners, if a little unconventionally, dealt with. Even Bikey and Fox, after a first half were they looked a little shaky, excelled in the second period.
Ben Haim and Solly, whose potentially man of the match performance included an absolutely incredible tackle on Dicko that resembled the one he made on Wilfried Zaha at Selhurst Park a few seasons ago, were largely faultless.
In the midfield, there was pressing and energy. Better on the ball, with Veljkovic doing the simple things oh so well, but still particularly brilliant, faults in possession were made up for with the hard work without the ball. Wolves forced to hurry their patient moves with Cousins especially unrelenting his desire to press.
And up top, there was pure hard work. Largely toothless, and even in those promising moments lacking a final ball or a composed finish, the forwards did a job that might not have provided Charlton with their first league goal since Boxing Day, but contributed to the resolute nature of the performance. Long balls chased, defenders hassled and even Simon Church, brought on late on, fought hard for the side
Before the game, all I wanted was the players to show some fight after the complete lack of it at Watford. I got that and more.
Luzon certainly has plenty to work on. His long ball tactic won’t work without a proper target man, self-belief and confidence must be instilled in this side and the need to improve ball retention some of the many issues that need to be resolved on the pitch. But there is now a platform, provided by the effort of his players and the structured system in which they were deployed, from which the Addicks can look to improve.
Of course, such fight will count for little if it is followed up by a tame and effortless defeat in what must be considered a must win game against Rotherham next weekend. If the Addicks aren’t in a relegation battle right now, they will be should they go eleven games without victory.
It’s temporary pain relief, but the days of pain are not yet out of sight.
If trophies were awarded for triumphing in adversity, then Charlton’s cabinet would rival the nation’s very best. Throughout the history of the club, treasured moments have been created at times when only more suffering seemed likely.
And if the Addicks are to record a win against Wolves on Saturday, then they must once again find a fighting spirit that has seemingly vanished. With just one win in fourteen, a 5-0 defeat in the previous fixture and anger against an ownership seemingly mistreating the club and its supporters, these are certainly adverse times.
With controversially appointed head coach Guy Luzon, having missed the thrashing at Watford, supplied with a work permit and able to take charge of the Addicks for the first time, there is at least a desperate strand of hope that his presence in the dugout will lead to an improvement.
But reports would suggests that is unlikely to be the case. A demoralised group of players seemingly as frustrated with the appointment as most supporters.
And with that dispirited side heading to Wolverhampton to face Kenny Jackett’s in-form side, you can only fear another tough weekend for Charlton supporters and players alike.
Even the most determined of Charlton sides, those who have triumphed in difficult times before, would struggle to get anything out of this situation.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON 1-1 WOLVES
A dual between Leon Clarke and George Tucudean to determine the most inept forward ended in a tie as a centre-back provided a goal for each club back in September.
Andre Bikey volleyed Charlton ahead from a corner, celebrating with a flip a man of his size should not be able to perform, before Danny Batth drew the visitors level at The Valley, heading home from a Wolves corner.
But both sides could suggest they deserved all three points, with Tucudean wasting a glorious chance to double Charlton’s lead at 1-0 and Clarke missing several openings with the scores level.
While Charlton allowed poor form to spiral into something considerably worse than that, Wolves have transformed their fortunes in recent weeks.
Having lost five consecutive games, three of which were by three goals or more, Jackett’s side have won five and drawn one of their league encounters following that dreadful run.
With the breakthrough of Dominic Iorfa and the signing of Benik Afobe strengthening Wolves at just the right time, it’s difficult to predict when this run, that has taken the confident side to within a point of the play-offs, will end.
*lost on penalties
That the scoreline itself was some way down the list of factors that depressed Charlton supporters in the week up to the defeat to Watford shows the current state of the club.
But, while off-the-pitch events have left supporters apathetic, there remains a desperate need to improve matters on the pitch, or the Addicks will be sucked into a relegation battle for the second successive season.
With Charlton now without a win in ten, players severally lacking in confidence and heads dropping far too quickly on the pitch, the new head coach’s job would be a tough one if he had been appointed by a proper process and had the full support of the club. Luzon’s task seems almost impossible.
Wolves remain without key man Bakary Sako, who is away on international duty with Mali at the Africa Cup of Nations.
But Jackett will be able to call upon full-back Scott Golbourne, who has recovered from injury. His chance of dislodging in-form Dominic Iofra from the side, however, are slim.
Jackett also has a tough call to make on whether to start Afobe, who came off the bench against Blackpool last weekend to score his first goal for the club, or continue with Nouha Dicko in attack.
New signing Milos Veljkovic will be involved in a Charlton squad for the first time having signed on loan from Tottenham in the week.
And the versatile player, capable of playing at the back and in a holding midfield role, is likely to come straight into the side, possibly for the horrendously out of form Andre Bikey.
There could also be a return for inspirational skipper Johnnie Jackson, who was missed sorely at Vicarage Road. Having looked as interested against Watford as Roland Duchatelet is in what supporters think, Yoni Buyens may be the man to miss out.
KEY BATTLE: SET-PIECES
Without organisation, concentration or execution, Charlton’s efforts to defend set-pieces in recent weeks have been depressing.
In fact, the Vicarage Road crowd wouldn’t have looked ridiculous if they had started their celebrations from the moment the ball trickled behind off an Addick on Saturday. The time and space allowed to 6’2 Odion Igahlo, with Bikey and Tal Ben Haim seemingly unaware of his presence, for the fourth goal a disgraceful attempt to deal with a set-piece that was replicated throughout the afternoon.
Providing simple opportunities for the opposition to score isn’t ideal at the best of times, but it’s effectively self-harm to a side whose confidence could not be any lower. Tactically and individually, likely to be improved with changes to the centre-back pairing, there must be improvements if Charlton are to stop Afobe and co taking advantage.
But so too is there an issue with utilising attacking corners. The roar of expectation from the desperate Charlton supporters is becoming increasingly irrelevant with Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s deliveries making Danny Green’s look threatening.
For a side who haven’t looked like scoring from open play for a number of weeks, Gudmundsson’s free-kick against Blackburn the only goal scored by the Addicks in the last four, making the most of set-pieces is absolutely vital. Putting Jackson back on corner taking duty will surely increase Charlton’s potency from those areas.
While it can be argued the manner of last week’s defeat could have a motivating effect on the players, I’m not sure the environment at the club is currently conducive for that. The absolute bare minimum is some sort of response from the side, whether that be through a show of fight or a result, but I’m unsure we’ll get that. It’ll get worse before it gets better. Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 Charlton Athletic.