While some have been defiant, almost unnervingly so, in the face of this week’s events, rarely has there been such a widespread feeling of apathy among Charlton fans.
If not apathy, then it is disillusionment and depression. The sacking of Bob Peeters, the appointment of Guy Luzon and the manner in which those at the top of the club have behaved incredibly tough to take for even the most committed and seasoned supporters.
It means that, regardless of memories from previous trips to Vicarage Road largely positive, few Addicks are looking ahead to the game against Watford with the sense of expectation and excitement that they might have been a few weeks ago. Following Charlton is beginning to, if it didn’t already, feel like a chore.
Alas, even if the apathy is unlikely to decrease before kick-off, Saturday may well be just what the hurting supporters of this great club need.
Given the opposition, Watford somewhat inconsistent but a strong force one their day, the chances of a result to address a very small percentage of the concerns Addicks have is slim, but the 90 minutes will at least provide some sort of distraction from the misery they have been engulfed in.
For once the first ball is kicked, the first chant of Valley Floyd Road emerges from the away end and Johnnie Jackson begins to portray himself as the most motivated man in Britain, football’s unrelenting ability to draw you in will be in full flow.
It probably won’t be pretty. In fact, it’s going to be pretty ugly should there be a lack of a fight or a poor result. But my god, do we need a game of football to watch.
In what feels like a game that took place in some sort of parallel universe, a Charlton side possessing a great deal of defensive organisation, character and an element of luck fought their way to a gritty victory over the Hornets at The Valley.
Yoni Buyens’ coolly converted penalty gave the Addicks an early lead, but the remainder of the afternoon provided little enjoyment for the home supporters. Instead, they were made to sit uncomfortably as Watford launched attack after attack.
But, despite Tal Ben Haim getting away with murder on Troy Deeney inside Charlton’s box and Lloyd Dyer getting around the back line on a couple of occasions, the resilience of the hosts was too much for Watford. An afternoon on the edge made worth it by the relief-filled celebrations come the full-time whistle.
It’s fair to say Watford are a bit of an enigma. If replacing head coaches with a regularity matched by the Addicks doesn’t summarise the rather hectic goings on at the club, then five wins and six defeats in their last 11 games perfectly suits the nature of the club.
They’re your traditional inconsistent Championship team, packed with players who can play like Barcelona one week, before deciding to lose their heads and emulate Barnet the next.
However, such inconsistency has not yet proved fatal to their play-off hopes. The Hornets sit in sixth, with the quality in the side, such as that of Troy Deeney and Daniel Tozser, enough to give them a very realistic chance of maintaining that position.
But Slavisa Jokanovic will be desperate for his side to get into a run of form, especially after falling to a 3-1 defeat at Chris Powell’s Huddersfield last week. A depleted and deflated Charlton side arguably the perfect opponents against who to build the foundations for that.
No win in nine, one win in 13 and just two wins the start of October. That Charlton’s form isn’t currently the most pressing matter for most Addicks emphasizes just how desperate these times are.
Alas, the form cannot be ignored. While not a justification for Peeters’ sacking, an improvement is desperately needed if Charlton are to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle.
For while the current league table position is acceptable, a repeat of recent performances and levels of effort shown will soon see the Addicks plummet down the table further.
Watford could be without Heurelho Gomes after the goalkeeper was forced to come off injured at Huddersfield last week. Should the former Tottenham stopper be unfit to play, England U21 international Jonathan Bond will replace him in the side.
Elsewhere, Ikechi Anya and Odion Ighalo are pushing to find a starting role in Jokanovic’s 3-5-2 formation, while there could also be a place in the squad for Jay Spearing, who looks set to join the Hornets on loan from Bolton, boosting an already impressive midfield in ability and depth.
Charlton will welcome back suspended due Yoni Buyens and Callum Harriott, with the former likely to come straight back into the starting XI. Buyens likely to replace Lawrie Wilson, evidently struggling for form and confidence, in the side, with Jordan Cousins moving out wide.
There could also be a start for Tony Watt, who impressed after coming off the bench in last weekend’s defeat to Brighton. The Scottish forward would replace George Tucudean, who went off injured at The Valley, in attack.
But another Addick who suffered an injury a week ago should be fit to start. Jackson’s inspirational and influential role more important than ever.
KEY BATTLE – THE ADDICKS GETTING INVOLVED IN A BATTLE
Normally, a change of manager head coach brings out a response from the players. It did when Powell was sacked; the performances not immediately fantastic but the effort and determination could not be questioned.
Alas, this feels different. A group of players already low on confidence, with heads dropping and effort lacking in previous games, have seemingly been dealt another blow. What the players thought of Peeters is up for debate, but reports have emerged that senior figures within the dressing room are as disappointed with the appointment of Luzon as the supporters are.
So, if Charlton are to get anything out of Saturday’s game, they must not only battle with the opposition, but battle with themselves. A certain level of performance is needed to match a talented Watford side, especially in midfield where they are particular strong, but the Addicks must also overcome a seemingly collective negative midset.
I can’t say I’m hopeful.
This isn’t going to go well, is it? At least there’s absolutely no chance of us being a bigger shambles on the pitch as we are off it. Well, I hope. Watford 3-0 Charlton Athletic