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.