It was with very different emotions to those felt currently that Charlton last travelled to Molineux.
The actions of Roland Duchatelet, the words of Katrien Meire, and the performances from the players had seen apathy and disillusionment spread among supporters.
A bloke sacked by the owner at Standard Liege was set to take charge of his first game, having finally been granted a work permit. On numerous occasions were we informed in bizarrely chosen language to accept the decisions the club was making. A 10-game winless run showing no signs of coming to an end, and making following the Addicks both on and off-the-pitch a miserable chore.
So too, for those diligent enough to still care, was there a horrible fear of embarrassment. A pathetic 5-0 defeat to Watford had occurred the week before, and many were expecting similar against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The goalless draw that followed, although alleviating no long term doubts, rather surprising.
Since then, however, Guy Luzon has impressively shaken off the negative tags that were legitimately attached to him in the first month or so of his time as Charlton head coach. The only crisis during this campaign has involved a failure to dispatch season tickets. Performances have, in at least five of the club’s six competitive games, been mightily impressive.
As such, excitement has replaced apathy, and expectation has replaced fear. The Addicks not dreading their trip to Wolves on Saturday, nor worried by the quality a side with promotion ambitions pose.
In fact, the opposition, whether Wolverhampton or Rotherham, is hardly important at the moment. Confidence so high, and so dramatically different to seven months ago, that you feel Luzon’s side can win each and every game.
LAST MEETING – WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 0-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
We will one day tell our grandchildren of the afternoon when Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim, with Marko Dmitrovic behind them, kept a clean sheet having conceded five a week earlier.
For the Addicks, performing disgracefully, without organisation and without fight at Watford, set up to frustrate their opposition at Molineux, and did so successfully.
Despite dominating the game, Wolves were unable to break down stubborn resistance from the visiting side.
In fact, Charlton had a decent chance to win the game late on, with substitute Tony Watt breaking into the box and being denied one-on-one by Carl Ikeme.
But it what was a brief break from chaos and misery, before that returned in the following weeks.
While a youthful side progressed to the third round of the League Cup with a win over Barnet on Tuesday night, it has not prevented Wolves’ start to the campaign from being somewhat underwhelming.
For Kenny Jackett’s side, tipped by many to challenge for promotion, have suffered two disappointing defeats in their first four league games. A terrible capitulation, having gone two goals up, to lose at home to QPR, followed by a torrid performance in defeat to Cardiff City.
Nonetheless, there is unquestionable quality among Wolves’ squad. From the defensive resoluteness of Richard Stearman, the midfield tenacity of Conor Coady, and the lethal forward pairing of Nouha Dicko and Benik Afobe.
Jackett, too, will be intent on quickly addressing the early season faults in his side in order to get back to winning ways in the league.
Confidence at Charlton has not been this high since the last time a fresh side started a campaign in impressive fashion, which happened to be last year.
But this feels a bit different. The attitude and character of the players stronger, the quality of the side greater, and the head coach seemingly given a bit more freedom to do his job how he would like.
And if Saturday’s dramatic stoppage-time win over Hull didn’t send self-belief to a point where it could not grow any greater, then a side full of academy graduates impressively beating Peterborough in the League Cup on Tuesday has done the job.
As such, there is not a feeling that the Addicks will capitulate any time soon, or even that their unbeaten run is in any immediate trouble.
Kenny Jackett has an almost fully-fit squad to pick from for the visit of the Addicks on Saturday.
George Saville, given a chance to impress in the League Cup on Tuesday night, suffered a knock that will keep him out, but no other first time players are absent.
That could mean long-term Charlton target James Henry starting on the wing, as he has done in three of four Wolves league games so far this season.
But it was Rajiv van La Parra and Sheyi Ojo who started out wide against Cardiff, with Afobe in attack on his own. Jackett, however, is likely to revert back to two in attack on Saturday.
Charlton could welcome back Chris Solly after the vice-captain missed the games against Hull and Peterborough through injury.
Solly’s return will allow fellow academy Jordan Cousins to return to centre of midfield, forming a formidable pairing with Ahmed Kashi.
But the Addicks will remain without talismanic forward Watt, who is yet to recover from an injury of his own.
Karlan Ahearne Grant, impressive at Peterborough, will be pushing to start, especially with Igor Vetokele, irrespective of his return on Tuesday night, unlikely to be fit enough to cope with more than a few minutes off the bench at present.
Elsewhere, Stephen Henderson, Cristian Ceballos, Reza Ghoochannejhad, Franck Moussa and Johnnie Jackson are all expected to be out.
KEY BATTLE – PREVENTING AFOBE AND DICKO FROM DESTROYING THE FOUNDATIONS
While Charlton have controlled the tempo of their home league games so far this season, often to the point of dominating, defensive resolve has been required to prevent Derby County and Nottingham Forest from turning their control of the game into three points.
That, of course, isn’t to say the Addicks were negative or overawed at the iPro and the City Ground. Merely pragmatically responding to the opposition dictating play in the middle, and showing superb resilience to halt their attacking moves again and again.
Nor were Luzon’s attacking principles abandoned. A threat on the counter possessed right up until the game’s closing stages against the Rams, and his side creating the better chances against Forest.
As such, against a side who contain metronomic passers in midfield and a vibrant attacking threat, a similar reactive performance will be required. Let Wolves have all the possession they want in the middle, but remain tight and frustrate when they enter the final third.
And the key to that will be preventing Afobe and Dicko from doing what they do best – finding faults in defensive lines and scoring goals.
For if Patrick Bauer and Alou Diarra hold off the front two, then the Addicks will give themselves a base from which to cause a threat on the counter. Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s ability to carry the ball and beat opponents, and Simon Makienok’s threat in the air, meaning Charlton will always have a way of getting forward.
A genuinely tough one to call. Form suggests a Charlton win, but playing Wolves at Molineux is no easy challenge. It isn’t a fixture the confidence-filled Addicks will fear, but they may have to settle for a point. Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-1 Charlton Athletic
Chris Powell’s Flat Cap should be attending the game, but it’s not guaranteed at the moment. Supporting Northamptonshire at T20 Finals Day, then hoping to nip across to Wolves during the second semi-final and head back to Edgbaston for the final itself. As a result, if I am at Molineux, a report won’t be up until Sunday morning at the earliest. Sunday evening if Northants win…