Let us take a moment to praise the Sky Sports overlords, who have been kind enough to make our game live on their wonderful service this weekend.
For the timing could not be any better. A glorious opportunity for Charlton Athletic, in the midst of a six game winless run, to embarrass themselves in front of a TV audience as Fulham come to The Valley on Sunday.
And not only is recent form against the Addicks making an impression to Sky’s viewers, but so too is their recent form when playing on TV.
The defeats to Fulham and Ipswich Town last season took their record on TV to 13 defeats in 21 games since the start of the 2009/10 season. Just six wins recorded in that time, with two coming against lower league opposition and another in the redundant Play-Off semi-final second leg victory over Swindon Town.
But in the same week that Katrien Meire suggested the history of the club was not important, maybe it’s time to move on from one of the more unpleasant statistics of Charlton’s recent past.
A win, and therefore a win on TV, desperately needed to rejuvenate confidence and belief. Among poorly performing players, a head coach struggling to change his side’s fortunes, and supporters growing in anger and frustration.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1-1 FULHAM
An easily forgettable affair with an end of season feel saw Charlton and Fulham draw a game that neither did enough to win at The Valley in April.
The Cottagers, still needed points to avoid relegation from the Championship, took the lead after eight minutes when Matt Smith took advantage of confusion in Charlton’s backline to flick-on to Ross McCormack, who finished an opening he was never going to miss.
But the Addicks, needing to regain some pride after a derby defeat to Millwall, responded almost immediately, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson firing home Morgan Fox’s cross in emphatic fashion.
They could not push on from drawing level, however, and it was Fulham who came closest to winning the game. Joe Gomez required to clear Smith’s goalbound effort off the line.
In many ways, the previous week or so at Craven Cottage has summed up Kit Symons’ side start to the campaign.
For bitter rivals QPR were dispatched in glorious fashion. An almost flawless performance, with the R’s stopped from playing and the Cottagers frequently attacking with flair and threat, resulting in a 4-0 victory.
But Tuesday saw Wolverhampton Wanderers come to the Cottage, and gained three points emphatically. Fulham unable to recover from Tom Cairney’s red card, conceding three goals – two avoidable and one stunner – without reply.
Fulham’s start to the season, therefore, quite mixed. Sometimes looking like the work in progress they are, and suffering defeat. Others playing to the full extent of the potential they have, with an impressive bunch of players recording promising victories.
Charlton’s chances of success on Sunday heavily dependent on which Fulham turns up.
A side that began the season with organised defensive efforts, exciting counter-attacking football, and constant high-intensity pressing has become something of a shambles.
For Guy Luzon’s men have lost their defensive resolve. 13 largely avoidable goals conceded in six winless games, with shape lose and individual errors frequent.
So too has that counter attacking panache been lost. Charlton’s forward play slow, predictable and rarely threatening.
And, most worryingly of all, the high-intensity efforts have been replaced by lacklustre displays. The Addicks responding to going behind against Cardiff City with sideways passing and without the sort of energy you would hope for.
A win, or at least an encouraging performance, desperately required. But, on the evidence of recent weeks, neither seems likely.
Fulham will be without Cairney after the impressive playmaker was sent off for a two-footed lunge during the defeat to Wolves.
The Scot, who regularly impressed against the Addicks while in a Blackburn shirt, could be replaced by young Danish midfield Lasse Vigen Christensen.
But one man who certainly won’t be replacing Cairney is Scott Parker, with the controversial Charlton academy graduate missing out on a return to SE7 through injury.
Joining Parker in the treatment room are full-backs Jazz Richards and Luke Garbutt, while forward Smith and goalkeeper Marcus Bettenelli have also been absent in recent weeks owing to knee ligament injuries suffered in the same incident.
Charlton will welcome back Alou Diarra after the centre-back sat out Saturday’s defeat to Cardiff through suspension.
The Frenchman, although uncomfortable against Blackburn and Crystal Palace, has been a vital figure at the back for the Addicks this season, and his return, with the unconvincing Naby Sarr dropping out, is a huge boost.
But goalkeeper Stephen Henderson, forward Simon Makienok, and winger Cristian Ceballos are unlikely to return from their injuries, while captain Johnnie Jackson is a doubt having missed three previous two games.
It means the options Luzon has to change his side remain limited, but one man pushing to start is Karlan Ahearne-Grant. The forward, having scored against Cardiff, could come in for Mikhail Kennedy or Zakarya Bergdich, allowing Johann Berg Gudmundsson to resume his duties out wide.
KEY BATTLE: A FRAGILE DEFENCE AGAINST A STRONG FORWARD LINE
They cannot defend corners. Cardiff’s Sean Morrison given several free headers, before nodding in the Bluebirds’ winner.
They’ve started to struggle in wide positions. Chris Solly and Fox, without being desperately poor, have made more mistakes in the past few weeks than they had in the previous eight months.
No longer are they determined in their resilience in the centre. Patrick Bauer not as dominant, Diarra shaky, and Sarr struggling.
In fact, were it not for Nick Pope, then Charlton’s defensive record in recent weeks would look even less impressive. Even the goalkeeper, with a host of stunning saves to his name, was partially at fault for the defeat to Huddersfield.
So it is unfortunate that Fulham’s forward line have impressed many in recent weeks. McCormack’s danger known to all, and the lively Moussa Dembele announcing himself to those who were not already aware of his talents. Ben Pringle, too, a wonderful crosser of the ball.
Defending against a unit like that will be a big test for this out of sorts Charlton side. Mistakes will be capitalised upon, and their movement will provide a constant threat of the sort of level that the Addicks have not dealt well with in recent weeks.
If Luzon’s side are to stamp their foot down and get back on some sort of track, they must offer defensive resilience. For a repeat of their efforts at the back in recent against McCormack and co, and any amount of attacking flair will not be enough.
We’re on TV. We’re out of form. I’ve got to get up at 7am to get to The Valley on time. What could possibly go wrong? Charlton Athletic 1-2 Fulham