At most of the other 92 League clubs, a change in head coach or manager is an exciting time. A promising appointment made, to replace the failing former boss, and the hope of an upturn in results. Those that were apathetic now back on board.
Alas, the ineptitude of the ownership at Charlton Athletic means they are not like many other clubs.
For Karel Fraeye’s first game in charge of the Addicks, having replaced the sacked Guy Luzon, at Middlesbrough on Saturday is not looked forward to with enthusiasm or the hope that a run of ten games without a win will end.
Nor is Fraeye’s managerial debut in England, having been plucked from the depths of the Belgian league ladder, particularly dreaded with the result exclusively in mind.
Instead, the appearance of the 37-year-old in The Riverside away dugout will increase the apathy and disillusionment among Charlton supporters, who have every right to feel like they’re being treated in disgusting fashion.
A man appointed without adequate managerial credentials, to merely continue a system that was failing, and has been failing for some time. All to increase the ego of Duchatelet and Katrien Meire, in the stubborn hope their experiment will eventually work while some fans still remain.
And this game of football, against an excellent Boro side likely to inflict further misery upon a demoralised Charlton, is unlikely to provide even the briefest of distractions.
Whether three points, one or none are gained, supporters of the Addicks will continue to lose while Duchatelet remains in control.
LAST MEETING – MIDDLESBROUGH 3-1 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
In not too dissimilar circumstances, three games into Luzon’s reign after his controversial appointment, Charlton capitulated at The Riverside in a manner which led you to question the effort of several players.
Boro took the lead in relatively simple fashion six minutes into the game. Patrick Bamford peeling away from his marker to nod home Grant Leadbitter’s corner.
But the Addicks, despite being under pressure for the entirety of the first half, were able to pull level against the run of play just before the break. Tony Watt, after a characteristic run, feeding Yoni Buyens, who flicked back to Johann Berg Gudmundsson to finish in stunning fashion.
Luzon’s side, however, could not carry that momentum into the second half. Jelle Vossen, converting after a blocked shot fell kindly to him, completely killing the confidence of an already mentally scared Charlton side three minutes after the break.
And after a half without energy and effort, with the performances of Oguchi Onyewu and Buyens particularly insulting to those that had travelled to The Riverside, Lee Tomlin completed Boro’s victory in stunning fashion. A corner pinged to him on the edge of the box, and volleyed powerfully beyond Marko Dmitrovic.
After something of an indifferent October, with two defeats and draw prior to lost weekend, a Boro side that won all their games throughout September appear to be back on track.
For their 3-1 victory over Wolves, though a side who have been sluggish this season, was impressive, and their penalty shoot-out win over Manchester United in the Capital One Cup an incredible night for the club.
Aitor Karanka’s men, fourth in the Championship, will unsurprisingly be full of confidence on Saturday.
Confidence is something the Addicks have lacked for a considerable amount of time. Ten games, in fact, with their last win coming in the Capital One Cup second round against Peterborough United.
Efforts in the previous three games have been particularly disappointing. Two shots against Reading, and two terrible capitulations against Preston and Brentford. Luzon paying the price.
And though there were calls for Luzon to go, and two very poisonous atmospheres at The Valley in the past week and a half, the extent of that anger was not primarily caused by the departing head coach.
Luzon, though unable to motivate his side and prevent three pathetic performances since the return from the international break, was not the problem. Merely a symptom of the overall cancer that riddles this club.
Head coach Karanka will be without Christian Stuani, scorer of seven goals this season, after the forward picked up a groin injury.
Wingers Albert Adomah and Adam Forshaw are also doubts, having picked up knocks with kept them out of the League Cup tie with Manchester United.
But while just a handful of injuries would cripple Charlton, Boro’s big squad means the absent of the trio will cause minimal concern. None of the three started in the league victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, and it was a somewhat rotated side that beat Manchester United on penalties.
Charlton will welcome back Alou Diarra after the centre-back, one of few consistent performers this season, missed Saturday’s defeat to Brentford through suspension.
The Frenchman is likely to replace Naby Sarr, irrespective of the fact the summer signing looked as comfortable as he has so far in a Charlton shirt against the Bees. The Bauer/Diarra partnership required if the Addicks are to have any chance of stopping Boro’s impressive strikeforce.
But further changes from the XI that pathetically capitulated to Brentford, irrespective of the change in head coach and the shambolic performance, are unlikely. On paper, and with Ahmed Kashi and Igor Vetokele still injured, that side was as close to Charlton’s strongest XI at this moment in time.
KEY BATTLE: CHARLTON V THEMSELVES (AGAIN)
Some have used the start the Addicks made to the game against Brentford as a positive. That they were able to show some attacking intent, and go close on a number of occasions, suggests that a decent side is still hiding underneath this mess.
But the capitulation that followed, with Charlton dire from the moment Alan Judge crossed to John Swift, highlight their complete inability to deal with adversity. Heads dropping and confidence draining the moment they went behind.
And given the relative strength of Boro, the Addicks are likely to face significant adversity on Saturday. That without even considering the fact they’re being led by a head coach who has lost four of his last five games in the Belgian third tier.
As such, if Charlton are to get anything out of Saturday’s game, they’re going to need to find a bit of mental strength, either to hold off Boro, or respond to the threat they will pose throughout the 90 minutes.
We can’t match Middlesbrough, but it’s even less likely if we’re also fighting to overcome ourselves.
Finding it very hard to care. Middlesbrough 3-0 Charlton Athletic
Chris Powell’s Flat Cap is still deciding whether he’s stupid enough to travel to Middlesbrough on Saturday. I had not planned to prior to this season getting underway, as I’ve been for the last three, but there’s every chance I’ll give in.