For the previous four seasons, there has been something of a competitive rivalry between Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday. One that doesn’t exist purely on the basis of what is posted on CharltonLife and OwlsTalk.
Though the rather childish jibes across internet forums have certainly increased the desire to win this fixture on both sides, it would not have any sort of edge to it were it not for how closely matched the two sides have been since the 2011/12 campaign. Charlton champions, with a dogged victory at Hillsborough on their way to lifting the League One title, and Wednesday promoted in second.
The Addicks with a nine place advantage come the end of the following season, but the Owls winning in Yorkshire and SE7. Incredible cup and league victories at Hillsborough for Charlton in 2013/14, but Wednesday finishing two places higher in the Championship. Only goals scored separating the pair last season.
And so has there been similarities of sorts in the clubs’ ownership in recent times. Both Roland Duchatelet and Dejphon Chansiri seemingly having the finances and ambition required upon purchasing two clubs starved of top flight football back to take them back to the Premier League. Popular managers removed, a new approach taken.
But, in reality, the ownerships have sent the once closely matched clubs in two very different directions. Wednesday supporters – adoring head coach Carlos Carvalhal and enjoying watching recent signings Lucas Joao, Barry Bannan and Fernando Forestieri – sing that they’re on their way back. Charlton supporters – loathing interim head coach Karel Fraeye and angered by the performances of El Hadji-Ba, Zakarya Bergdich and Conor McAleny – call for their club back.
For while Chansiri, with the appointment of a seemingly knowledgeable head coach and recruitment of quality players from overseas and the Championship, is making Wednesday a competitive force again, Duchatelet, with yet another underqualified head coach appointed and stubbornly sticking by his failing principles, is leaving Charlton supporters in a state of disillusionment over the crisis at their club.
At no point in the previous four years has there been such a gap between the two clubs. At no point in the previous four years has there been such a clear favourite to win this fixture.
LAST MEETING – SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 1-1 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s late goal meant the Addicks came away from Hillsborough in April with a point that appeared to be out of their reach for long periods of the game.
It was somewhat fortunate that Guy Luzon’s side had nothing to play for at this late stage of the season, as their wastefulness would have otherwise been incredibly costly. Keiren Westwood defiant in the face of first half Charlton pressure.
And their inability to find a way past the Irish stopper was punished on the stroke of half-time, as Caolan Lavery turned in Lewis Buxton’s cross.
Their opener proved the catalyst for further Wednesday pressure in the second period, and it was the hosts who looked the most likely to score the game’s second goal.
But Charlton, a little against the run of play, were able to draw level with 15 minutes to play. Westwood only able to parry Chris Eagles’ effort, and Gudmundsson pounced.
The Addicks, however, were still fortunate to come away from Yorkshire with a point. Lavery and Lloyd Isgrove striking the woodwork, before Atdhe Nuhiu somehow managed to head wide when it appeared easier to score in the closing moments.
Sheffield Wednesday: DWWWDD
The target (an alien concept to those in charge at Charlton) for Wednesday might well be promotion to the Premier League by 2017, but they’re in danger of flirting with the top flight before then.
For the Owls, having gone 11 games without defeat, sit just a point off the top six. Results, and their brand of attacking football, impressing.
It’s a run that also contains two victories over Premier League opposition in the League Cup – a 1-0 win at St James’ Park, and the stunning three goal victory over Arsenal at a sold out Hillsborough.
When Wednesday supporters sing that their club is on its way back, they do so with some conviction.
It turns out an interim head coach plucked from the third division of Belgian football doesn’t have the capabilities to save a sinking ship. Who knew?
For Charlton’s defeat at MK Dons on Tuesday night, their 12th game without victory and fifth without scoring, was as pathetic as they come. Organisation completely lacking, individual performances embarrassing, and Fraeye’s decision making bizarre.
So too does a turnaround seem incredibly unlikely. Fraeye not capable of improving performances, players completely shot of confidence, and a complete reluctance existing to improve this weak squad. A sixth game without scoring, a club record, seems likely.
It leaves the Addicks four points from safety, and already looking as if they’re going to spending a season fighting for survival. Although they might want to start fighting at some point.
Saturday’s game will come too soon for Marco Matias and Modou Sougou, who have yet to recover from their injuries.
The duo have returned to training, but will require the international break in order to return to full fitness.
Elsewhere, Charlton academy graduate Michael Turner remains absent, while Carvalhal could call upon former Addicks Jose Semedo and Rhoys Wiggins.
The pair did not feature in Tuesday night’s draw with Brighton, but the Portuguese coach has been known to rotate. As such, recent loan signing Gary Hooper could also be pushing for a start.
Charlton will be without Jordan Cousins after the midfielder picked up an injury during Tuesday night’s defeat to MK Dons.
And with Ahmed Kashi still absent, the underperforming Ba seems the man most likely to take his place in the starting XI.
The Addicks could also be without Gudmundsson, after the winger was forced off at Stadium:MK.
Having used all their subs, Fraeye’s side were reduced to ten men when the winger was on the end of a crunching tackle from Diego Poyet, and the severity of the incident suggests he’ll be out for some time.
Having scored twice for the U21s in midweek, Bergdich could come in to replace him, but that’s like swapping Yann Kermorgant for Piotr Parzyszek.
Elsewhere, Charlton will continue to be without Igor Vetokele and Cristian Ceballos.
KEY BATTLE: MAKING YOUR VOICES HEARD
There’s plenty of areas that this Charlton side must improve in. Avoiding defensive lapses that lead to soft goals being conceded, responding to conceding with some sort of fight, and finding some resolve in midfield would be a nice start.
Then there’s the need for the wingers to dramatically improve their decision making, the forwards to find some confidence and composure, and the head coach to not shove five forwards on the same pitch at once without any sort of structure or shape.
And you could probably point to some ways of stopping this impressive Wednesday side. Wingers needing to support the full-backs in order to halt the Owls’ excellent wing-backs, pressing with intent in midfield to stop Barry Bannan from dictating play, and giving Forestieri and Joao no space at all.
But, in reality, slight improvement in performance and competiveness will do little to impress Charlton supporters. A win, one that would merely lightly paper over some rather large cracks, would probably be celebrated with some apathy.
As such, there are arguably greater priorities on Saturday. The need to protest peacefully, but with vigour and meaning both before and during the game. The need to make our voices heard to those that matter. The need to begin what will be a gruelling process to fightback against those destroying the club, and stubbornly standing by their misguided beliefs.
A win changes nothing. Change needs to occur at the top of this shambolic club.
Those that post on OwlsTalk will need to be told they’re nothing special, as we lose every week. Charlton Athletic 0-3 Sheffield Wednesday