Roland Duchatelet shouldn’t be carving his turkey with a clear mind. Katrien Meire’s thoughts should be elsewhere as she unwraps her presents. The festive celebrations of Karel Fraeye and the majority of his side should be tainted by guilt and worry.
For the club they own, lead or represent will spend Christmas in the Championship’s bottom three. A fate confirmed by the most pathetic of capitulations at Turf Moor, gifting Burnley a 4-0 victory that was more reflective of the Addicks’ woes than the Clarets’ quality.
And yet, while Charlton in its current state provides a constant source of misery and anxiety for supporters, it’s hard to imagine the crisis at the club even briefly crossing the mind of those that matter on Christmas Day.
Because the evidence we are provided continues to suggest that, whether it be a Saturday afternoon, Tuesday evening, or national holiday, they do not care.
If they did, something would have been done to address this desperate situation. Duchatelet probably not even aware of the weak starting XI and dire quality available on Charlton’s bench, a consequence of his flawed transfer philosophy and questionable investment.
There are those that escape criticism, but many members of this squad too mentally weak, too inexperienced or simply too poor in quality to provide what is needed to lift the Addicks away from trouble. Burnley, through Scott Arfield, gifted their lead on the stroke of half-time, breaking with ease from Reza Ghoochannejhad’s horrendous corner.
Up to that point, Charlton had competed. Maybe not covering themselves in glory defensively, but carrying a consistent threat on the break.
Beyond that, there was nothing. Eight second half minutes all that was needed for Arfield to double Burnley’s lead, capitalising on a horrendously defended corner, and Charlton’s back four parted just two minutes later to allow Andre Gray to race through and bag a third.
Their attitude abysmal in the face of adversity once again. Heads down, energy non-existent, and the underqualified head coach increasing the beaten feeling. Removing Alou Diarra and replacing him with Zakarya Bergdich insulting the already beleaguered supporters.
Fraeye’s failings and his players’ poor efforts unlikely to be enough to force Meire into wholesale changes of the club. Nor is Burnley’s 78th minute fourth, despite the ease with which Sam Vokes flicked in Matt Lawton’s low cross.
But change, as it has been for some time, is desperately needed. Those that don’t care, or are stubborn in their ignorance towards what matters, need to start caring.
For if they don’t, Charlton will be occupying a place in League One come Christmas 2016. And those that are only hurting because of their strong emotional connection to this club, the mistrusted and mistreated supporters, will be forced into such a state of apathy that they no longer care.
In truth, there was little positivity before kick-off that the Addicks would be spending their Christmas outside the Championship’s bottom three. The capitulation against Bolton Wanderers in midweek, Burnley’s perceived quality and, most worryingly, Charlton’s matchday squad all contributing towards supporters fearing the worst.
The bench incredibly concerning, with the appearance of Ezri Konsa, a 17-year-old defender, exposing the lack of depth in Charlton’s squad. Not to mention Bergdich, Regan Charles-Cook and Karlan Ahearne-Grant also being in reserve.
The starting line-up was without Ademola Lookman and Johann Berg Gudmundsson, both failing to recover from the knocks they suffered in the midweek draw, and the out of form Simon Makienok brought into the side.
There was also a return for Morgan Fox, strangely replacing Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, and Patrick Bauer, a more celebrated inclusion having completed his two-game ban, whose presence at centre-back allowed Diarra to occupy his more favourable holding midfield role.
Regardless, there didn’t appear any obvious change in the defensive resilience of the Addicks in the opening exchanges, as a sharp Burnley were able to get in behind Charlton’s backline. Vokes heading wide, and an unmarked Ben Mee skewing a first-time drive wide at the far post.
But a lack of composure at the back did not hinder the visitors’ forward efforts. Ricardo Vaz Te exerting something that resembled confidence as he cut in from the left and fired wide.
In fact, there were some promising signs in the early stages, with Makienok and the lively Vaz Te linking up well. The big Dane intercepting a wayward Tom Heaton goal kick, playing the Portuguese forward in, and Michael Duff called upon to make a strong last-ditch block.
Ghoochannejhad was also impressing, floating between the lines with menace, and supporters in the away end were rising in expectation as the unmarked Iranian was teed up by Johnnie Jackson on the edge of the box. A Joey Barton shaped figured flinging himself in front of the strike, and just about keeping a relatively rampant Charlton at bay.
A degree of frustration among Burnley supporters as Vaz Te ran onto Makeinok’s flick, and blasted against the side netting. The angst existing not because of the threat the Addicks were possessing on the break, but because of their own toothlessness. Wayward crosses and misplaced through balls showing why the Clarets had failed to score in their previous three games – something missed in the final third.
That isn’t to say Charlton could comfortably suggest they were on top. Not while Burnley were still able to get into decent positions, finding some joy in the regularity with which they doubled up out wide and beat Chris Solly and Fox. A reminder against complacency issued as Lowton, finally delivering an accurate cross, picked out Vokes to head wide.
And even if they were the dominant side, the sight of Vaz Te falling to the floor and Ahearne-Grant simultaneously pulling on his shirt meant that such a position would need to be revised. The former West Ham forward forced off, seemingly weakening the extent of Charlton’s threat on the break.
So there was an element of surprise when Ghoochannejhad, receiving a pass from Ahearne-Grant, popped up on the edge of Burnley’s box at the climax of another Charlton break in a clear position to give his side the lead.
The next noise, however, was not one of celebration from the away end, but laughter from the home ends. The Iranian not possessing a right foot, and skewing his effort so badly that it ran away for a Burnley throw.
Not be outdone, however, Gray also attempted to provide quality material for the Danny Baker Blooper DVD you’re given at this time of year. A delivery from the right finding its way through to the prolific forward at the far post, and the former Brentford man somehow managing to blast over from just a couple of yards out. Head hidden in shirt as the Charlton supporters behind the goal took pleasure in his suffering.
Those two chances were fairly fitting of the overall play in the first half. Both sides carrying a bit of threat, but a lack of quality making it something of a dull and frustrating watch. A goalkeeper finally tested as half-time approached, with Jackson’s stinging drive from distance tipped over the bar by Tom Heaton.
A roar of excitement from the Addicks, hopeful that their side could make an unlikely breakthrough at a crucial time. A roar of excitement that quickly became a heavy groan, as Ghoochannejhad’s corner failed to beat the first man, and Burnley were able to break.
A heavy groan that became genuine panic as the Claret outnumbered White and Red. Arfield leading the charge, sending Lowton clear down the flank, and continuing his run. The full-back’s ball not turned in by Gray, but Arfield picking up the pieces and finishing coolly.
While the Clarets celebrated, Stephen Henderson raced out of his goal and furiously pointed a finger at Ghoochannejhad. The Iranian’s corner, and failure to track back, the catalyst for the Addicks falling behind a minute before the break.
And the deficit could have been doubled in stoppage-time, with Solly blocking superbly to deny Mee after the left-back had been played through. Half-time desperately needed in an attempt to avoid a capitulation in confidence and scoreline.
So too, if the Addicks were to have any chance of coming back, was a strong and positive start to the second half needed. That not quite the case, with fortune on Charlton’s side as Lowton’s cross bounced out off Vokes, rather than the forward getting a definitive touch on it.
And their efforts going forward were little more than frustrating. Ahearne-Grant getting in behind, but opting to shoot from a tight angle when a cross in the direction of the awaiting Ghoochannejhad may have been more useful. Charlton couldn’t afford for decision making in the final third to be so poor.
Nor could they afford for their defensive organisation to be completely non-existent. No one bothered to pick up Dean Marney, who came to collect a short corner, and his pull back to Arfield found the back of the net via a deflection off the sea of White and Red bodies in the middle. With 37 minutes still to play, the Addicks had gifted the game to their opponents.
Desperate cries of encouragement heard from the away end, but they were made even more meaningless just two minutes later. Possession lost in the middle, allowing George Boyd to slide through the unmarked and unpressured Gray, who finished with all the composure and class Charlton lacked. The Addicks had made a side without a goal in three games appear ruthless and rampant.
The game most certainly over, particularly given the body language of those represented the Addicks. As was the case after the goals were conceded against Brighton and Bolton, this side looked broken. Heads down, energy depleted, effort lacking.
Ghoochannejhad attempted to disprove such a theory, forcing a superb save out of Tom Heaton with a volley from Ahearne-Grant’s cross before teeing up Jackson to curl into the England goalkeeper’s hands, but this was little more than a token gesture.
Particularly with Diarra, providing a degree of composure in the middle, soon replaced by Bergdich, a player with no history at Charlton. Injury to Bauer, forcing Sarr to take to the pitch and immediately almost gifting Vokes a clear run on goal, only making matters worse.
By this time, those in the away end had found alternative entertainment. A back catalogue of player chants, in addition to laughing at their own side’s woes. Doing nothing would have led to insanity.
So would a Burnley fourth, which the hosts continued to threaten to score. The Clarets completely dictating play against a Charlton side that, despite giving very little, seemingly had nothing left to give. Marney’s strike kept out by a combination of Sarr and Henderson, and Vokes heading Barton’s corner narrowly wide.
That Dyche’s side added to their goal tally, therefore, was not a great surprise. Another Lowton cross from the right unchallenged, picking out an unmarked Vokes, who found the bottom corner with an intelligent flick.
But the greater suffering for Charlton supporters was provided by the fact there remained a further 12 minutes. Busying themselves with chants against Duchatelet and Meire, as Ghoochannejhad stabbed half-heartedly towards goal.
Those 12 minutes a reasonable amount of time for Burnley to capitalise further upon Charlton’s woes. Substitute Michael Kightly forcing a decent save out of Henderson as four minutes of stoppage-time were signalled.
And, after Jackson had lifted a free-kick into the hands of Heaton, Charlton’s goalkeeper was required again to keep the scoreline at 4-0. Henderson parrying Rouwen Hennings’ effort, and deserving the degree of fortune that followed with the ball looping over the bar.
But it mattered little, if at all. All the remained for Charlton’s players was an undignified trudge back down Turf Moor’s tunnel. The energy and effort in that moment the same as it had been consistently throughout the second half.
A grim and pathetic capitulation.
At least some had the heart to acknowledge the away end. While Makienok hid, as he had done for the entirety of the second half to the extent you could have quite easily forgot he was playing, Jackson and Henderson approached the away end with dignity.
The sort of character that is so desperately lacking from this side. This side containing far too many youngsters, players signed as part of this failed experiment that simply aren’t good enough, and those that crumble in the face of any sort of adversity.
Fox and Harry Lennon error-prone, Solly beaten frequently, and Cousins once again struggling. Ghoochannejhad lively without any real potency, Ahearne-Grant anonymous, and I’m not entirely sure Makienok touched the ball after Burnley’s third.
Of course, the Clarets are a decent side, and defeat was always likely at Turf Moor. They played with composure in the middle, offered a consistent threat via their two full-backs and wingers combining, and had forwards that possessed a genuine goal threat irrespective of their struggles in recent matches.
But the performance, effort and capitulation are not excused by Burnley’s quality. Once again, it was simply unforgivable.
And once again, you can feel assured it will matter little. Fraeye has already made his bizarre excuses, Meire will not suddenly accept it might be worth going hunting for a proper head coach and some additional quality, and Duchatelet will not admit his system is completely and utterly flawed.
Such a bleak feeling existing not only because the Addicks are bottom at Christmas, not only because of the dire and weak performances, and not only because of the horrendous running of the club that has left supporters disillusioned and apathetic.
It exists because change does not feel likely. Except for a change of division next season.