Chris Powell's Flat Cap

Home » Feature Articles » Charlton Athletic Moments of the Year 2015 – Part One

Charlton Athletic Moments of the Year 2015 – Part One

Three head coaches, one dubiously appointed with the tag of ‘interim’, occupying The Valley’s home dugout primarily for their ability to work within and accept a flawed structure.

The second half of a horrendous winless run, and the entirety of another, both including some of the most desperate afternoons and evenings that many supporters have spent at The Valley.

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The continuation of a transfer policy that, irrespective of the occasional high quality player recruited, has seen players signed without the ability or application to perform in the Championship.

It is fair to say that 2015, with 22 defeats in 46 league games, will not be remembered fondly by supporters of Charlton Athletic. Fitting that their side ends the calendar year in the bottom three of the division.

In fact, it will be remembered as the year that supporters, on mass, turned on the club’s ownership. A year of outrage and protest, if not apathy and disconnection, that has built as the year has gone on.

As such, the negative periods far outweigh the positive ones. The positive periods tainted by the extent of the overriding crisis.

But the off-the-pitch situation does mean that those genuinely positive moments that have occurred in the previous 12 months have provided necessary distractions. The unexpected victories celebrated with real vigour, players rewarding supporter effort appreciated even more so than in normal circumstances, and moments where a feeling of unity has existed particularly embraced.

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It means there remains a number of moments that have occurred in the calendar year which can be looked back on with a degree of fondness.

So many that this look back at the moments of the 2015 has been split into two pieces. The second includes an opportunity to vote for your favourite moment.

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Ending the winless run – Charlton 3-0 Brentford (14/02/2015)

The cancer that runs through Charlton Athletic has inflicted deep suffering upon its supporters at various points during this calendar year.

And on few occasions has there been such a heavy sense of seemingly incurable misery as there was prior to the February clash with promotion-chasing Brentford.

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The Valley overwhelmed by a poisonous atmosphere during the 3-2 defeat to Norwich City on the Tuesday before. A gutless performance, instigated by half-hearted effort from those in red and the tactical naivety of the controversially appointed Guy Luzon, resulting in a 14th game without victory.

So not only was this a result that provided relief, moving the Addicks away from the relegation zone they were heading towards, but halted a more perilous slide into deep apathy and disillusionment. A spectacular Valley afternoon, after one of the most desperate evenings, that helped temporarily heal the cancerous wounds.

A poisonous atmosphere replaced by a supportive one, called for by the players and maintained by their efforts. Johnnie Jackson’s influence the catalyst for both supporters and his teammates, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson giving the Addicks the lead with a stunning finish before the skipper was forced off through injury.

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Important, too, was Luzon showing a degree of tactical intelligence. The Bees, in their own state of crisis following the news that Mark Warburton would be leaving the club, constantly frustrated by a resilient defensive effort, and frequently caught out by a potent Charlton threat on the counter. The second, ten minutes after the break, coming after the unplayable Tony Watt teed up Igor Vetokele to round off one such break.

And the final cogs in this almost perfect performance were the contributions from players who hadn’t made an impact in recent weeks.

Stephen Henderson playing his first game since Charlton’s last win, against Reading in November 2014, and showing the importance of his defensive leadership, while Frederic Bulot, previously failing to impress, at the heart of almost every counter and getting the reward his efforts deserved with a coolly finished third in stoppage-time. The winless run ending in emphatic fashion.

The overall picture not necessarily changing, but a sensational afternoon in SE7. The performance sublime, the atmosphere memorable, and a much needed boost provided to those in despair.


More than just a fluke – Wigan Athletic 0-3 Charlton (20/02/15)

There was some pressure on the Addicks as they travelled to the DW Stadium on the Friday night that followed their first victory in 15 games.

A different sort of pressure, but arguably the same amount that existed in the midst of their winless run. They needed to give at least some indication that their victory over Brentford was not a fluke.

And that they did, in emphatic fashion. The Addicks decimating Wigan to record their second consecutive 3-0 win, and their first of only four away victories in the entire calendar year.

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In truth, it was not as comfortable as the win over Brentford. Had the Latics possessed any sort of composure in front of goal, lacking most notably when Marc-Antoine Fortune got the better of Roger Johnson but not a defiant Stephen Henderson, they would have taken the lead long before Bulot’s fierce strike put Luzon’s side ahead.

Behind and continuing to struggle in front of goal, Wigan quickly grew frustrated. Something the Addicks were able to take advantage of again before half-time, with Vetokele rising superbly to head home Bulot’s delivery.

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It allowed Charlton to be resilient and watchful in the second period, protecting their lead despite the woeful efforts of Yoni Buyens in midfield – a contender for worst performance of the season despite victory being achieved.

And that victory was sealed with two minutes to play, as a quick Charlton counter concluded with Gudmundsson squaring to debutant Chris Eagles. His cool finish only adding to the unified and joyful celebrations come full-time.

The mood in some contrast to the weeks preceding this trip.


The Flat-Capped One’s return – Charlton 3-0 Huddersfield Town (28/02/15)

As a player, there were 270 appearances in Charlton red, with excellent performances at left-back rewarded with five England caps. As a manager, a League One title was won with 101 points, and a unified squad was able to provide some unforgettable moments in the Championship. As a person, he enjoyed the strongest possible relationship with supporters of the club.

And yet, a degree of cynicism existed over Chris Powell’s first return to The Valley since his untidy sacking. Supporters excited to welcome back a Charlton hero, and take the opportunity to show him their appreciation when he was dismissed in March 2014, having their loyalty to the Addicks questioned.

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For there was a small section of fans who were unwilling to view the Charlton legend who would stand in The Valley’s away dugout as anything more than the opposition manager. Showing admiration and appreciation to the opposition manager equates to not supporting your side, apparently. 

But such a theory is disproved by the fact that Charlton’s impressive 3-0 victory over Powell’s Huddersfield only enhances the fondness with which his first return to SE7 is looked back on. A complete contrast to the horrendous performance in defeat that made his second return later on in the year impossible to enjoy.

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From the near sold-out home ends rising as one to applaud and appreciate their former boss prior to kick-off, until Powell’s classy acknowledgement of his former supporters despite his obvious sadness at full-time, it was a day of high emotion.

Sandwiched between all that was arguably the best performance of the calendar year. Gudmundsson’s stunning free-kick the perfect reward for a first-half performance packed with high-intensity pressing and threatening play on the break.

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It provided a platform from which Watt decimated Huddersfield’s backline in the second half. Unselfishly teeing up Vetokele to double Charlton’s lead, before gliding through the Terriers and lashing in a stunning individual strike.

The day could not have gone any better.


Watt rounding off victory – Charlton 2-1 Nottingham Forest (03/03/15)

Charlton’s first three wins under Luzon had come in impressive style. A style not normally seen played by Charlton, traditionally at their best when gritty and determined.

Three teams decimated by unstoppable counter-attacking play, ultimately cowering in the face of Watt, Bulot and Gudmundsson. Brentford, Wigan and Huddersfield simply unable to test the resolve of the Addicks, for they were rather preoccupied attempting to find some of their own.

But when character and resilience was required to secure victory, something that had been absent for the duration of the 14 game winless run, Luzon’s rejuvenated side did not shy away.

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For Nottingham Forest were dominant. The fearless Michail Antonio, whose stunning individual goal cancelled out Bulot’s early free-kick, a constant menace. Lawrie Wilson terrorised, but a collective defensive effort keeping the winger and the rest of a rampant Forest side at bay.

Even the struggling Wilson, replaced at half-time, was able to show a degree of character before the break. His cross perfect for Bulot, who gave the Addicks the lead against the run of play.

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A lead, despite persistent promising attacks from the visitors and increasingly desperate defending from the hosts, that Charlton would ultimately cling onto. Their determination and fight, particularly for a side that had seemingly possessed none less than a month previously, commendable.

And the composure and class that was shown to see out the game in the closing moments topped off a very impressive effort. Watt, with the support of Bulot, dancing around Eric Lichaj and Antonio by the corner flag for the majority of the three minutes of additional time. His efforts earning a standing ovation, and a memorable Charlton victory.


Church providing divine intervention – Cardiff City 1-2 Charlton (07/03/15)

It’s accurate to suggest that Simon Church was not a fan favourite during his time in SE7. Loathed by many, not least a succession of Charlton bosses who limited his first-team chances, for his inability to hold up the ball and ineptitude when in front of goal.

But so too is it fair to say that the abusive nature of the criticism he received was unfair. His effort and endeavour, even in the most trying of circumstances, never questionable, occasionally resulting in some gritty and important contributions.

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That the case when the Welshman was introduced with just over 15 minutes to play at the Cardiff City Stadium. The Addicks lethargic and, though only one goal down, showing no signs of mounting a comeback in the forward’s homeland.

But Federico Macheda’s early second-half strike was cancelled out just seconds after Church had been brought on. The scenes of celebration, enhanced by the goalscorer standing with arms out-stretched on an advertising hoarding in front of the away end, memorable as Watt turned in Johnson’s low cross.

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And though Church had no direct involvement in the equaliser, his tenacity and workrate shown in the remainder of the contest encouraged the Addicks to press for a winner.

Even holding the ball up well to draw a foul off Sean Morrison, and win his side a penalty. One that Buyens duly dispatched, given Charlton a victory which seemed unlikely less than twenty minutes previously.

A marvellous show of character, from Church and his teammates. The first, and penultimate, time the Addicks came from behind to win in 2015.

It was also the first time Luzon had approached Charlton fans during the full-time celebrations. The controversially appointed boss seemingly now willing to attempt to build a relationship with supporters, who sung his name from the away end.

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Something special building? Obviously and ultimately not, but that moment of false hope was one to savour.


A moment of celebration in the dark side of South London – Alou Diarra’s goal against Millwall (03/04/15)

It is fitting both of Charlton’s calendar year and their long struggles in derby fixtures that a moment from a game that ultimately ended in misery makes this list.

But the joy felt as Alou Diarra superbly flicked home Morgan Fox’s cross to give the Addicks the lead and score their first goal against Millwall in seven encounters with their South East London rivals cannot be understated.

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The circumstances of the game made the goal even more enjoyable. The Addicks not only relatively lacklustre, but down to ten men. Solly dismissed for blocking Aiden O’Brien’s shot with his hands, and parity only maintained by Henderson denying Lee Gregory from the penalty spot.

So when the former France international gave the Addicks the lead with 67 minutes played, it was somewhat undeserved. At the very least, against the run of play and something of a shock to those in the away end.

Chaotic scenes of celebration followed, the first at The Den for a generation. Even a few current Addicks joined.

Undoubtedly, this was ultimately a wasted opportunity. The Addicks, winning seven of their previous nine going into the game, with their best chance to beat Millwall, plummeting towards League One, since their last victory over the Lions in 1996.

They should have been tamed. A chance to decimate a weak team should have been taken, and the lead Diarra gave the Addicks should have been protected. The capitulation that followed, with Luzon’s substitutes and tactical changes weakening his side to the point that Magaye Gueye and Jos Hooiveld turned the game on its head, embarrassing.

But that brief period where all was well could not have felt any sweeter.


Witnessing Kermorgant’s joy – Charlton Athletic 0-3 Bournemouth (02/05/15)

To include a moment with little direct relation to the Addicks probably isn’t wise. In fact, I can hear you tutting from here as you read this. The little credibility I had lost.

So it is probably best to think of this not as a Charlton moment of the year, but a personal moment of the year while watching the Addicks. For myself, and for any others who share equal admiration of Yann Kermorgant.

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In fact, there was very little focus on the hosts when Bournemouth visited The Valley on the final day of last season. Only defeat by a ridiculous margin would deny the Cherries promotion to the Premier League, and it was not out of the question that they could snatch the title from Watford’s hands.

That made more the case with Charlton, marooned in mid-table, playing like a team with nothing to play for. Eddie Howe’s side ruthlessly capitalising upon the half-hearted Addicks, scoring twice inside 12 minutes.

Their third coming almost simultaneously with Sheffield Wednesday’s equaliser at Watford, allowing the Bournemouth fans in the away end to celebrate with incredible intensity. The title theirs come full-time.

But instead of feeling anger and sadness over the heavy defeat, there was instead a feeling of warmth in witnessing Bournemouth’s joy. In particular, the joy of Kermorgant.

The only real competition between the two sides during the game had been between the two sets of supporters, in showing their admiration for the Frenchman, and Kermorgant had the generosity to acknowledge his former fans in the midst of his current side’s celebrations.

So too did he depart the pitch to embrace his friends and family in the West Stand. His name sung by Charlton supporters and applause sent his way as he did. The connection with the Frenchman still stronger than with most that were wearing red that day.

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It was also quite a nice feeling knowing that Meire had to watch Kermorgant collect his league winners’ medal, despite the fact he was surplus to requirements in SE7. I imagine I’ll still be expressing my displeasure at his sale in the 2016 version of this.

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The emergence of Joe Gomez

If there remains just one thing related to Charlton that you can feel a sense of pride in, then it is the continued development of exceptional young talent.

The motives behind Ducahtelet and Meire’s focus on youth development remain questionable, with it used to justify the lack of squad depth and the benefits it can have financially seemingly more important than any potential on-the-pitch success, but it takes little away from the joy of seeing a homegrown player excel.

And while Chris Solly’s longevity and Player of the Year Jordan Cousins’ tenacious work are both admired, the excitement and pride provided by watching a teenager with the aura of class and quality that Joe Gomez is unmatched.

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Nine of is 24 appearances for the Addicks came in 2014, and his potential was proven during those, but the maturity and brilliance shown throughout his 15 games in 2015 was incredible.

The then 17-year-old standing up and excelling in an environment that didn’t at all seem conducive to a young player impressing, performing in a position that traditionally requires a greater deal of experience.

For the centre-back’s efforts were vital to Charlton turning a run of 14 games without a win to seven victories in nine. Composed, dominant and assured when the likes of Andre Bikey had previously been anything but.

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But his best performance came at right-back, dragged across to attempt to fend off the rampant Antonio that Wilson could not stop in the aforementioned game against Forest. The winger much quieter after the break, struggling to beat Gomez.

And such is his quality and maturity, there was no anger sent the way of the young defender when he departed for Liverpool. Frustration with the club’s decision to sell, but only good wishes for Gomez himself, and further excitement when he began the season in Brendan Rodgers’ side.

Equally, there was disappointment when the 18-year-old picked up a season-ending injury while representing the England U21. He will surely bounce back, and we’ll be able to say he’s one of ours when he pulls on the full England shirt.


Part Two

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