Nervousness rather than excitement was the overriding feeling for supporters of the Addicks as the current season got underway. Questions still unanswered about the ambition of the club, the credentials of the head coach, and the suitability of many of the new additions.
And events prior to kick-off in the first game of the season only increased the anxiety. Tony Watt, after an apparent disciplinary issue, starting on Charlton’s bench, while regular tormentor Charlie Austin started for QPR. Particularly with Nick Pope standing in for Henderson in goal, Luzon’s side appeared huge underdogs.
Little shown to suggest otherwise in the opening 45 minutes. Pope competent, saving well from Tjaronn Chery, but those wearing red looking like a side that hadn’t played together before. No particularly poor individual efforts, but cohesion and a collective effort lacking.
But once Watt had been introduced at half-time, confidence spread throughout the Addicks. A roar of expectation heard each time he carried the ball forward, dancing past QPR defenders.
And it was the Scot who gave Charlton an unexpected lead. Cutting in from the left, and drilling past Rob Green. The combination of the skill involved and the shock of going in front creating incredible celebrations in the Covered End.
Even more so when Morgan Fox was given far too much space on the left, drove forward and rifled an effort into the bottom corner from distance. The score now a reflection of Charlton’s performance, and QPR’s efforts.
The R’s stunned, and several individuals visibly beaten. The visitors providing absolutely no threat whatsoever after conceding a second.
So too were supporters of the Addicks shocked by what they had witnessed as the full-time whistle blew, but with more positive consequences. A performance this good, with a slightly weakened team, against strong opposition suggested promise for the season ahead.
At the very least, the nerves had been settled.
Not since Johnnie Jackson bundled in Astrit Ajdarevic’s stoppage-time corner to record a Charlton victory over QPR in February 2014 has a Valley goal been celebrated like this.
For though nothing can compare to the emotion felt as the skipper grabbed Chris Powell’s side a vital victory, this was a late winner as dramatic.
Like that QPR stoppage-time win, this didn’t appear possible. Both before kick-off, with relegated Hull possessing quality far superior to an injury-hit Charlton’s, and as the game moved towards its conclusion.
Momentum firmly with the Tigers as eight minutes of stoppage time were announced. Simon Makienok’s opener cancelled out as Abel Herndandez pounced on Pope’s error with a minute of normal time to play, and the visitors pressed with intent for a winner.
And only the assistant’s flag denied them it. Hernandez turning away in celebration after heading beyond Pope, only to be adjudged offside.
But as the Covered End begged for the final whistle, the Addicks staged an unlikely attack. Makienok flicking Ahmed Kashi’s delivery into the path of Johann Berg Gudmundsson, and the Iceland international able to turn home his low header.
Chaos in the stands, those on the pitch celebrating with real emotion, and Guy Luzon sprinting down the touchline to join in with their bundle. Unforgettable.
Remember when things were positive?
The Addicks, undoubtedly, would still be in a state of crisis on and off-the-pitch had Kashi been fit for the duration of the season. One additional player probably not even enough to earn Charlton a handful of extra points.
But there certainly would have been a bit more fight and resilience had the Algerian been available in the bleakest of times.
For his impact at the start of the season, having signed from French club Metz, was huge. His mere presence providing organisation to the Charlton side, with the 27-year-old performing the holding midfield role to perfection. Strong in the tackle, relentless in his pressing, and possessing a killer pass.
Those attributes missed since his last appearance against Cardiff at the end of September. Particularly with Jordan Cousins underperforming, and El Hadji-Ba failing to impress.
But before a heel issue ruled Kashi out for the season, the midfielder was able to provide a spectacular moment of quality during the 4-1 rout of Peterborough United in the League Cup.
With the Addicks already two goals up, through Mikhail Kennedy’s first senior strike and Ahearne-Grant’s penalty, Kashi picked up the ball just inside in the opposition’s half. He took a stride, noticed that former Charlton goalkeeper Ben Alnwick was off his line, and decided to try his luck.
To use a phrase like ‘luck’ when describing this goal, however, is doing it an injustice. With the ideal amount of dip and swerve, Kashi picked out the top corner with perfection. Disbelieving celebrations in the away end.
Celebrations that were followed by a chant of “Gary, from the halfway line”, with the visiting supporters spotting a similarity between Kashi and the illegal immigrant ‘Gary’ who appears in Only Fools and Horses.
Kashi responded positively, but was unwilling to answer the cries of “shoooooot” whenever he picked up the ball on the halfway line again.
Goal of the year? Only Watt’s solo strike against Huddersfield comes close.
Quality and composure non-existent. Effort and a willingness to fight minimal. A poisonous atmosphere building around The Valley.
An acceptance existing that the Addicks, trailing Fulham by two with half an hour to play, were set for their fifth consecutive defeat, but not an acceptance that such a run was in any way justifiable.
Particularly given the attitude of those wearing red. Competitive until Ross McCormack, punishing some soft Charlton defending, doubled the lead that Ryan Tunnicliffe, pouncing on a Nick Pope howler, had given the visitors, Luzon’s side now appeared mentally beaten.
In fact, the only effort and determination being exerted by anyone connected to the Addicks was from those in the Covered End, unrelenting in their chanting of Johnnie Jackson. Desperate for their skipper to come off the bench, and attempt to inspire as he so often does.
It took until the 80th minute, a time where large parts of the crowd were too flat to care, for their calls to be answered. Luzon introducing Jackson as a token gesture, and without enough time to make a difference.
But the skipper’s inspirational qualities have no limit. Immediately meeting Gudmundsson’s corner and powering home via the underside of the crossbar, the deficit had been halved.
More importantly, Jackson’s goal provided genuine belief and hope, helped by his teammates finding a level of energy and effort that had been missing previously.
So while he had no direct involvement in Charlton’s 96th minute equaliser, it was a goal that owed a lot to his leadership and presence. Ahearne-Grant picking out Cousins at the far post, and the academy graduate completing an unlikely turnaround.
A moment made particularly enjoyable, because of the bond between Jackson and his supporters. More on that later…
Meire laughed in mockery at supporters from behind the West Stand’s glass windows, and Jackson bowed in appreciation in front of the Covered End.
The combination of those two very different responses, from two very different club figures, making this one of the better afternoons in SE7 this year. A successful protest, undermining the CEO despite her show of contempt, and a side successfully supported to victory for the first time in 13 games, valued by an inspired skipper.
First, the protest. A very healthy number of disillusioned supporters, angered by the leadership of the club and the appointment of Karel Fraeye as ‘interim’ head coach, stood outside the West Stand and made their feelings known.
The return of their club asked for, calls for Duchatelet to depart, and Meire informed that she doesn’t have a clue. Her decision to come to a window, laugh and take a photo only increasing the opposition. The lack of respect she has for supporters, her customers, confirmed.
But that anger was used positively once the game itself, against Sheffield Wednesday, got underway. The emotion leading to a strong, supportive atmosphere, encouraging the Addicks as they pressed the in form Owls with energy, intent and desire not seen in the preceding weeks.
And it was Jackson who was the catalyst, inspiring his side to give the supporters the reward they deserved. His header opening the scoring, and Makienok doubling Charlton’s advantage before the break.
As the support remained unrelenting, the Addicks added a third. Ghoochannejhad turning into Fox’s delivery and sealing Charlton’s victory.
A Naby Sarr slip up, allowing Fernando Forestieri to score, provided some late nerves, but all that was left was for Jackson to receive the appreciation his efforts deserved. As the Covered End applauded and the skipper bowed, the bond between the two could not have been any stronger. That Jackson was at the heart of it made the day even greater.
And, as the ground emptied, there was still time for one last anti-Duchatelet chant. The victory not enough to deter supporters from their opposition to the way the club was being run.
The perfect outcome, and an almost perfect day.
There are few things more enjoyable, more emotional and more special than a Johnnie Jackson goal.
Partly because of his bond with Charlton supporters. Jackson doesn’t celebrate goals for himself, and supporters don’t celebrate Jackson goals. Jackson and his supporters celebrate them together.
So too is it the skipper’s ability to score important goals that makes them so incredible. Match-winners, game-changers and season-defining strikes on tap.
And then there’s the manner in which he can triumph in adversity, which has proven particularly important during this year. Providing hope and jubilation to beleaguered supporters.
A bullet header, turning in Tareiq Holmes-Dennis’ cross, to give Charlton the lead against Birmingham at St Andrew’s. An unexpected lead, giving the form of the Blues, and the pressure they were applying to the Addicks goals.
The celebration incredible. Both during the moment, as he raced towards the away end, and after the game, where he was appreciated by the visiting supporters.
A true club legend. A true leader. The new contract he received following his 50th goal a rare positive move by the club this year.
Events that occurred on the pitch are best ignored. The disorganised and gutless Addicks left embarrassed by a ruthless Ipswich side.
But before Daryl Murphy had struck either side of a Freddie Sears goal , the home supporters had shown the organisation and commitment that was missing from their side.
For in the second minute, the so called “2%” rose. The apparent percentage of Charlton supporters unhappy with the way the club is being run, in the view of Meire.
It was already quite apparent that more than 2% of supporters were unhappy. The empty seats, the previous protest, and the unrest expressed online suggested that. Meire delusional and ignorant.
But the number of supporters on their feet, singing “stand up for the two percent”, with posters in their hands affirmed it. Meire fully aware of the opposition to her and Duchatelet’s running of the club.
Of course, these sort of displays change very little. More definitive and emphatic protests are going to be needed in order to oust Duchatelet and Meire.
But successfully showing an organised protest is possible suggests more will come, and apathy won’t override the desire to fight back against this failing regime.
I questioned whether to add this moment to this list, and not just because the timing of it meant I had some more writing and editing to do.
For Harry Lennon’s stoppage-time equaliser at Ashton Gate, the most undeserved goal that Charlton have scored in 2015, was not a moment that should have been celebrated with any real joy or enthusiasm.
The goal not enough to cover up Fraeye’s ineptitude and a pathetic performance from the Addicks, that should have been punished by a five or six goal defeat. Bristol City desperately unfortunate in front of goal, with Jonathan Kodjia wasting several glorious chances and Marlon Pack crashing a penalty against the crossbar.
The draw not a result worth celebrating. The Addicks stuck in the bottom three, and dropping points against a relegation rival.
But, just maybe, Lennon’s 93rd minute could prove to be one of the moments of the year. A moment of this current season.
For we have been told it could be a turning point. Confidence and belief restored to this side, that capitulate and cave in so easily. Some fight shown, though assisted by good fortune, for the first time in several weeks.
That disproved two days later, as the Addicks were crushed by Wolves, but maybe it will be a crucial point. Possibly.
All we can have is hope. Without it, we’d have all gone insane this year, and wouldn’t bother entering next year.
One final bleak Valley afternoon. This year ending in fitting fashion, with a desperately tame 2-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, and the connection between club and supporters growing further apart.
The Addicks not testing Carl Ikeme in the Wolves goal, and offering little fight once Jordan Graham had turned in Benik Afobe’s deflected to delivery to give the visitors the lead. Harry Lennon’s own goal confirming Charlton’s pathetic defeat, and ensuring that Fraeye would head down the tunnel to a chorus of boos. Grim.
But there was one brief moment of hope. If not hope, then at least something to warm the heart.
Not long after Graham had punished the Addicks, the majority of the ground stood in unison. “Stand up if you want them out” chanted in the direction of Meire in the directors’ box, and back to wherever Duchatelet is hiding in Belgium.
The unity felt an antidote to Meire’s attempts to split “weird” supporters from their club. A genuinely powerful moment.
And one that has increased the desire for further protests. One already planned for the game against Nottingham Forest.
The first month of 2016 will be one full of worry for supporters of Charlton Athletic.
For not only will they have to endure the regular causes of concern, such as whether Naby Sarr will be able to coordinate his feet and what will leave Meire’s mouth next, but panic will exist until the transfer window closes that their latest talented academy graduate will be snapped up.
Arsenal, Chelsea and Southampton have all been mentioned alongside Ademola Lookman’s name, and with good reason. In a situation, and in a team, that does not appear conducive to a young player impressing, the 18-year-old has shown an incredible level of quality and confidence.
So much so that Lookman’s emergence, from Sunday League football just over a year ago to being arguably Charlton’s most potent threat, has provided a source of genuine excitement and enjoyment in this torrid final period of 2015.
His attempts to carry the ball forward and cut inside after coming off the bench the only positive to take from the lacklustre effort against MK Dons, while his cameo in the victory over Wednesday made that afternoon even sweeter.
But it was in disappointing results that Lookman showed the true extent of his ability. His first senior goal against Brighton a superb finish, with his attacking play relentlessly threatening for the remainder of the first half, and the anger that followed his substitution against Bolton, against who he scored twice, was telling.
A genuine talent, and a joy to watch, even in this period of suffering. There would surely be no way for Duchatelet and Meire to regain any sort of confidence from Charlton supporters if he was to be sold in January.
Thank you for all your support and appreciation this year. I’ve had a pretty tough year personally, and this blog has been a welcome distraction.
Hopefully 2016 will be a better year for myself, and for Charlton. Up the Addicks!