This a contest between two clubs who, to differing degrees, unfairly dismissed the same manager in order to alter their philosophy and strategy.
For Charlton, the sacking of Chris Powell signalled the moment Roland Duchatelet’s poisonous ideology stopped scratching at the surface and started infecting the bloodstream.
Valley legend Powell, undermined by the actions of the Belgian’s regime and the low-quality signings forced upon him, ultimately crippled despite taking a defiant stance in the hope of protecting supporters from this disease.
The defeat at Bramall Lane, despite victory being almost impossible in the scenario that Duchatelet had created in his two months in control, the perfect excuse to ruthlessly remove Powell. Remove the only figure capable of standing up to this regime, and prevent what has now occurred.
A succession of underqualifed head coaches, culminating in the completely hopeless Karel Fraeye, appointed on the basis of their ability to abide by Duchatelet’s system. A squad constantly lacking depth, quality and the right individual mentality, as a result of the regime’s philosophy and the continued absence of a sufficient scouting system. Disastrous performances, and depressing words spoken by the board, the catalyst for protests.
At the very least, Powell would not have stood for supporters being insulted by their club. He’s one of us, knows we deserve better, and knows our connection to the club is not “weird”.
By contract, the brave decision by Dean Hoyle to remove the flat-capped one from the hot-seat at the John Smith’s Stadium has had almost the opposite effect. Uncertainty and concern replaced by belief and confidence among supporters of Huddersfield.
There were, in truth some similarities between Powell’s sackings at the two clubs. Key players sold beyond his control, the signings he wanted to make not occurring, and his dismissal not a direct consequence of results. Unquestionably, Powell’s Huddersfield were not as special as Powell’s Charlton, but they were competing, and had drawn with Reading the night before he was removed.
But any sense of injustice has been overwritten by the impact of new head coach David Wagner. The German instilling an energetic brand of football into his side, with intense pressing and potent counter attacks lifting the Terriers away from immediate danger in the short-term.
The sensible yet ambitious ownership of Hoyle, a supporter and businessman in equal measure, partnering with Wagner allowing fans to dream of long-term success.
Huddersfield have moved forward since dismissing Powell. Charlton have disintegrated into crisis, but wish they could go backwards.
Not backwards to Jose Riga, as is now being suggested. That merely a continuation of the same, with a slightly nicer coat of paint.
They want the feeling of pride that Chris Powell’s Charlton provided on so many occasions. The feeling of unity between club and supporters. They want their Charlton back.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1-2 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN
Powell’s Huddersfield claimed their first victory of the season, inflicting defeat on a woeful Charlton at The Valley in September.
Harry Bunn gave the visitors the lead 11 minutes into the game, turning in Sean Scannell’s cross via a tame attempt to save the effort from Nick Pope.
And the Terriers doubled their lead ten minutes before the interval. Emyr Huws’s excellent free-kick too good for Pope, and giving the Addicks the punishment their performance deserved.
Guy Luzon’s side was provided with some hope prior to half-time, with Naby Sarr heading home Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s free-kick, but it proved irrelevant. Charlton lacking any sort of attacking threat, and Huddersfield showing all the resolve that was required against such a tame side.
The chance to show appreciation to Powell the only real consolation for supporters of the Addicks, who might well have cheered their former player and boss a touch louder if they had known the chaos that was to follow.
While Jurgen Klopp instils Liverpool with his brand of pressing and energetic football, the German’s former understudy is attempting to do similar at Huddersfield.
And Wagner, who was boss of Borussia Dortmund’s reserve side, is doing a job arguably as respectable at the John Smith’s as the one Klopp is doing at Anfield. Four victories, seven points clear of the bottom three and their name is in the draw for the FA Cup marks a positive first two months in the job.
But the results only tell a fraction of the truth. In fact, given how impressive Wagner’s side have been during the majority of his 11 games in charge, there is a slight frustration that Huddersfield haven’t always been given the rewards they deserved.
Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Reading in the FA Cup a perfect example of that, irrespective of the fact a late Nahki Wells penalty was needed to send the tie to a replay. The Terriers on top for the entirety of the game, dominating statistically, and again impressing with the style of their football.
Results not necessarily matching performances, however, is barely tainting the mood at the John Smith’s. Confidence high.
You keep telling yourself it won’t get any worse. That this crisis will end. That we won’t completely embarrass ourselves against a League One side without a league win in 11.
But Charlton’s commitment to complete incompetence is commendable. Whether it be Katrien Meire’s insults, Richard Murray’s meaningless statement, or Fraeye’s failure to organise a side capable of beating Colchester United.
For the Addicks, in falling at the first hurdle in this season’s FA Cup and failing to win for the ninth consecutive game, were abysmal at the Weston Homes Community Stadium. The shambolic defeat, lacking any sort of organisation, quality or effort, made worse by the fact Marvin Sordell’s goal proved to be match-winning.
And it would appear that the bleak defeat was too much even for Duchatelet and Meire. Suggestions that Fraeye’s “interim” period will finally come to an end, only for Riga to be re-appointed. It taking more than two months for a head coach already known to the regime to appointed, to continue their failing philosophy.
Long will the fight against this regime continue.
Jed Steer will make his first appearance since re-joining the Terriers on loan from Aston Villa at the start of this month.
The goalkeeper, illegible for the FA Cup tie with the Royals, will replace Joe Murphy in the Huddersfield goal.
But the Terriers could be without Tommy Smith after the full-back was forced off midway through the first half of the draw with Reading.
Kyle Dempsey, naturally a midfielder, filled the vacant right-back slot on Saturday, but former Addick Martin Cranie appears the most sensible candidate to replace Smith should he not recover in time for Tuesday’s clash.
Elsewhere, James Husband could make his debut after joining on loan from Middlesbrough, while Wagner remains without experienced midfielder Dean Whitehead.
Charlton should welcome back Johnnie Jackson after the skipper missed Saturday’s defeat to Colchester through injury.
Jackson, who warmed up with the squad at the Weston Homes Community Stadium and appeared to get through some fitness work unscathed, is likely to replace Jordan Cousins, who was forced off with a knee injury midway through the first half of the FA Cup tie.
And it’s unlikely to be the only change made by Fraeye, after a rotated side was fielded against Colchester. Pope, despite being the only player to impress on Saturday, will resume his bench-warming duties with Stephen Henderson returning, Gudmundsson likely to come in for Cristian Ceballos, and Callum Harriott, cup-tied on Saturday, could start ahead of Franck Moussa.
Wholesale changes to a shambolic defence that supporters crave are unlikely, however. Chris Solly will come back in, replacing Regan Charles-Cook, and Morgan Fox will have Tareiq Holmes-Dennis breathing down the back of his neck after the youngster served his suspension, but Roger Johnson and Naby Sarr look set to continue with Patrick Bauer and Alou Diarra still out.
Ademola Lookman also remains injured, with a hamstring injury seemingly making it unlikely he’ll play for the club again before departing during this transfer window.
KEY BATTLE – COMBATING HUDDERSFIELD’S INTENSITY
As it has been for most of this season, the most glaringly shambolic aspect of Charlton’s performance at Colchester was the complete lack of defensive resolve. Sordell getting in behind Johnson and Sarr over the course of 90 minutes more times than he did opposition defences in his entire career as an Addick.
And, undoubtedly, it will be an issue at the John Smith’s on Tuesday. The battle between Wells and Sarr an exciting prospect for those who thrive off comedy defending like a vampire does off blood. Or Meire does off the tears of Charlton supporters.
But the pace with which the Addicks move the ball has also been a season-long issue, under both Luzon and Fraeye. Slower than ever on Saturday, with those in the away end increasingly frustrated by Diego Poyet and the back four retaining possession, without any urgency to create a forward move.
The U’s, an out of confidence and struggling League One side, were able to take advantage of it. George Moncur constantly winning the ball in the middle, and charging through Charlton’s tame midfield. A side full of confidence, and one that plays a pressing style, will thrive playing against such slow football.
For if the Addicks are to move the ball with such a lack of urgency as they did on Saturday, Wagner’s Huddersfield will embarrass them. The ball will be won high up the pitch, and the defensive faults will constantly be exploited.
The return of Harriott and Gudmundsson should at least provide some pace to the side, but Poyet and those that start at the back will need to move the ball much quicker. If not, it’s going to be a slaughtering.
A considerable amount of suffering. Huddersfield Town 2-0 Charlton Athletic