For some time, events on the pitch have provided no distraction from the overall crisis at Charlton Athletic. Performances without structure, effort or quality perfectly reflecting the overall state of this football club, and the damage being done by a poisonous regime.
To such an extent that not even the removal of a failing head coach, so often a catalyst for revitalising a side and its supporters, has increased excitement for the weekend trip to Hull City by the smallest percentage. And that’s without even considering the strength of the opposition.
For though Karel Fraeye, the underqualified “interim” head coach who worsened the resolve of an already crumbling group of players, has been dismissed, so little has changed. Not only because “interim” first team coach Wim de Corte is keeping the seat warm for the actuall successor.
Jose Riga, hired in a manner that only increases the contempt shown towards supporters, a predictable and lacklustre appointment. His return, irrespective of his success in keeping the Addicks up two seasons ago, not rejuvenating the club in any way like the ignorant Roland Duchatelet probably imagines. His disease continues to spread.
And with no genuine change occurring, but for an increase in anger and disillusionment as the lies increase, it’s hard to imagine genuine change occurring on the pitch, particularly in the short-term.
Another performance fitting of this regime, which refuses to accept how emphatically it is failing and make the wholesale changes required, predictable.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 2-1 HULL CITY
Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s stoppage-time winner against the Tigers at The Valley in August misguidedly provided supporters with the belief that this season wasn’t going to be a complete disaster.
The Addicks, impressive against a far superior Hull side, deservedly took the lead seven minutes into the second half. Simon Makienok glancing Gudmundsson’s delivery beyond Alan McGregor.
But it seemed victory had been snatched away from the hosts with just a minute to play. Nick Pope unable to hold onto Isaac Hayden’s drive from the edge of the box, and Abel Hernandez alive to bundle the ball over the line.
And it appeared as if the game had been turned on its head a few moments later, as Hernandez headed Sone Aluko’s delivery past Pope. Charlton thankful to see the assistant’s flag rightfully raised.
So too were The Valley faithful thankful to see an unmarked Gudmundsson pop up inside the box to meet Makienok’s knock down in the eighth minute of additional time, and head in from close range.
Makienok emotional. The Covered End ecstatic. Guy Luzon enthusiastic. An incredible moment.
Just a shame that that moment appears to be the peak of this season’s joy.
Responding to relegation from the Premier League in a positive manner is often viewed as something of a simple task. There existing a belief that having access to parachute payments is all you need to make a return at the first time of asking.
Odd then the bottom half of the Championship currently contains four clubs relegated from the top flight since Charlton’s return to the second tier was confirmed. A fifth club, Wigan, currently in League One, and only two of the division’s top eight have been in the Premier League since the 2011/12 season.
So for Steve Bruce’s Hull side to be sat in second place, leapfrogging Derby following their 2-0 victory over Cardiff City on Wednesday evening, is a commendable effort.
That they occupy an automatic promotion spot is largely based on a mightily impressive record at the KC Stadium. One defeat, coincidentally against the Rams, and eight wins in their previous nine league games at home means away defeats to Leeds, Rotherham and Preston since the start of December haven’t been quite as disastrous as they probably should have been.
They will, of course, have to address that rather patchy away form if they want to achieve automatic promotion. Six teams currently have a better away record that the Tigers.
But with their side packed full of quality, not least top scorer Hernandez, and their strength in depth shown by a rotated XI recording victory against Brighton in the FA Cup last weekend, you’d be a brave man to back against them winning promotion.
Never has a Charlton side looked so devoid of organisation, cohesion and resolve. Rarely has it lacked attacking threat to such an extent. On few occasions has there been such a collective lack of effort.
Something that is often said after a poor performance, but the Addicks were genuinely fortunate not to lose by double figures at Huddersfield on Tuesday night. A truly depressing display, which meant not even this regime, with its lack of interest in on-the-pitch affairs, could pretend their puppet was the right man for the job.
But despite the removal of Fraeye, there is a legitimate fear that things will only get worse. This side, and this club, truly broken.
And to compound their misery, with goal difference taken into account, the gap between Charlton and safety is effectively more than three points.
There every chance it will be bigger come 5pm on Saturday, with the Addicks unlikely to end a run of ten games without victory.
Hull will remain without defensive pair Michael Dawson and Alex Bruce despite them both returning to training this week.
Neither former England international Dawson (knee) or manager’s son Bruce (back) will be fit enough to feature on Saturday, leaving the Tigers somewhat short at the back. Harry Maguire and Curtis Davies a formidable centre-back pairing, but little is available in reserve.
And with forward Adama Diomande, who pulled his groin during the FA Cup victory against Brighton last weekend, also out, the likelihood is that Bruce will name an unchanged XI from the one that beat Cardiff on Wednesday.
Charlton should welcome back Jordan Cousins after the academy graduate missed the trip to Huddersfield in midweek with a knee injury sustained during the defeat to Colchester.
It was initially feared that last season’s Player of the Year would be out for a number of weeks, but Cousins looks set to be available to interim boss de Corte.
Bringing the midfielder into the side is one of several potential changes this weekend’s boss could make to Charlton’s starting XI. Morgan Fox’s place is under threat from Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, and Ricardo Vaz Te will do well to start again with Makienok and Igor Vetokele in reserve.
But the Addicks will be without Reza Ghoochannejhad following his sending off at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Alou Diarra and Patrick Bauer are also be unavailable, while Ademola Lookman is not yet ready to return from his hamstring injury.
KEY BATTLE – ACTUALLY ATTEMPTING TO BATTLE
The defence almost as shambolic as the football club in general. The midfield too weak, and too slow, to deal with Huddersfield’s pressing game. Those out wide unable to make an impact, and those up top seemingly unwilling to.
And with Stephen Henderson, though redeeming himself with his courageous post-match interview, not having his finest night for the Addicks, there was not an area of the pitch were Charlton were not anything but horrendous at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Fortunate, then, that the side de Corte will temporarily lead comes up against one far superior in every department. Maguire and Davies a centre-back pairing who will nullify Charlton’s tame forwards with ease, the midfield battle almost certain to be won Jake Livermore and Mohammed Diame, and Roger Johnson attempting to contend with Hernandez isn’t a pretty image.
That, of course, is if recent form and reputation is anything to go by. A continuation of the efforts that were seen under Fraeye and this will be another mauling.
As such, it is up to the individuals within this Charlton side, as much as it is for the management to provide a coherent strategy, to show a bit of fight.
I would say much more than was seen on Tuesday, but even the smallest amount of fight is an improvement on that shambles.
I’m very excited to see what excuses de Corte will provide. Hull City 3-0 Charlton Athletic