It feels fitting that this torrid campaign for Charlton Athletic will conclude against opposition who, without being dissimilar in size or stature, are currently everything the Addicks are not.
Whose supporters will have the opportunity to celebrate the success that their stable, sensible and ambitious club has been able to provide, while home fans will use their final trip to The Valley this season to once again protest in determined fashion against a relegation-inflicting, destructive and insulting regime.
In fact, it’s more than likely that Burnley will leave SE7 as Championship champions, having already confirmed an immediate return to the top flight despite not being widely tipped prior to the season getting underway to do so.
A win against a Charlton side with the worst home record in the division, who they have scored 11 goals against without reply in their previous four meetings, all the Clarets need to finalise their place at the top of the table. To receive the reward a side with such strong unity, led by a well-supported manager, and overseen by excellent leadership deserve.
The Addicks not even playing for pride or to provide hope for an immediate return to the second tier, given the upheaval in management and playing staff there is certain to be. The match simply a platform from which anger can be voiced towards the ignorant and arrogant who don’t care, or simply won’t be there.
The sort of contrast that only reaffirms the extent of the damage Roland Duchatelet has done to this club. Burnley supporters set to enjoy a truly memorable day; Charlton fans issued a reminder of how far away they are from experiencing such moments again.
For Addicks don’t want to form a sense of togetherness over their shared anger towards those who control their club, or feel pride in their protesting efforts. They want to be able a feel a sense of connection to their side, and pride in a successful club.
A final opportunity to embarrass the regime, to return the pain they have inflicted upon us, and demand change.
Change that’s so desperately needed, or this season won’t really end. The next period of 46 games will simply be a continuation of what has gone before.
LAST MEETING – BURNLEY 4-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
Karel Fraeye celebrated as his Charlton side were the better team for 44 minutes, before capitulating in emphatic and gutless fashion at Turf Moor in December.
Being the better team amounted to a Ricardo Vaz Te effort that went narrowly wide, and a Johnnie Jackson strike that was tipped over the bar by Tom Heaton. Ferocious.
It of course meant that what followed was completely justifiable, because the Addicks had had a decent go at it for most of the first half. Charlton failing to deal with Matt Lowton’s delivery, and Scott Arfield ultimately converting to put Burnley in front just before the break.
And their advantage had tripled just ten minutes into the second half, as Fraeye’s lost any sort of fight and resolve. Arfield’s scoring his second from a cleverly worked corner, before Andre Gray made it 3-0 just two minutes later after being played through by George Boyd.
Those fantastic opening 44 minutes were tainted further as Sam Vokes, getting away from his marker finishing coolly after another Lowton delivery wasn’t dealt with, added a fourth with 12 minutes to play.
A pathetic capitulation, despite Fraeye’s best attempts to dress it up as some sort of valiant effort that we could all be proud of. Bloody cold, too.
By their own admission, the Clarets are not the most attractive side of those that have competed for promotion this season.
They don’t emulate Middlesbrough’s stylish passing play. They’re not as exciting on the break as Brighton and Hove Albion are. Arguably, even Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday are more pleasing on the eye.
But performing in a manner that is perceived to be stylish by those on the outside is only worth so much. Certainly not as much as the points gained by the efficiency that Sean Dyche has instilled in his settled side.
The core of their side so important and strong that three players have started every league game this season, and a further six have started at least 36. Consistency and cohesiveness helping build momentum across a 22-game unbeaten run that has sealed promotion.
Michael Keane and Ben Mee forming an excellent defensive partnership, who protect England goalkeeper Tom Heaton. Joey Barton relentless in midfield. Arfield and Boyd supplying Vokes, who scored the winner against QPR to confirm their immediate return to the Premier League, and Championship Player of the Year Gray.
A balanced and effective unit, that hasn’t lost a league game this calendar year. Their promotion unquestionably deserved, and chairman Mike Garlick is promising further improvement. Some contrast to Katrien Meire unwillingness to state ambitions of returning to the Championship.
It mattered little, but a battling performance from the Addicks in victory against Leeds at Elland Road last Saturday was pleasing nonetheless.
A run of five games without a win ended thanks to goals from Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Ademola Lookman, and a resolute defensive effort preventing Sol Bamba’s header being anything more than a consolation.
Particularly because of the fight shown from Nick Pope, Ahmed Kashi and Johnnie Jackson. Pope pulling off a string of stunning saves, Kashi in control in his first appearance since September following injury, and Jackson predictably giving his all in midfield.
A shame, therefore, that such a performance was put in at a time when Charlton’s fate is already sealed. That that sort of fight hasn’t been shown throughout the campaign makes relegation all the more frustrating.
So too, does it seem, that the fate of Jose Riga is already sealed. Reports suggest that the head coach will again be dismissed by Duchatelet following the Burnley game. An improvement in performances, if not necessarily results, not enough to prevent the Belgian wielding his axe for a sixth time.
With the title yet to be secured, sentiment is unlikely to play a part in the side Dyche selects this weekend.
The only change possible from the XI that started in the promotion-sealing victory over QPR is the return of Dean Marney, who missed Monday’s game with a hamstring injury. Should he be declared fit, David Jones will miss out.
Riga’s final Charlton XI is likely to include a number of players who will also be representing the Addicks for the final time.
Ademola Lookman, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Igor Vetokele among those that will start who look set to depart during the summer, while Rod Fanni, Yun Suk-Young and Simon Makienok’s loan spells will conclude after the game.
Elsewhere, Jordan Cousins is set to return after missing the win over Leeds with a slight injury, but Patrick Bauer, Reza Ghoochannejhad and Yaya Sanogo are unavailable, while Chris Solly and Stephen Henderson, ditched in controversial circumstances, are also unlikely to be involved.
KEY BATTLE – THE ONE AGAINST THE OWNERSHIP, ONCE AGAIN
This game is a forgone conclusion. A 22-game unbeaten Burnley side too strong for the relegated Addicks, regardless of their win last weekend. Dyche’s men will win every battle.
The more important battle, therefore, is once again the once against Duchatelet’s regime. The need to embarrass the ownership in front of the Sky cameras, and leave a lasting impression over the summer, vitally important.
It’s unlikely to be as dramatic and emphatic as the Brighton protests. The general mood of Burnley supporters suggest we won’t have the same level of support from the opposition, given what this game means for them, and the threat of dire consequences from The FA if the match is halted means there will unquestionably be a calculated attempt to prevent protests during the game.
But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a determined attempt to embarrass this ownership, and rid them from this club.
A lengthy delay or two in the match, and a ball or two put past Pope. Charlton Athletic 0-3 Burnley