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Preview: Charlton Athletic V Coventry City

It takes quite the commitment to horrendous mismanagement, the issuing of insults born out of ignorance and arrogance, and sheer incompetence to leave two sets of supporters so opposed to the regimes that run their clubs that on-the-pitch events become an afterthought.

A disconnection, instilled by ownerships that seem intent on damaging not only the club they control, but the relationship between it and its supporters. A disease, a poison, a cancer running through the veins of each club that cannot be cured by wins. That destroys the emotions that should be felt when supporting a side, celebrating victory, or having suffered defeat.

A state that Roland Duchatelet’s Charlton Athletic and SISU’s Coventry City find themselves in. These clubs, in their current positions, very much more attached to the mismanagement of their ownerships rather than an identity that supporters attach themselves to, belong to, and sustain.

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That not to say that supporters of both – the Addicks not looking like delivering on the promise of a top six finish and the managerless Sky Blues facing the very real threat of a season-long relegation battle – don’t wish to see their side secure victory at The Valley on Saturday.

But there is certainly a more important result that both wish to achieve. The enforcement of change, that allows Charlton and Coventry supporters to feel like they’ve got their club back. That allows both to feel connection to their clubs once again, and not simply disconnection, apathy and despondency.

The Sky Blues tenants in their own home, playing second fiddle to rugby club Wasps, and uncertainty exists over where their future lies. The future of their academy also under threat, with there a danger that the facilities they use may no longer be available to them.

This uncertainty tied with very certain failure, as an unwillingness to support Tony Mowbray and invest in his squad has seen Coventry endure a terrible start to the campaign and the boss depart. The club failing under SISU’s control, and worse may follow unless they sell.

The failings of the Duchatelet regime spelt out in CARD’s response to a laughable approach from Katrien Meire to hold talks. Consistent, self-inflicted, failure on the pitch as a consequence of horrendous management and recruitment, a frequent desire to insult and belittle supporters that has ranged from calling them “customers” to actually suggesting that they want the club to fail, and a general dire treatment of the club that has lifelong fans disconnected.

Those lifelong fans voting with their feet, as attendances continue to fall, as they have at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena. The two clubs in complete disarray, and their supporters disillusioned.

But these two sets of committed fans are not beaten. They will be joining together in protest against Duchatelet and SISU on Saturday, with the Addicks planning further action inside the ground. An organised and driven attempt to force those who are destroying their clubs out.

The fight against the regimes simply more immediate and more important. The result of the game itself an afterthought, but it shouldn’t be.

A need to prevent more matches becoming afterthoughts, and force the change that is required to reunite supporters with clubs that they feel attachment to and can trust. The result that really matters.

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LAST MEETING – COVENTRY CITY 0-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC (13/04/2009)

Charlton’s relegation from the Championship, one that couldn’t even be prevented by dismissing Alan Pardew prior to the season’s halfway point, was all but confirmed following a goalless draw at the Ricoh Arena in April 2009.

The stalemate, the third Phil Parkinson’s side had recorded in four games, left the Addicks 12 points from safety with just four games to play. A goal difference dramatically worse than the two sides they could mathematically catch, Norwich City and Barnsley, meaning even Charlton’s boss was accepting the drop post-game.

In truth, the performance against Coventry was not a poor one. Jonjo Shelvey, the 17-year-old the game’s dominant figure, having a goal disallowed, while a strike from Nicky Bailey hit the post. An effort reflecting a relative improvement prior to the trip to the Ricoh, with a 3-2 victory over Southampton recorded and Birmingham City fortunate to come away from The Valley with a point after a dominant Charlton display.

But relative improvements, and the occasional point, were never going to be enough when a miracle was needed for the club who had, at one point, gone 18 games without a win. Relegation mathematically confirmed five days later, after a two-goal lead over Blackpool was thrown away.

FORM

Coventry: WDLDDL

In briefly considering the game of association football exclusively, without acknowledging the impact of ownerships, you discover that neither Coventry City nor Charlton Athletic are particularly good at it.

The Sky Blues, though with a game in hand, find themselves at the foot of the League One table, drawing six and losing four of their opening ten games of the season.

A run that left boss Mowbray resigning on the basis that he felt “he was no longer able to take the club forward”. The experienced boss a respected figure among Coventry supporters, with the constraints placed upon him from above acknowledged, and his dignified departure only adding to that.

In fact, the suggestion from caretaker boss Mark Venus was that the side he inherited should win their game against Port Vale for the outgoing boss.

Something they did, with their first victory of the campaign a commendable 2-0 win at Port Vale, who had gone into the game with a 100% league record at Vale Park. Goals from former Addick Marvin Sordell, and Chris McCann giving the Sky Blues three points.

But it would be naïve to suggest, even with a Checkatrade Trophy victory over Northampton Town following, that momentum of any sort is with Coventry. Not only weighed down by the ownership situation and a lack of permanent boss, but also an inability to defend set-pieces and to show potency when going forward.

Charlton: LDDDLD

Once seen as the figure to provide some stability and a sense of normality to a club in disarray, the trust that was given to Russell Slade upon his appointment as Charlton boss has already been severely damaged.

For though his strong personality, and his willingness to fight against the demands of Meire, earned the bald-headed boss respect, the performances of his side have not. A run of seven games without victory, leaving the Addicks above the bottom three on goal difference, compounded by a humbling defeat to League Two Crawley Town in the Checkatrade Trophy.

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The results poor, but the performances even worse. Slade’s imbalanced line-ups, that either isolate forwards or leave the Addicks without a wide threat on both flanks, becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of, cohesion is still absent 11 league games into campaign, and the centre of midfield lacks any sort of creativity.

Throw in some unstructured defensive efforts, a frustrating sense of caution, and a rather frustrating use of substitutes, and it’s fair to say Slade’s start to life as Charlton boss has become more and more disappointing with each passing game. The dire displays in the previous three home games – a capitulation against AFC Wimbledon, a truly horrendous effort in drawing with Oldham, and the pathetic loss to Rochdale – particularly concerning.

Slade, in one sense, fortunate that the attention of Charlton supporters is firmly on those above him, taking some of the pressure away from the boss. But there is an unquestionable, and rather desperate, need to improve dramatically in the coming weeks.

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THE OPPOSITION

Former Charlton winger Kyel Reid remains a doubt for the Sky Blues having missed the win over Port Vale with a hamstring strain.

Reid, capable of producing match-winning moments but largely frustrating during his time in SE7, had been a regular starter for Coventry prior to his injury, and will likely come straight back into the side should he be fit.

But his absence would not leave the Sky Blues short on Charlton connections. Reice Charles-Cook, brother of development squad player Regan, looks set to return in goal after missing the Port Vale win through injury, Sordell’s three goals this season means he’s scored more than any of Slade’s forwards, and Marcus Tudgay, who had a rather unproductive loan spell in SE7 in 2014, provides an alternative forward option.

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Elsewhere, Andy Rose is nearing a return to action having resumed training in recent weeks. The midfielder, whose father-in-law is new Swansea City boss Bob Bradley, has been out for almost two months with a knee ligament injury.

THE ADDICKS

Charlton’s relatively small squad looks set to be stretched on Saturday with a handful of players injury doubts.

Kevin Foley (calf) and Jason Pearce (groin) face a race against time to be fit for the clash with Coventry, while Jordan Botaka picked up an injury while on international duty with DR Congo and may be unavailable.

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There are also slight concerns over Josh Magennis and Ademola Lookman, who have exerted themselves on international duty with Northern Ireland and England 20s respectively in the previous week. Both should, at the very least, have enough in the tank to play some part.

But Chris Solly, having missed the defeat to Rochdale, is likely to make a return to the starting line-up.

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KEY BATTLE – THE ONE AGAINST THE REGIMES

I’d almost welcome it if my Charlton-related thoughts were dominated by worries of the somewhat concerning and questionable tactics that have been deployed by Russell Slade since the start of this campaign. The inability to instil cohesion, the imbalance in midfield, and an often sluggish attacking style that comes partly as a consequence of unworkable route-one football.

And, in turn, I’d most certainly welcome it if my concerns in the build up to the clash with Coventry were about how Slade was going to prevent the conceding of avoidable Sordell goals, inject some creativity into the centre of midfield, and make his side more potent in order to record victory.

Alas, my concerns focus not on the football itself, but on the sense of pressure that exists for Saturday’s protests to have the impact they need to. For them to prove the catalyst for change.

It probably won’t be the last time that these sets of supporters will need to protests – Duchatelet and SISU both stubborn – the scale of this combined effort means it should be able to leave a lasting impact on the positions of both ownerships.

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Media attention will increase, empathy with the feeling of supporters will be had, and the opposition towards Duchatelet and SISU will continue to grow beyond Charlton and Coventry.

The result of which will, hopefully, be that the untenable ownerships will crumble further. That supporters, even though they will probably have to continue their efforts beyond this week, will take a sizeable advantage over their poisonous regimes.

A step closer to winning the fight that simply has to be won for both the Addicks and the Sky Blues.

For it is unquestionable that, for the sake of the long-term health of these football clubs, the short-term focus has to be on forcing change.

1

PREDICTION

Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham City, Middlesbrough – emphatic protests have coincided with impressive performances on the pitch previously, crushing the myth that protesting supporters, rather than poisonous regimes, are to blame for poor results.

Uncertain, however, that this side, so short of confidence and cohesion, will respond in a similar way. A sluggish effort on the pitch, that doesn’t match the committed and determined attempts of the supporters to force change. Charlton Athletic 1-1 Coventry City

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