It a rare occurrence that a lack of common sense will harm Charlton Athletic, and neither Roland Duchatelet or Katrien Meire are to blame.
But it would seem a combination of the Football League and Sky Sports are the figures forcing the Addicks to play their fixture against Swindon Town this Saturday despite three members of their squad being away on international duty.
A trio of international absentees normally enough for a League One club to have their game postponed, but those rules don’t apply to fixtures selected for live TV coverage. The competition and the broadcaster unwilling to have their schedule altered.
It agreed that Sky would show the clash at the County Ground before Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland) and Jordan Botaka (DR Congo), two of those unavailable, joined the club, protecting Charlton from any criticism.
Short-sightedness or the attraction to TV money not at fault for Russell Slade having to contend with a depleted squad this weekend, but frustration at the stubbornness of the Football League and Sky Sports is most definitely understandable.
Not least at a time when the Addicks, though in rather unconvincing fashion, are beginning to develop something that resembles momentum. The absence of Magennis and, after his stunning performance in the FA Cup victory over Scunthorpe United, Ademola Lookman (England U20s) likely to prove particularly detrimental.
This a squad too small to cope with just a handful of its key men missing, best summed up by the fact Slade is unlikely to have any natural wingers at his disposal for the trip to Wiltshire.
Solace comes from the fact Swindon, under inexperienced boss Luke Williams, have struggled this campaign, and themselves have absentees to contend with as a number of their key players are unlikely to be fit for Saturday.
But should the Addicks fail to record victory, then there will no doubt be a sense of injustice in the air.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 2-4 SWINDON TOWN (03/01/2011)
Phil Parkinson’s reign as Charlton boss came to an end after a horrendous performance from his side was suitably punished by a Charlie Austin-inspired Swindon at The Valley in January 2011.
Thoughts of needing to look for a new job probably far from Parkinson’s mind as a deflected Johnnie Jackson effort looped over Robins goalkeeper Phil Smith to give the Addicks the lead.
The visitors, however, were level before half-time. Matt Ritchie’s initial attempt to turn home David Prutton’s delivery parried by Rob Elliot, and the now Newcastle winger able to pounce on the rebound to restore parity.
But the wheels didn’t truly come off the Addicks until after the break. Christian Dailly gifting the ball to Austin on the edge of Charlton’s box, with the forward clinically capitalising on such a dreadful error.
Victory, and Parkinson’s fate, sealed for Swindon as Charlton failed to deal with two deliveries into the box. Sean Morrison rising above everyone to convert Jon-Paul McGovern’s free-kick, before Austin was criminally left unmarked to head home his second and stretch his side’s advantage.
A late goal from Pawel Abbott, scored in a fashion well beyond his perceived ability, offering little solace, with boos ringing out around The Valley come full-time.
The defeat left the Addicks without a win in five league games, but it was undoubtedly the performance that was most concerning for new owners Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez.
This only Parkinson’s second defeat in ten games, and so a certain amount of support remained among a split fan base, but the now Bolton boss was dismissed the following day. Chris Powell’s reign beginning a little over a week later.
Having started the season in desperate fashion, Swindon have turned to Tim Sherwood in hope that his influence will begin to move the club up the League One table.
The former Tottenham and Aston Villa boss, linked with just about every managerial vacancy in the country, has been appointed as director of football at the County Ground, but will have a hands-on approach. Sherwood expected to assist head coach Williams in training.
The most likely outcome of this appointment would seemingly be Williams being undermined, or ultimately sacked as a consequence of results failing to improve, and Sherwood taking over. But chairman Lee Power is insisting that this isn’t a demotion for the current boss, and Sherwood’s role will benefit all at the club.
In truth, the change of fortunes that Sherwood’s appointment is supposed to inspire is most certainly needed. The Robins 21st in League One, having won just twice in their previous 12 league games.
This certainly not the most inspiring of unbeaten runs, but there no doubt that Slade’s side have started to show encouraging signs in recent weeks.
An unbeaten run that has included a self-inflicted loss of points at Port Vale, a late Ajose penalty papering over the cracks of a dire performance at Gillingham, and the need for a late winner that seemingly wasn’t coming against Chesterfield.
Even Saturday’s victory over Scunthorpe, which included a marvellous display from teenager Lookman, concerns tainted the encouragement that was on show. The Addicks rather fortunate to come away with victory, given the second-half bombardment that the Iron imposed on their goal.
Nonetheless, it can be said that this Charlton side are beginning to show a degree of quality, and that Slade is beginning to lead them in a more positive fashion. The second half of the Chesterfield victory seeing the Addicks dictate, and play with an attacking mindset, while not only were they clinical against Scunthorpe, but there remained a degree of forward intent even when struggling to keep the Iron out.
Such positive signs making the loss of key men for this weekend even more frustrating.
Swindon will be without captain Nathan Thompson after the defender sustained a hamstring injury during the FA Cup draw with Eastleigh.
The absence of Thompson, whose dependable efforts in defence will be missed as much as his leadership qualities, is likely to force Williams into abandoning the three-at-the-back formation that he has sometimes deployed this season, including against Eastleigh.
That particularly likely with Swindon’s full-back options getting something of a boost. Right-back Darnell Furlong, suspended last Friday, could return having been an unused substitute for the EFL Trophy clash with Exeter City in midweek, while left-back James Brophy is available having recovered from illness.
But Saturday is likely to come too soon for Jonathan Obika to make a return from a knee injury, despite the former Addick having returned to training. Williams keen to protect the forward from suffering an immediate reoccurrence, and will only recall him once he’s 100% fit.
It a similar story for midfielder Conor Thomas, who has returned to training but isn’t being rushed back into the squad, though there is a chance the former England youth international could be involved this weekend.
As previously mentioned, Charlton will be without Lookman, Botaka and Magennis for the trip to Swindon, with the trio on international duty.
Magennis, whose energy, effort and ability to hold up the ball will unquestionably be missed, is likely to be replaced by Lee Novak in attack, but the absence of Lookman and Botaka will cause greater concern to Slade.
For with Ricky Holmes, having hobbled off after taking a heavy knock during the FA Cup victory over Scunthorpe, unlikely to be fit, there is a distinct lack of wide options available.
Deploying Nicky Ajose as a winger is sensible enough, while Adam Chicksen was used for a period on the left wing during the draw with Port Vale, but Slade’s willingness to play central men in wide areas may result in a narrow midfield. Johnnie Jackson, Andrew Crofts, Fredrik Ulvestad and Kevin Foley all squeezed into the middle.
Elsewhere, Jason Pearce should be fit enough to return having missed the cup victory over the Iron with a slight groin injury, while Chris Solly, presumably rested last weekend, should also be available.
KEY BATTLE – FINDING AN ALTERNATIVE WAY IN WHICH TO THREATEN
The key figures behind Charlton’s better performances this season, at least in forward positions, aren’t difficult to identify.
Without Magennis’ determined efforts as a target man, battling to hold up possession and chasing after what appear lost causes, Slade’s direct football would be directionless and desperate. Such is the energy the Northern Ireland international has exerted, and probably bruises gained, it fair to suggest Magennis has been somewhat talismanic for the Addicks.
Magennis’ efforts give opposition defenders a tough time, while Charlton’s wide men, when on song, push opposition defences back and allow the Addicks to take control of a contest. That sort of level of threat seen only on a handful of occasions this season, but without Holmes and Lookman’s direct running, Slade’s side would have struggled to create chances this campaign.
And so, with neither his talismanic forward nor his most creative figures, Slade must find another way for his side to threaten at the County Ground on Saturday.
A hope that Novak, largely disappointing in a Charlton shirt so far, will step up and fill the rather big boots of Magennis, but the lack of wide options, and as such threat from out wide, is incredibly concerning.
On the occasions when Slade has played a narrow midfield this season, something he seemed particularly attached to in the opening weeks of the season, the Addicks have looked void of attacking ideas. The individual skill of Holmes sometimes a savour, but there not even that to turn to against Swindon.
And so, without obvious attacking skill, pace or creativity, Charlton most find a way to test an unconvincing Swindon backline. If not, there a danger that the Addicks will quickly slide into the cautious and negative mentality, and the Robins will be allowed to take control of the game.
A game on TV, with a depleted squad. Irrespective of the quality of the opposition, let’s just get this one over and done with. Swindon Town 1-1 Charlton Athletic