Having survived the club’s attempts to cull any sort of awards ceremony, the annual Chris Powell’s Flat Cap End of Season Awards enters its fifth year. Much to the delight of someone, somewhere, probably.
Probably to the delight of those in contention for The Danny Haynes Goal of the Season, The Johann Berg Gudmundsson Signing of the Season, and The Astrit Ajdarevic Social Media Award. Maybe less so for those up for The Bradley Pritchard Miss of the Season, The Christophe Lepoint Signing of the Season, and The Roland Duchatelet Decision Making Award.
Winners, and losers, over the course of 24 and a bit categories across three posts. The positive moments from this campaign salvaged, and the horrors of this season remembered with something that resembles a sense of humour.
And this possibly the last year where much of the focus will be on Duchatelet’s reign. What is hopefully the approaching sale of the club a moment that would eclipse any other positive event throughout this campaign. Until then, let’s celebrate extraordinary goals, hilarious statements, and committed protests.
The Danny Haynes Goal of the Season
A name change to The Ricky Holmes Goal of the Season is on the horizon. The award for the most visually pleasing strike of the season.
- Ricky Holmes (1st) V Shrewsbury Town (16/08/2016)
- Ricky Holmes (2nd) V Shrewsbury Town (16/08/2016)
- Ademola Lookman V AFC Wimbledon (17/09/2016)
- Josh Magennis V Coventry City (15/10/2016)
- Josh Magennis V Bristol Rovers (02/01/2017)
- Ricky Holmes V AFC Wimbledon (11/02/2017)
- Ricky Holmes (1st) V Shrewsbury Town (28/02/2017)
- Ricky Holmes (2nd) V Shrewsbury Town (28/02/2017)
- Ricky Holmes V Sheffield United (18/03/2017)
- Ricky Holmes V Gillingham (17/04/2017)
- Jake Forster-Caskey V Chesterfield (22/04/2017)
Winner: Ricky Holmes (1st) V Shrewsbury Town (16/08/2016)
It probably had to be a Holmes goal against Shrewsbury, and this one is not only a wonderful finish but also inspired a 3-0 victory.
The Johnnie Jackson Goal of the Season
Goals that might not be so aesthetically pleasing, but have their value elsewhere.
- Johnnie Jackson V Northampton Town (13/08/2016)
There no better way to ignite a season than with a Johnnie Jackson knee slide in front of the Covered End.
The mood of dissent growing as Charlton, following an opening day defeat to Bury and a League Cup loss at Cheltenham Town, went in at half-time a goal down to Northampton Town in their first home game of the season.
But Jackson’s equaliser, though only ultimately rescuing a point for Russell Slade’s side, brought about some much needed belief. A platform for the successive wins over Shrewsbury Town and Walsall that would follow.
- Ademola Lookman V Bolton Wanderers (27/08/2016)
At the time, this felt like a more important goal than it would ultimately prove to be. A late equaliser against a team who, in theory, were going to be challenging with Charlton for an automatic promotion place.
Ultimately, it failed to dent Bolton’s promotion push, and did little to encourage the Addicks mounting one, but Lookman’s 90th minute equaliser still provided a moment of joy in SE7. A clinical finish from the edge of the box, cancelling out Gary Madine’s effort at the start of the second half.
- Lee Novak V Chesterfield (29/10/2016)
Charlton were by far the dominant side against Chesterfield at The Valley in October, but appeared to be heading towards another hugely disappointing draw. No one in red able to apply a finishing touch at the conclusion of these periods of pressure.
Or at least that was the case until Lee Novak converted Holmes’ cross with four minutes to play, giving the Addicks the victory their efforts warranted. Relief-filled celebrations around SE7.
An important goal for Novak, too, who cupped his ear towards a Covered End that had been less than supportive of the summer signing since his arrival. The forward, however, unable to build on that match-winning header. A staggering 21 games without a goal following.
- Patrick Bauer V Sheffield United (26/11/2016)
After the excellent performances in victory over Port Vale and Bristol Rovers, Charlton failed to deliver against Sheffield United in Kevin Nugent’s final game in temporary charge. The Addicks poor, and the Blades should have been ahead by more than one as the game entered stoppage-time.
But Patrick Bauer’s scrappy equaliser, though undeserved, suggested a new fighting quality had been instilled upon the Addicks. Ultimately not the case, but that taking nothing away from the late leveller against Chris Wilder’s side.
- Andrew Crofts V Southend United (31/12/2016)
The Addicks had worked so incredibly hard in the second half of their New Year’s Eve fixture with Southend, but it looked to be for no reward. Simon Cox’s first-half goal still the difference despite Joe Aribo dictating and Charlton being in complete control.
But the minimum their efforts warranted would arrive with a minute to play, as Andrew Crofts, equally as impressive as Aribo in the centre of midfield throughout the second period, volleyed home from close range. Rather enjoyable celebrations in Roots Hall’s compact away end following.
- Johnnie Jackson V Scunthorpe United (07/03/2017)
Eight games without a victory. Attention no longer on fighting for the play-offs, but avoiding being dragged into a relegation battle. Johnnie Jackson handed his first start away from left-back since Boxing Day.
There was only going to be one outcome, wasn’t there? The skipper volleying the Addicks in front from a first-half corner, and celebrating with a trademark knee slide. Not the winning goal on that night, but the scorer and the circumstances meant it was the goal that grabbed most of the attention.
- Tony Watt v Scunthorpe United (07/03/2017)
Not only was Tony Watt’s last-minute penalty against the Iron a match-winning strike and his first goal for Charlton since August 2015, it brought to an end to that run of eight games without victory. A goal that filled a half-empty Valley with copious amounts of relief.
The Jackson goal in the same game highly valued, but it would have been relatively meaningless had the Scot not stepped up and coolly converted from the spot after Jorge Teixeira was dragged down.
Winner: Johnnie Jackson V Scunthorpe United
Yeah, yeah I know, Watt scored the winner. But it’s Johnnie Jackson. And a Jackson goal that inspires a first victory in nine is rather fun.
The Bradley Pritchard Miss of the Season
The award for the worst miss of the season. And given how wasteful the Addicks have been throughout the campaign, there’s plenty of contenders.
- Nicky Ajose a lot
Signed on the basis of his ability as a poacher, but unable to finish when one-on-one. Ajose’s wastefulness in front of goal became an increasing frustration.
- Johnnie Jackson V Rochdale (01/10/2016)
Jackson’s penalty record is…let’s say indifferent. But having converted from the spot against Oxford United the previous week, there were no concerns with him stepping up again after Ricky Holmes was brought down inside the box by Rochdale’s Joe Bunney at the start of the second period.
Alas, Jackson’s effort was a tame one, and comfortably saved by Rochdale goalkeeper Josh Lillis, who also reacted to keep out Josh Magennis’ follow up. Lillis’ save preserving Dale’s advantage, and would ultimately be enough for them to secure victory.
- Ricky Holmes V Gillingham (22/10/2016)
Another penalty, another taker, another miss. Charlton’s record from the spot during this campaign not exactly impressive.
The Addicks a goal down at Priestfield when Fredrik Ulvestad was bundled to the ground by Ryan Jackson following a Charlton corner. A spot-kick awarded, but Holmes’ effort weak. A comfortable save for Stuart Nelson, diving to his right.
Thankfully for the Addicks, a Chris Heard handball in stoppage-time gave them another chance from the spot, and this one wasn’t wasted. Nicky Ajose sending Nelson the wrong way and rescuing a point.
- Lee Novak x2 V AFC Wimbledon (11/02/2017)
Despite leading from the eighth minute, Charlton were never in complete control at Kingsmeadow in February. Their performance far from fluent.
They did, however, have two very big opportunities to kill the game either side of half-time. Both falling to Lee Novak.
The forward curling wide when played through on goal in the first-half, before somehow failing to score from barely six yards out after Ricky Holmes’ deflected shot fell straight to him.
And with those chances not being taken, Tom Elliott’s stoppage-time strike meant the Addicks dropped two points. A stoppage-time equaliser conceded for the second successive week, after the draw with Fleetwood Town seven days previously.
- Josh Magennis V Oldham Athletic (14/02/2017)
A dire, dire Charlton performance at Oldham on Valentine’s Day that deserved no love, but it could have been so different for the Addicks.
For Josh Magennis was sent through on goal within the game’s first minute. Plenty of time to pick his spot and finish, but instead firing over the bar with only Connor Ripley in Oldham’s goal to beat. A huge miss.
And a miss that foreshadowed the remainder of the game. The Addicks creating chances after Ollie Banks, just four minutes after Magennis’ miss, had given the hosts the lead, but lacking any sort of potency. Their wastefulness meaning defeat was ultimately their own doing.
- Lee Novak V Shrewsbury Town (28/02/2017)
Two weeks later, and Novak managed a fine impression of his forward partner. Played through on goal in the opening minute of an away game and wasting the opportunity, with defeat following.
Novak at least testing the goalkeeper with his chance, with Jason Leutwiler forced to make a save, but it just as poor a miss as Magennis’. Driving through on goal, plenty of time to pick his spot, but his effort tame. That his strike was on-target not diverting from the fact it was an opportunity that had to be taken.
- Lee Novak and Tony Watt V Bradford City (14/03/2017)
Charlton’s second-half performance against Bradford at The Valley is a contender for the best 45-minute effort of the campaign. With some composure in front of goal, it would have certainly been the best 45-minute effort.
Novak somehow turning Holmes’ low delivery over the crossbar from basically underneath it, and Watt volleying horrendously off-target from a glorious position after the ball deflected into his path.
A victory that the efforts of Robinson’s men warranted not claimed, because Charlton’s forwards simply couldn’t finish when gifted the simplest of chances.
- Ezri Konsa V Sheffield United (18/03/2017)
Losing at Sheffield United was no embarrassment, but it was certainly a frustration. Partly because the Addicks were so impressive in the period before and after Holmes had given them the lead, and partly because chances were wasted while they trailed.
Ezri Konsa particularly guilty, somehow failing to poke home after the Addicks had fallen behind. Fredrik Ulvestad flicking on Jake Forster-Caskey’s delivery, the ball falling to the teenager on the edge of the six-yard box, but Konsa unable to make proper contact and goalkeeper Simon Moore pouncing.
- Lee Novak V Peterborough United (01/04/2017)
Pritch might well have better qualities in front of goal than poor old Novak. Another horrendous miss, in a horrendous season, in what might well have been his worst performance of the lot.
The forward played through on goal, the easiest of first-time finishes into either bottom corner on offer, but instead a touch was taken and his shot ultimately blocked. Dreadful, dreadful decision making, and followed by a capitulation from his side that allowed Peterborough victory.
- Jake Forster-Caskey V Chesterfield (22/04/2017)
A third missed penalty of the season, though this one genuinely provided a degree of hilarity.
With Chesterfield chasing a late equaliser, and as such a dramatic turnaround after the Addicks had led by two goals for much of the second half at the Proact, the award of a penalty for Charlton had seemingly secured all three points.
The visiting supporters chanted for Johnnie Jackson to take, Ricky Holmes seemingly felt like it was his, but Forster-Caskey had the ball in his hands. Forster-Caskey placed the ball on the spot. Forster-Caskey placed a tame penalty into a position for goalkeeper Thorsten Stootman to save.
The final whistle, thankfully, blowing straight after. A bit of a weird game, ending in very strange fashion.
Winner: Lee Novak and Tony Watt V Bradford
Quite remarkable misses that meant arguably Charlton’s best performance of the season didn’t end with victory.
The Christophe Lepoint Signing of the Season
The award for the most disappointing, misused, or simply the worst arrival during this campaign.
- Nicky Ajose
What do you expect when you sign a player who had scored 24 league goals in the previous season? Goals. What did Nicky Ajose provide? Frustration.
Ajose not a failure, but a huge disappointment. Goals at League One level, pace, and Josh Magennis as a partner should have given the Addicks a prolific forward. But not only was his overall play poor, far too many chances were wasted. Ultimately, there was little faith he would finish when in promising positions.
Goals scored since returning on loan to Swindon, though only five in 20 games, and maybe more faith should have been placed in Ajose. But his disappointing efforts in Charlton red did provide justification for the club’s decision to send him back to his former club. An exciting signing that hugely underwhelmed.
- Lee Novak
Signed not only on the back of a 14-goal season while on loan at Chesterfield, but with the knowledge that he’s a dependable performer at this level. Lee Novak, however, has provided neither goals, nor dependable performances.
The forward, snapped up following his release by Birmingham City, has admitted himself that this is the worst season he’s ever had. The occasional injury contributing to that, but more so his overall performances.
Despite being built in the mould of a target man, he’s struggled to win headers or hold up the ball, his effort has been questionable, and his finishing has been incredibly poor.
A moment where he held his ear out to the critical Charlton supporters after scoring against former loan club Chesterfield was supposed to kick-start his career as an Addick. Instead, it’s only got worse.
- Kevin Foley
The sort of signing that, with Charlton supporters promised a top-six budget and a top-six finish as a minimum, really shouldn’t have needed to be made. The 31-year-old Foley handed a six-month contract after spending a period in the summer on trial, and providing cover in a number of positions.
Competent enough at right-back, but particularly dreadful in the centre of midfield and on the wing. A cheap addition that added no quality to the squad, and was allowed to leave at the first opportunity.
- Jay Dasilva (bear with me)
Dasilva proved his qualities in the final few games of the season, but for long periods signing the left-back on loan from Chelsea didn’t seem worthwhile for him, for his parent club, or the Addicks.
Arriving with many offering high praise and seemingly possessing a strong reputation, the teenager was supposed to be an exciting addition to Charlton’s squad.
Instead, being subbed off after being subbed on during his debut against Milwall set the tone for what was seemingly a rather pointless loan spells. An unused sub 12 times, Robinson preferring to use Jackson at left-back rather than him, and no starts before April.
His efforts once getting a run in the side, however, were mightily impressive, and certainly confirm he’s not winning this award. That he’s up for it a result of the fact he was hidden away for so long, and as such the most was not made of his signing. It not a consequence of his talents.
- Lewis Page
There every chance that left-back Page will come good, and so including him in this shortlist isn’t to suggest his signing was a poor one. But the January addition from West Ham has endured a terrible start to life as an Addick.
His first two appearances lasting 28 and 11 minutes respectively. An injury against Millwall followed by a red card early on in the victory over Bolton Wanderers.
Then upon his return after suspension, a return that was constantly interrupted by niggling injuries, the left-back failed to deliver convincing performances. Promising going forward, but often appearing uncomfortable in defence.
And finally, an unfortunate fall during the game against Bradford City led to a torn hamstring and his season ending prematurely.
Only 20, so there’s plenty of time for him to develop, but it’s not been a great first four months in SE7 for Page.
Winner: Lee Novak
Experienced Football League forward performing like an experienced non-league forward given a chance he didn’t deserve. Incredibly disappointing.
The Johann Berg Gudmundsson Signing of the Season
The award for the best new addition of the campaign. Named after that rare thing – a positive signing made by Roland Duchatelet’s regime.
- Adam Chicksen
Seemingly just a cheap replacement for the departed Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, providing cover at left-back without having to spend, Adam Chicksen was instead a reliable figure for the Addicks after arriving on a free-transfer in August.
Providing a consistency that many of his teammates lacked throughout the campaign, Chicksen proved a steady performer both at full-back and in a slightly unfamiliar position on the left wing. His disappearance from the side in the final weeks of the season, however, suggests he might not be an Addick going into the next one.
- Ricky Holmes
In possessing ability that far exceeds any of his teammates, and having the qualities to win matches on his own with extraordinary moments of genius, Holmes has been a direct replacement for Gudmundsson.
There encouragement and excitement each time he powers down either flank, his deliveries testing, and the Addicks would have struggled even more this season without his goal-scoring attributes. A vital signing from Northampton Town in the summer.
From scoring two incredible goals in the home victory over Shrewsbury Town to scoring a superb individual hat-trick while the rest of those in red delivered a pathetic performance in the away defeat to Shrewsbury Town, Holmes has been marvellous in all situations.
- Josh Magennis
The summer signing from Kilmarnock has blown hot and cold throughout the campaign, but when Magennis has blown hot, he has been almost unplayable.
The first Charlton forward with the ability to hold the ball up and consistently win aerial duels since a certain Frenchman, the Northern Ireland international is also surprisingly good on the ball for someone in the target man mould. A hard-worker in tight affairs, and a man that can carry a side to victory in more open games.
His performance in the goalless draw away at Bradford not needing a goal to be considered a perfect one, while his efforts to score three against Bristol Rovers were superb.
The goals drying up since that hat-trick, with a combination of injury and weak performances holding him back, but Magennis has impressed in the final few weeks of the season and still done enough to warm himself to supporters.
- Jason Pearce
In periods throughout the campaign, Patrick Bauer, Jorge Teixeira and Ezri Konsa have all performed commendably at centre-back. But at no period has any combination of those three left you feeling totally comfortable.
The composure, experience and leadership of Jason Pearce has been desperately missed since the summer signing from Wigan suffered a serious groin injury during the draw at Valley Parade.
A real shame that what appeared an excellent signing was unavailable for the best part of four months. His presence next season will undoubtedly be important.
- Fredrik Ulvestad
Dropping to centre-back against Walsall and still performing flawlessly just about sums up Fredrik Ulvestad. The Norwegian midfielder, on loan from Burnley, has merely got his head down and performed irrespective of what has been asked of him.
Few thrills, but a consistent performer in an inconsistent team. A figure you can rely on.
- Stephy Mavididi
It probably says something about Charlton’s efforts in the transfer market that one of the better additions in recent seasons was an 18-year-old loanee who made just five appearances, two of which were from the bench.
But Stephy Mavididi, having joined from Arsenal on a temporary basis without a professional performance to his name, was a breath of fresh air during a grim period. His pace, directness and trickery an antidote to the stale performances the Addicks were delivering during the eight-game winless run, with his incredible run from inside his own penalty box against Rochdale the highlight.
A real shame injury cut short his spell in SE7.
Winner: Ricky Holmes
An extraordinary match-winner.
The Yann Kermorgant Performance of the Season
The award for the best individual performance of the campaign.
- Ricky Holmes V Shrewsbury Town (16/08/2016)
How do you go about displaying your ability to supporters of the club you’ve recently signed for? By inspiring your new side’s first victory of the season with two incredible goals, of course.
Holmes leading the first-half siege that blew away Shrewsbury at The Valley in August, and secured the first win of Russell Slade’s reign before the half-time whistle had been blown.
His first an unstoppable effort from distance, driving forward with intent before curling beyond Shrewsbury stopper Jason Leutwiler. The sort of goal required to ignite a season that had started in stale fashion.
His second, coming after Johnnie Jackson had bundled the ball over the line to double Charlton’s advantage, coming directly from the corner. But given Holmes’ maverick qualities, there were few suggesting it was a complete fluke.
And to go along with those goals, there was a performance of direct running and superb skill that meant, even when the Addicks took their foot off the gas somewhat after the interval, each attack felt like a threatening one. The first genuine sighting of the ability Holmes possessed.
- Josh Magennis V Coventry City (15/10/2016)
This was, in the intense atmosphere that an afternoon of protest provides, the first occasion in which Magennis made visible his ability to be an unplayable centre forward.
For it was not just his direct involvement in two of Charlton’s three goals, setting one up and scoring another, that impressed, but an overall performance that saw the Northern Ireland international bully Coventry’s backline.
Great strength and intelligence shown to hold up each ball knocked forward in his direction, aerial contests consistently won, and the Sky Blues allowed no time whatsoever in possession inside their own half with Magennis pressing unrelentlessly.
And it was through applying such pressure that Magennis made Charlton’s decisive second goal. Robbing Jordan Turnbull of the ball, and squaring for Ademola Lookman to finish.
The goal of his own that his efforts warranted followed, with Fredrik Ulvestad’s ball over the top superbly knocked around Mark Ricketts, and the forward finishing coolly. A marvellous finishing touch, and a marvellous finishing touch to an excellent performance.
- Ademola Lookman V Scunthorpe United (05/11/2016)
Only actually playing because of an injury to Ricky Holmes midway through the first-half, Ademola Lookman’s excellent performance from the bench inspired Charlton’s FA Cup victory over Scunthorpe in November.
The teenager rested for the cup tie, though there was an argument he might have been dropped after a handful of disappointing performances prior to the game, but Lookman brought what had been a dire display from the Addicks to life within seven minutes of being introduced. The ball falling to him on the edge of the box, a touch taken, before picking out the top corner with a stunning finish.
And having been beating his man with regularity and appearing a constant threat, the winger confirmed Charlton’s place in the second round of the competition with seven minutes to play. Pressure on the Addicks after Tom Hopper had halved the two-goal advantage giving to the hosts by Johnnie Jackson, but Lookman’s one-on-one finish, having been played through by Ulvestad, eased nerves.
- Dillon Phillips V Sheffield United and Bradford City (26/11/2016, 10/12/2016)
Young goalkeeper Phillips proved he’s capable of performing at League One level during his brief stint in the starting XI, not least in his determined efforts against Sheffield United and Bradford City in successive league games.
His performance against the Blades allowing Patrick Bauer to rescue a point for the Addicks. Charlton poor, and really should have been several goals behind before the German equalised late-on, but Phillips’ fingertips kept them in the game. Saving well from John Fleck and Mark Duffy, among others.
While his efforts during the trip to Valley Parade aided a determined performance from Karl Robinson’s side, and contributed heavily towards them coming away from Bradford with a point. An excellent point-blank save to deny Jordy Hiwula the highlight.
A suggestion has been made that Declan Rudd may remain an Addick, but there would be no panic if his loan spell isn’t turned into a permanent transfer. Not merely because Rudd has been inconsistent, but because Phillips’ quality was obvious during his spell in the starting XI.
- Joe Aribo V Southend United (31/12/2016)
That a stoppage-time equaliser, scored by Andrew Crofts, was required at Roots Hall in Charlton’s final game of 2016 suggests an element of good fortune was involved in the Addicks coming away from Southend with a point.
But Robinson’s side were dominant during the second half, and had long been pressing for the goal that would have cancelled out Simon Cox’s first-half effort. A dominance led by a 20-year-old in his third game of League football.
Joe Aribo in complete control in midfield. Breaking up play with ease, looking assured in possession, and contributing to what were becoming persistent Charlton attacks. This relatively inexperienced figure the central figure of this contest.
Crofts’ equaliser a reward for Aribo’s efforts, as much as Charlton’s in general.
- Josh Magennis V Bristol Rovers (02/01/2017)
An unplayable performance from the big man that made his efforts against Coventry appear barely noteworthy. An outstanding overall display, topped off by the small matter of scoring three times as the Addicks came from behind to beat Bristol Rovers.
His first of the afternoon, left unmarked from a Joe Aribo free-kick on the stroke of half-time and allowed to cancel out Jermaine Easter’s opener for the visitors, coming somewhat against the run of play. But from that moment forth, the Northern Ireland international took control of the contest.
A second for the forward arriving just five minutes after the interval, and in similar fashion. An Aribo free-kick, Magennis unmarked, and the back of the net found with a powerful header.
But, as was the case against the Sky Blues, his involvement in Charlton’s goals merely added to his overall efforts. Once again bullying an opposition backline, making almost every ball played forward his own, and winning almost every aerial battle.
That, however, is not to suggest his hat-trick goal, coming after Jorge Teixeira had doubled his side’s lead, wasn’t the highlight of his performance. Marvellously taking down Andrew Crofts’ ball over the top, and curling superbly into the far corner. The game Charlton’s, and the match-ball his.
- Patrick Bauer V Bolton Wanderers (28/01/2017)
The BFG not simply featuring on this shortlist because he scored the equaliser in the impressive victory at the Macron Stadium in January, but because his defensive performance was as defiant as they come.
But his equaliser did play a part in creating the situation in which his defensive efforts were so important. The Addicks not only trailing to Zach Clough’s excellent free-kick when Bauer turned in Jake Forster-Caskey’s delivery, but also a man down. Lewis Page sent off for conceding the free-kick that Clough scored from.
By half-time, however, the visitors had the most unlikely of leads at the Macron. Nathan Byrne finishing coolly, but victory still seeming like an unlikely outcome. A half to hold on with ten men against one of the division’s best sides.
But Charlton’s backline, led by Bauer, restricted the Trotters to no genuine opportunities as they searched for an equaliser throughout the entirety of the second period. Every header won, countless crunching tackles, and composure in possession.
An incredible team effort to record victory, but Bauer’s defensive determination at the heart of this win.
- Ricky Holmes V Shrewsbury Town (28/02/2017)
While his teammates embarrassed themselves, leading to Karl Robinson questioning whether they cared enough, Ricky Holmes went about single-handedly giving Charlton a chance of salvaging something from a performance that deserved nothing at Shrewsbury in February.
A hat-trick of real quality in complete contrast to the collective performance, and as such made all the more impressive. Impressing in a side that showed little effort, defensive composure, or attacking intent.
In fact, Holmes overturned the deficit that Louis Dodds inflicted upon the Addicks all by himself. A wonder goal drawing the visitors level, before a spectacular free-give on the stroke of half-time gave Charlton a lead their overall efforts quite frankly didn’t deserve.
And when the collective had received the sort of punishment they had long deserved, with Tyler Roberts and Shaun Whalley scoring over the space of two second-half minutes, it was Holmes who produced an equaliser that didn’t seem to be coming. His hat-trick coming with a ruthless finishing, drilling the ball into the bottom corner after being teed up by Karlan Ahearne-Grant.
That Holmes’ incredible effort meant nothing, with Dodds restoring’s Shrewsbury’s lead five minutes later, is the perfect reflection of just how dire the Addicks were aside from the winger. An awesome performance, lost in a disgrace display.
- Johnnie Jackson V Scunthorpe United (07/03/2017)
There is no one at this football club I trust more than Johnnie Jackson. No one that can inspire in the way the skipper does. No one for who the club means as much as it does to supporters.
So it no surprise, therefore, that a captain’s performance from Mr Charlton was the foundation from which the Addicks ended their dire run of eight games without victory or a reasonable performance. Jackson injecting a bit of fight into a side that had seemingly lost all motivation and effort.
The moment of inspiration coming with the goal that gave the Addicks the lead against Scunthorpe just beyond the half hour. Volleying home from a corner, and delivering a trademark kneeslide in front of the East Stand.
But the skipper provided so much more than just a goal. Both composure in possession, and genuine determination without it. It often suggested he no longer has the legs to play regularly, but his presence in midfield that night brought it alive.
The need for Tony Watt to convert from the spot to give the Addicks victory, after a second-half capitulation had allowed Scunthorpe to equalise and appear like the side most likely to score the winner, diverted from the script slightly. Jackson’s goal not the winner.
But that didn’t deny the skipper moments of celebration come full-time with the Covered End, and an almighty tunnel jump. Particularly impressive considering he had given everything, and there was nothing left in his legs.
- Declan Rudd V Southend United and Coventry City (08/04/2017 and 14/04/2017)
Back-to-back performances from Rudd that won his side points were particularly impressive after a torrid couple of months preceding the games against Southend and Coventry. The mistakes put behind him, and numerous important saves made.
In a determined effort from the collective against the Shrimpers to achieve a victory that simply had to be achieved, the efforts of Rudd in Charlton’s goal cannot be underestimated.
A marvellous bit of goalkeeping to halt Stephen McLoughlin when through on goal, an excellent save from the same man’s late free-kick, and claiming cross after cross that came into his box. His composure and decision making much improved upon previous weeks. The determined effort that backed up the determined effort.
And that followed by a performance at the Ricoh that saved the Addicks from a defeat that their lacklustre effort probably deserved. Superb saves from George Thomas and Jodi Jones in particular, when both men were allowed through on goal by a non-existent Charlton midfield and defence, to prevent the Sky Blues doubling, and regaining, their advantage.
- Jay Dasilva V Gillingham (17/04/2017)
Having been hidden away for so long, Chelsea loanee Dasilva made the most of an opportunity to display his talents in the first-team with a marvellous performance in the victory over Gillingham.
Despite being defensively sound, and recovering in the moments when he wasn’t, it was his attacking play that particularly impressed. An excellent run that resulted in him being chopped down on the edge of the Gillingham box, with Ricky Holmes scoring from the resulting free-kick, the highlight of an excellent performance bombing down the left flank.
And the diminutive full-back, despite not stopping for a second all game, even had the energy to perform the tunnel jump come full-time. Impressive.
- Ricky Holmes V Swindon Town (30/04/2017)
Given the comprehensive nature of it, you could make arguments for several players making their way onto this shortlist from the win over Swindon. But Charlton’s POTY ended the season by displaying the class that has one Charlton points, or at least given them a degree of pride, on so many occasions this season.
A constant threat, his footwork incredible, and a 13th goal of the campaign to wrap things up. Lock him in a cupboard for the summer.
Winner: Josh Magennis V Bristol Rovers
A toss up between Magennis’ efforts against Bristol Rovers and Holmes’ performance away at Shrewsbury. But as Magennis’ hat-trick contributed to victory, we’ll got with that.
The Yohann Thuram Performance of the Season
The award for the worst impersonation of a professional footballer on a given matchday.
- Roger Johnson V Bury (06/08/2016)
Not only were his defensive efforts dire in a dreadful team performance, with the Addicks losing to Bury on the opening day of the season, but Roger Johnson decided to cement the hatred for him among supporters following the full-time whistle.
“If you don’t like it, don’t fucking come,” were his insightful words to furious fans who had every right to feel aggrieved following their side’s display. Supporters that continue to follow their side over large distances despite the state of the club.
That he’ll never play for the club again is a cause for celebration.
- Andrew Crofts V Oldham Athletic (27/09/2016)
Crofts’ performances in Charlton red, though not consistently, improved as time went on. But in his first few months as the Addick, the midfielder was unreliable at best.
Not least against Oldham, where the Latics midfield were allowed to dominate. Tame in possession, misplaced passes constant, and challenges persistently one by the visiting midfield.
To the extent that this weak, relegation threatened Oldham outfit were the stronger side for much of the game in SE7, and the weakness that Crofts contributed to in midfield ultimately that their late equaliser was thoroughly deserved.
- Morgan Fox V Swindon Town (12/11/2016)
Personally, I was never one to criticise Morgan Fox too heavily. There always a mistake in him, but a better player than many attempted to make out.
However, his performance in the defeat to Swindon that cost Russell Slade his job was particularly dire, and not simply because he was credited with a rather unfortunate own goal. Offering no defensive resilience whatsoever, beaten time and time again down the flank, and unable to contribute going forward.
Immediately redeeming himself with two superb performances under Kevin Nugent’s leadership, but his efforts at the County Ground were embarrassingly poor.
- Ezri Konsa V Millwall (21/12/2016)
Academy graduate Konsa has been this season’s breakthrough player, performing with maturity, consistency and quality whether asked to play at centre-back or in a deep midfield role. An outsider would never guess that someone so composed in their play is still a teenager.
But the night where Konsa lost his composure was unfortunately an important one. Filling in at right-back, the 19-year-old endured a torrid night at The Den.
Not only persistently being caught out of position and beaten with ease by Millwall’s Aiden O’Brien, but finding himself at fault for the Lions’ second goal. A weak clearance allowing the hosts to get the ball back into the box, Konsa slipping, and Steve Morison allowed the simplest of opportunities to volley home his regular goal against the Addicks.
A bleak night in Bermondsey, with Millwall claiming a 3-1 win over a Charlton side that was absent of the required fight, and Konsa’s error-prone performance a reflection of the lack of quality. Thankfully not something he has even come close to repeating throughout his debut campaign.
- Patrick Bauer V AFC Wimbledon (11/02/2017)
Bauer has been a relatively reliable performer for the Addicks this season, which is high praise for a member of a defence that has so often found barely believable ways to capitulate.
But every so often, there have been afternoons and evenings where the big German himself has struggled. Most commonly when facing a tall, physical centre-forward.
And that was the case at Kingsmeadow in February, where have struggled to deal with Tom Elliott throughout the 90 minutes and showing little composure, Bauer lacked the defensive defiance to prevent AFC Wimbledon’s forward from stealing a stoppage-time equaliser.
On this occasion, no where near challenging Tyrone Barnett as he flicked on, and Elliott was allowed to race through and score. A poor day at the office for Bauer, culminating in his role in Wimbledon’s leveller.
- Josh Magennis V Oldham Athletic (14/02/2017)
Not only did Josh Magennis waste a glorious opportunity to put the Addicks ahead within the first few seconds at Boundary Park, but his overall performance on Valentine’s Day was dreadful.
Evidently rushed back too soon after injury, the forward looked well off the pace, lacking the physical and aerial he normally possesses, not least a finishing touch. Jake Forster-Caskey sending the Northern Ireland international through on goal with 12 seconds played, only for the ball to be looped over the bar.
And Charlton’s attempts to compete in a game they ultimately lost 1-0 were hindered heavily by the general lack of presence Magennis provided up top. A real weak effort from the summer signing.
- Jorge Teixeira V Shrewsbury Town (28/02/2017)
When Karl Robinson claimed that 40% of his side didn’t care enough following the defeat to Shrewsbury, the minds of Charlton supporters began to consider who might be among that number.
And the man most obvious was the man who had performed the poorest at the New Meadow. Jorge Teixeira an absolute shambles, constantly allowing the Shrews through, and offering little effort or defensive resilience.
The Portuguese redeemed himself slightly in his performances in the weeks that followed, but his efforts on that night were simply a disgrace.
- Declan Rudd V Bradford City (14/03/2017)
Unfortunately for Rudd, who was reliable between the posts during the first few months of the season, there were several performances during the period between February and the start of April that might have featured in this shortlist. Mistake after mistake.
But against Bradford not only was there a lack of excellent saves to accompany his mistake as had been the case elsewhere, his error was a vital one. Palming Mark Marshall’s shot straight to Timothee Dieng, who headed over the line.
Dieng’s goal an equaliser, and an equaliser that meant one of Charlton’s best performances of the season ended with the Addicks claiming just a point. Rudd apologetic at full-time.
- Lee Novak V Peterborough United (01/04/2017)
The fact Novak felt the need to hold his hands up in apology as he was substituted during the defeat to Peterborough at London Road reaffirms just how dire an effort this was from the forward.
A horrendous miss from the summer signing with scores level, taking too long in possession after being played through on goal and ultimately seen his shot blocked by a combination of Posh goalkeeper Luke McGee and captain Michael Bostwick.
It the worst moment of an embarrassing performance from Novak, who seemed to lost every aerial challenge and misplace every pass. To the extent that there were chants for him to be substituted, and boos when it was Tony Watt who was initially sacrificed for Josh Magennis.
Cheers from the away end, and a signal of apology from the player, once the forward was removed.
- Tony Watt and Josh Magennis V MK Dons (04/04/2017)
On a night where the Addicks showed pride off the pitch, in their remembrance of PC Keith Palmer, forwards Tony Watt and Josh Magennis showed absolutely nothing.
In truth, some sympathy can be had for them, with Charlton’s performance in midfield meaning their was no service for them. But they were anonymous. Failing to win or hold up the ball, losing possession far too easily, and wasting the only chances that did come their way.
Watt particularly guilty of that. A horrendous missed header at the far post following Jay Dasilva’s header, preventing any chance of a Charlton fightback.
Winner: Lee Novak v Peterborough
A performance that summed up just how poor and disappointing Novak has been since his summer arrival.
The Chris Powell Award for Coach of the Season
As ever under the Duchatelet regime, there’s plenty of coaches to choose from.
- Russell Slade
Hasn’t got hair. Originally we didn’t care. Then it emerged that not only did his head contain no hair, but also lacked tactical intelligence.
His football never exactly appealing, but there were improvements in results and performances before the defeat at Swindon Town that led to his sacking. As with any figure that becomes Charlton manager, he was a little unfairly treated.
- Kevin Nugent
The seven points that Kevin Nugent picked up during his caretaker spell in charge gained increasing significance as Charlton’s winless run throughout February went on. Seven points that meant the Addicks were always just about far enough above the relegation zone to avoid complete meltdown. Deserves plenty of credit, and certainly didn’t deserve to effectively be hidden away before getting the Barnet job.
- Chris O’Loughlin
Not quite sure I’ve ever actually see him do any sort of coaching, but there’s no doubt he’s the finest cone and ball collector in the professional game.
- Karl Robinson
- Richie Barker
Wears shorts on the touchline even when it’s freezing cold. Fair play.
- Lee Bowyer
In a desperate attempt from Robinson in order to prove to Charlton supporters that he has mates, 1,507 people from within football rocked up at Sparrows Lane at one point or another. Lee Bowyer the lucky winner of a permanent contract, making him the club’s 4,392nd employed coach.
- The free ones
Charlton organised for 160,000 supporters to go to Northampton free of charge, and paid for all their meals for a month.
- The ones that went to Belgium
The protest fund allowing for cheap coaches to take Charlton supporters to Belgium, and protest against the poisonous individual who owns this football club.
Winner: Kevin Nugent
Wouldn’t have simply flirted with relegation without those seven points.
The final fixture of Charlton Athletic’s previous season in the third tier of English football was a unified scene of celebration. Stands occupied by Addicks in red and white, and a glorious mosaic of those colours displayed. A final opportunity to appreciate the champions.
But this final fixture of a League One season displayed a unified scene of opposition. Stands occupied by Addicks in black and white, supplemented by a sea of balloons and an array of banners. A final opportunity to express anger towards a regime that must depart.
The promise, as the suggestions that Roland Duchatelet is ready to sell a club he has poisoned, that the protests before, during and after the match against already relegated Swindon Town would prove to be the ‘end game’.
The end of a three-year period that has left supporters disillusioned, disconnected, and denied any enjoyment from following their side. The opportunity to start again with the club in safer hands, for fans to reunite with their club, and for moments like the lifting of the League One title five years ago to be relived as more than simply a memory.
Expectation high, with the efforts of Leyton Orient supporters on Saturday in forcing their game against Colchester United to be ‘abandoned’, ultimately exposing the EFL as a morally corrupt organisation, raising expectations further.
The organised protests, in that regard, underwhelming. The blocking of The Valley’s carpark causing chaos, and as such embarrassing the club, but furious supporters wished for more direct action. Standing outside the West Stand, well-stocked on accessories and with voices vocal, had been done many times before.
But it mattered not. Opposing supporters could have stood in silence, and would have made the required impression. For what mattered on this occasion was the sheer weight of numbers prepared to oppose the regime.
The full extent of the opposition showed itself. The numbers that were led towards the West Stand from the North Stand quite incredible. Effectively the whole ground standing when cries of “stand up if you want them out” bellowed around The Valley.
And though an army of police and stewards made desperate attempts to prevent it, a healthy number of those standing up against the regime made it onto the pitch come full-time. A final message sent in the direction of those who own this club. You have poisoned a football club, you have destroyed bonds between supporters and club that appeared unbreakable, you have no choice but to sell.
By contrast, the regime hid. Unwilling to witness the extent of the opposition against them that they have so often pretended does not exist. Unwilling to see the signs that show clearly they cannot continue to own Charlton Athletic.
The windows of the executive boxes that overlook the West Stand carpark quickly covered. An empty seat in the directors’ box, that would normally be occupied by Katrien Meire. Another number added to the consecutive list of games missed by the club’s owner, who only cares when he has his tarnished name to defend.
Cowards, liars and failures. It no wonder many were saying goodbye to their season ticket seats, unable to return while their club is held in such poisonous hands. It they that have created this opposition and this disconnection, and they alone.
Among all this, a comprehensive victory was lost. A Swindon side performing with the sort of attitude that suggested they wished for the season to end as much as Charlton supporters wanted Duchatelet’s ownership to end. Josh Magennis, Jake Forster-Caskey and the marvellous Ricky Holmes taking advantage for a three-goal victory.
And within that, was an emotional moment of appreciation towards the heroic captain of this football club. Johnnie Jackson’s final game as a player, before moving into a player-coach role. There will be more appearances for this cult hero to come, but he warranted such appreciation nonetheless.
The football itself, therefore, a footnote. A regular occurrence under this regime, and not simply because the promised top six finish has been replaced by a bottom-half one. A comprehensive victory, and a fourth win in five, not enough to divert from a season of failure and good enough only to lift the Addicks into 13th.
But this a comprehensive victory nonetheless, and one that should have been enjoyed above anything else. A comprehensive victory that cannot be enjoyed when anxiety and fear exist that this regime will continue on their path of destruction, alienation and failure. A comprehensive victory that cannot be enjoyed while the focus of almost every Addick is on enforcing change at their club.
The real comprehensive victory will come when the weight of numbers who oppose this regime, who stood as part of a united Valley on several occasions, finally enforce change.
Karl Robinson’s pre-named side stepping out onto The Valley pitch for a final time this season with the colours of black and white overwhelming. Supporters in the stands, balloons by their feet, and the metaphoric mist that sits always over this club. Banners that had been held during the protests outside the ground, and voices that had been fully utilised to express opposition, displayed again.
Nonetheless, as has been the case over the previous three years, there were no concerns with supporting a Charlton side that, if not dramatically in quality, had shown massive improvement in attitude and effort in the previous three weeks. Not least with it led by Jackson.
The skipper taking the place in the side that Joe Aribo held during the victory over Chesterfield, while Chris Solly’s return from injury meant Karlan Ahearne-Grant dropped to the bench and Nathan Byrne pushed forward to the right side of midfield. Patrick Bauer, for the ‘rested’ Ezri Konsa the final change of three.
But there initial concerns, in this end-of-season contest that seemed to exist purely to allow supporters of the Addicks to express their displeasure, of a lethargic affair occurring. Tempo lacking, clearances sliced and passes misplaced in the opening moments as balloons filtered down onto the pitch and The Valley’s collective voice reminded all that Duchatelet was not wanted.
The worry increasing as rather lethargic play from Byrne resulted in him needing to chop down Luke Norris on the edge of Charlton’s box. Anton Rodgers’ resulting free-kick beautifully executed but, agonisingly for him, bouncing back off the upright. Applause for his effort from the Covered End.
Rodgers’ strike, however, maybe a reminder that Swindon’s status did not mean a half-hearted effort would be enough. The strike seemingly the catalyst for the Addicks to enter into some sort of stride, though Patrick Bauer’s horribly wayward volley from a Charlton corner is best forgotten.
It much better to remember the next time the ball was whipped into the Swindon box from a wide position. Jay Dasilva’s delivery from the left exquisite, without much pace but placed perfectly for Magennis to meet, and the Northern Ireland international heading home emphatically with 14 minutes played. From this point forward, against a shambolic set of Robins, Charlton’s afternoon should have been a relatively simply one.
Alas, for the time being at least, some degree of fight and application remained among the visiting side. Norris’ driven strike, coming after the forward had worked himself into a yard of space, well-saved by Declan Rudd at his near post, with the goalkeeper’s excellent fingertip intervention from the resulting corner diverting the ball away from the head of Ellis Iandolo.
But already, to the backing tune of balloons being popped and anti-regime chants, you could sense Swindon’s frustrating growing. Comfortable enough in possession in the middle, but their forward passes so often misplaced, and their cross-field balls picking out supporters. Their reactions to such events belonging to a side already relegated, and with little interest.
A quick Charlton second, therefore, would have left the Robins more deflated than the see of burst balloons around The Valley. Solly teeing up Magennis in the centre, but the forward’s shot somewhat mistimed and skewed wide. A good chance to kill the game off at search an early stage of proceedings.
With 26 minutes played, however, it did appear that the Addicks had gained this theoretically unassailable two-goal lead. Holmes’ free-kick turned in by Jason Pearce, who had sprinted away in celebration before realising the referee had disallowed his goal for a push on Dion Conroy. Disappointment, but few complaints, particularly with Jesse Starkey’s wildly off-target strike for the visitors suggesting a second might not actually be needed.
But while the lead was only slender, there always a chance that the Robins could nick an equaliser their efforts didn’t particularly warrant. Swindon most certainly remaining on the back foot, as Bauer headed wide from a corner and Magennis turned the lively Holmes’ cross over the bar, but in between those openings a fierce Conroy free-kick had been fumbled by Rudd. The visitors showing the occasional sign of life.
Though, after Byrne had got into a decent position and curled wide, it only an excellent bit of defending that kept the struggling Robins in the contest. Magennis sent through, the ball poked over goalkeeper Will Henry as he rushed to close down the forward, and a second goal ready to be celebrated. Conroy, however, had raced back and managed to hack the ball away as it bounced towards the line.
With such pressure being placed on Swindon, and with the Addicks looking relatively threatening each time they moved down either flank, you could not begrudge the hosts a second before the break. And with two first-half minutes remaining, that second arrived.
All far too simple for Robinson’s men, as Byrne broke free down the left and his low cross was met by Forster-Caskey. The midfielder unchallenged, and forcing the ball over the line from close range. The expressions and body language of those in Swindon colours suggested they didn’t much fancy coming back out after the interval.
Feelings that probably increased when it was made immediately obvious that Charlton were in no mood to simply sit on their two-goal advantage in the second period, and continued to look to exploit the frailties of this dire Swindon side. Henry smothering Forster-Caskey’s effort from the edge of the area at the second attempt.
Though of course, it obvious that the Addicks would not sit back, for there a goal to be scored by a man who had appeared to move himself into something that resembled a forward position. Jackson sent through, and agonisingly denied by Henry. Swindon’s goalkeeper, in preventing a wonderful moment, evidently unaware that this was the skipper’s final game before coming a player-coach.
The special moments created instead by the supporters, with “stand up if you love Jacko” emphatically bellowed out, and raising all from their seats. Mr Charlton.
With eyes fixated on Jackson, that Swindon had created an opening or two might well have passed some of The Valley crowd by. Iandolo curling well wide, but greater concern when a half-cleared corner was ultimately bundled over the line. The offside flag cutting short the celebrations in the Jimmy Seed Stand, and preventing the game from reigniting as a contest.
Though with James Brophy feeding Norris through down the left, and Rudd forced into a decent save, the sense that the visitors were getting back into the game was growing. Maybe some hope for Luke Williams’ men if they could quickly cut this deficit.
Hope, however, that was soon to be replaced by further despair from a Swindon perspective. For Holmes, having received the ball from Byrne, finished in the coolest of fashions into the far bottom corner well beyond the desperate dive of Henry. His 13th goal of the season, and a goal the performance of Charlton’s Player of the Year had warranted.
But there an immediate remainder of the main focus of those supporting the Addicks. Unquestionably joy in Holmes’ goal, but the noise from a chorus of “we want Roland out” emphatic. The ground once again standing as a collective when asked to do so if they want the owner gone; The Valley united.
United, too, in its love for Jackson. He’ll pretend there wasn’t, but I’m sure he wiped away a tear as he was substituted, leaving the field to emotional applause and chanting of his name. It’s not the end, but if it is, the admiration of him could not be expressed in any greater terms.
15 minutes of this contest still to play and, while Jon Goddard had fired wide just before Jackson came on and Norris and headed wide thereafter, the attitudes of both sides remained the same. Swindon half-hearted, if that, Charlton still rampant.
Magennis frustrated to see his close-range strike blocked by Henry having broken into the box, and a scissor kick of sorts from the Northern Ireland international picturesque but sailing just wide, while substitute Karlan Ahearne-Grant drove across the face of goal with no one able to apply a finishing touch before a finishing touch of his own was lacking as he diverted Holmes’ delivery wide.
These final attacking moves, though concluding without the net rippling, merely reaffirming the rampant nature of Charlton’s performance against a Swindon side with no resilience whatsoever. That the referee opted to avoid adding any addition time and blowing the moment 90 minutes had been played a blessing to the Robins.
The pitch not vacated before it was, in drips and draps as rather weak policing and stewarding attempted to prevent it, occupied by protesting supporters. Whether on the pitch or in the stands, most Addicks had stayed behind. Not primarily to acknowledge the performance, but for one last message to be sent in the general direction of a man sat many miles away in Belgium, with only the smallest percentage of interest in events in SE7.
Messages he has ignored in the past, but messages that must force Duchatelet to sell. If nothing else, it the numbers providing the same message. His regime cannot continue.
In times past and future such performances, regardless of the weak nature of the opposition, would be adored. In times current, it a sideshow to the goal of removing a regime that has performed only acts of destruction and disconnection.
It to take nothing away from the performance, of course. Each individual excellent, and the collective effort marvellous. A victory as emphatic as they come.
And, though reaffirming the failures of this football club and the regime that there is relief in finishing 13th, it to the credit of this side that they have shown much greater determination and quality following the defeat to MK Dons which seemed to have made them being drawn into the bottom four almost an inevitability.
But there no credit to give to this regime. This regime that has crippled a once marvellous football club, and a set of supporters who were so committed and attached to Charlton Athletic. Those supporters remain committed, standing in number to voice their opposition, but the attachment has been damaged by the actions of Duchatelet and Meire.
That energy that is placed into opposing the regime would be converted into untainted support for club and side were a new ownership to arrive over the summer months. A new ownership with new direction, new hope and, most importantly of all, a willingness to reconnect a damaged club with its broken supporters.
I simply hope that the next time I attend The Valley, Duchatelet and Meire have become the things of the past they should have been long ago. Please let there be change.
My attendance at this Sunday’s game against Swindon Town will see me complete a perfect league season for the first time. An appearance made at all 46 league fixtures during this dire campaign. From Roger Johnson’s remarks to this relatively meaningless contest against an already relegated side, I’ll have been unfortunate enough to have witnessed it all.
With few rewards and far too many moments of suffering, your sympathy is appreciated. Though this piece is not being written to attract it, and nor do I wish to portray myself as some sort of insufferable super-fan with the arrogance to believe that my regular attendance makes me better than any other Addick. I’m probably insufferable enough as it is.
Instead, I want to use my scheduled completion of a perfect season to express my gratitude towards my incredible dad. A man who offers such a monumental amount of support and assistance that I would not be able to challenge the restrictions my mental and physical health place upon me without him.
For even in what will hopefully be a brief flirt with self-indulgence that is about to follow, my dad doesn’t so much as provide the assist, but dribble the ball past 11 men before passing to me and allowing me to finish into an empty net. Given my circumstances, I feel a sense of pride in being able to attend every game. There should have been interruption at some point.
But I became fixated with the ambition of attending every game prior to this season getting underway. In a period where depression and anxiety have crippled my enthusiasm for any sort of activity, attending every game provided motivation. In a period where epilepsy, in combination with my mental health, has often made leaving the house a challenge, my desire to attend every game allowed me to push those thoughts to one side.
I still found myself sitting at games crippled by the feelings depression and anxiety provide, not able to utilise football itself as a distraction, and that completely unrelated to events on the pitch. Numerous journeys there and journeys back unbearable, purely as a consequence of the way my mind functions. In fact, events at games and events related to Charlton provided me irrational cause to feel anxious.
Logic in those circumstances points towards packing it all in, hiding away or finding another source of distraction. But the logic to me was that the moment I didn’t attend one game, I would lose all motivation. Football would become just like almost everything else, and be something that I couldn’t face.
Instead, though with the occasional moment of struggle, I have left the house and engaged with society on 46 occasions with comparatively minimal fuss when my day-to-day behaviour and feelings are considered.
It’s something I’ve tried to utilise in other contexts. That motivation, and the resulting ability to throw myself into the ‘real world’, irrespective of how my mental and physical health are making me feel. It’s something that my untainted football attendance proves I’m capable of.
But it’s something that I’m still struggling to transfer to other contexts. Maybe because of just how fixated I became with the idea of not missing a game. But mostly because of my dad.
Without my dad, four games would have been difficult in my current state, let alone 46. A source of practical assistance and emotional support that I cannot function without. That has allowed me, also in other contexts but most obviously with regards to football, to challenge restrictions.
Some of the things he does are very simple, but have a greater importance than it would appear at face value. Something as simple as waking me up. Those that have had any experience with mental health issues will appreciate that the notion of struggling to get out of bed is no myth.
He has taken to me every game this season, driving me to all but three of them. Public transport something I struggle with, and public transport on my own aside from small bus journeys is something I didn’t really do for six or seven months. Getting me to games, but providing me with protection from the things that worsen the feelings my mental health struggles provide.
A provider of transport, but so too is he company. Company for when anxiety and depression leave me feeling irrational waves of sadness and fear. Company that I just need in this current state, when leaving the house and being outside on my own in any circumstance is uncomfortable.
There’s little events where is assistance has been a huge help. A bizarre anxiety attack during the home game with Southend United because I was struggling to take photos as a result of the sun, and entered into a mindset of self-loathing and panic. Rejecting the notion that I was being pathetic and stupid, and instead being both understanding and calming.
And there’s rather large events. Normally after a seizure, I wouldn’t want to leave the house for a number of days. I had a seizure, and from what I recall quite a nasty one, prior to the home fixture against Millwall at The Valley this season.
My irrational determination to attend the game despite being a bit of a mess required, but dad ultimately supportive, extremely caring, and helpful. Mentally and physically a mess before, during and after the Keith Stroud show, but getting through it because of my dad. Seizures before games happening a few times this season, and still I’ve managed to get myself to each one.
His assistance in enabling me to attend every game is, in reality, a small aspect of the overall support he provides. It not life determining. But when I find it difficult to do much more with my life, it’s very important to me.
Again, it’s a case of allowing me to fight off restrictions that constantly cripple me, if only for a day or a moment. What he does, and the impact he has, with regards to following Charlton is reflective of everything else.
There’s never any pressure on me, and never do I sense disappointment when I have a bad day or I’m suffering. There’s always total understand, and a willingness to help and support in any way possible. I place more pressure on myself to get better than he does on me.
And even when the support he offers doesn’t have the impact he and I would like it too, I still know it’s there, and I still appreciate it to an extent that’s difficult to express while I’m suffering.
A great example of this coming last Sunday while I was refereeing. Refereeing something that provides me with something of a distraction, and allows me to step into a character that isn’t crippled by anxiety. It’s very important to me, and already dad supports me by driving me to games (epilepsy preventing me from being able to drive).
However, on Sunday, for the first time in six years of refereeing, I was attacked by a player. He had to be restrained by teammates, constantly made attempts to break free, and I’d have been in quite serious trouble had one of his numerous swings for me made connection. My dad, thankfully, there as this was at the conclusion of the game, and immediately supportive.
Supportive thereafter, too. Helping with the practical aspects of it, and attempting to calm a quite shaken me. Unfortunately, though the incident is in the past, I’ve struggled heavily to deal with my mental health in the previous few days, and my anxiety has been extremely high.
But I know he’s tried to help, and I know he’s been incredibly supportive. I know he couldn’t do any more than he does. Again, there’s not even the slightest sense of pressure being applied to me to feel okay.
And the truth is, I’m constantly overcome by a crippling sense of loneliness. It’s a feeling that I feel guilty about, given the level of support I have received in recent months, but it’s probably one of the feelings that hurts me the most. From it comes self-loathing, an inability to interact, and factors that contribute to the loneliness increasing in what seems a never-ending cycle.
But dad’s there. In moments of physical aloneness and mental loneliness, there’s a person that has the tools to provide distraction and calm. He’s my best friend.
And despite every aspect of pain that this football club attempts to provide, and the moments where a football ground has not protected me from the suffering my mental health provides, attending every Charlton game this season with my best friend has been incredibly important.
I know I can function without the restrictions my mental and physical health provide. I’m reliant on my dad to lift those restrictions, but all the same I know I can overcome them. Ultimately, I want to overcome them without someone holding my hand as I do so.
It horrendous to think just how restricted I would be without my dad. I couldn’t be more grateful.
There is one focus for Sunday’s game in SE7. One focus for the final game of this truly dreadful season. Making sure the next season isn’t as dreadful as this one.
And how can that be achieved? With what will hopefully be one final fight against the horrendous regime that has caused this horrendous season. That has caused the destruction of Charlton Athletic over the previous three years.
For with Swindon Town’s relegation to League Two confirmed last weekend, and Charlton hovering harmlessly among League One’s also-rans, the claiming of points at The Valley this weekend hardly holds much value. The value of making a point much greater.
A final opportunity to reaffirm the point that, after a catalogue of mistakes, constant efforts to insult supporters, and leaving fans detached and disillusioned, there is no place for forgiveness and another opportunity. No further opportunity for Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire to fail, insult or lie.
The tireless fight for change will hopefully reach its conclusion. A final protest on this final day, that makes the indication the club might be for sale a certainty. That shows the desperate need to move this club into safer hands.
This final fight for change involving supporters who have long felt unwelcome in their second home returning, and reclaiming the ground that belongs to them. There will be those, the unromantics and those who place business above any other aspect of life, who say The Valley does not belong to Charlton supporters. But, possibly more than any other ground in the country, The Valley belongs to Charlton supporters.
The club, too, belongs to its supporters. But such connection is not possible while Duchatelet remains. There no connection between the club and its supporters.
It a notion that Swindon supporters, who have directed much of their anger following the confirmation of their relegation in the direction of chairman and owner Lee Power, will sympathise with. Power’s authoritarian ways not only leading to failure, but the feelings of apathy and disconnection so familiar in SE7. A need for change in order for the Robins to reclaim their League One status.
And a need for change in order for the Addicks to revert to being anything like the football club it once was. For supporters and club to hold any sort of bond, and for further failure and destruction to be avoided. No room for second, third, fourth or fifth chances.
No one wants to protest. No one wants to feel such cynicism and anger towards their own club. No one wants to be disconnected and detached.
But one final expression of the despair Duchatelet has instilled upon Charlton supporters is required. One final expression, that will hopefully lead towards the change so desperately required.
A change that will mean the final day of next season is filled not with protest, but with pride.
LAST MEETING – SWINDON TOWN 3-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC (12/11/2016)
Despite having been backed by Katrien Meire just two weeks previously, Russell Slade became the latest managerial victim of Roland Duchatelet’s regime after Charlton’s poor performance in defeat at the County Ground in November.
The sacking itself coming as something of a shock, with heavy support during the summer suggesting Slade would be given time, in addition to his team slowly showing signs of improvement.
The bald-headed boss also facing Swindon without Josh Magennis, Ademola Lookman and Jordan Botaka after the trio had been called up for international duty. The fixture’s coverage by Sky Sports preventing postponement.
But none of that justified the performance in Wiltshire, as the Addicks wilted without much of a fight. The hosts ahead on the stroke of half-time, as Sean Murray’s strike took a wicked deflection off the heel of Morgan Fox, completely deceiving Declan Rudd in the Charlton goal.
A touch of misfortune in the manner the Addicks fell behind, but they only had themselves to blame as the deficit doubled five minutes after the interval. Truly horrific defending from a Swindon corner allowing Lloyd Jones to convert at the back post from a Michael Doughty flick-on.
The Addicks, showing little attacking intent and almost no composure and quality in possession, rarely looked like getting back into the game. Slade with no answers, and few alternatives in reserve.
And the scoreline was made to more greatly reflected their efforts with four minutes to play. More dire defending allowing Yaser Kasim to race forward, and play an unmarked Jon Goddard through on goal. His finish as emphatic as Charlton’s performance embarrassing.
An attempt made by their club media outlets to pretend it didn’t happen, but Swindon supporters have been preparing to face the reality of relegation to League Two long before defeat to Scunthorpe United on Saturday confirmed it.
And not only because the Robins have lingered in and around the bottom four for much of the season, taking up permanent residency in the relegation zone since March 11th.
Consecutive victories over Millwall and Fleetwood Town briefly allowing Luke Williams’ side to flirt with the idea of maintaining their League One status at the start of April, but it not enough to prevent an outcome that has appeared likely for some time. Two points from four games since, with a combination of their tame effort in defeat against the Iron and Bury’s comprehensive win over Northampton Town condemning them to fourth tier football.
But relegation was always a worry under the structure that chairman and owner Power instilled at the County Ground. His ownership never popular, and appointing Tim Sherwood as director of football has created confusion and chaos at the club. Williams’ role of head coach seemingly carrying very little value, with Sherwood controlling all from above.
A system that was never likely to work. A system that has been nothing but divisive and damaging. A system that has really done little but continue the decline of the club that has existed while Power has held power.
Clarity desperately required at the County Ground. But, in reality, change, whether in personnel or practice, is what’s really needed.
The threat of relegation that existed just a few weeks ago was a genuine one, and it to the credit of Robinson and his side that they have shown much greater determination and quality in the four games that have followed the pathetic defeat to MK Dons.
But avoiding being sucked into the division’s bottom four is no cause for celebration. Nor is the fact that victory on Sunday, combined with a draw between Walsall and MK Dons, would allow the Addicks to sneak into the top half.
The season remains a pathetic failure, for which regime, management and players all hold some degree of guilt. That the case whether the Addicks finish 12th, or whether they finish 15th.
At least, however, some degree of pride has been restored in the previous four fixtures. At least supporters have been able to enjoy three victories in four games. At least some fight has been shown, when it appeared a non-existent quality among this group of Charlton players.
But these three wins from four hardly lay a foundation for the season that follows this one. The performances much improved, but not convincing enough to create optimism after such a poor campaign, while the likely high turnover of players decreases the value of a positive finish.
What would lay a more positive foundation would be the removal of the Duchatelet regime, and a chance for this club to properly rebuild.
Swindon will be without Nicky Ajose, with the Charlton loanee ineligible to play against his parent club.
The forward, who re-joined his former club on a temporary basis having struggled to make an impression in SE7, has scored five times since returning to the County Ground in January, but hasn’t been able to prevent the Robins dropping to League Two.
Ajose one of seven loanees in Swindon’s squad, and one of the regular five that have featured in the matchday 18 since the end of February. Lloyd Jones not featuring since the win over Coventry on February 25th, and Islam Feruz not playing since the defeat to Bristol Rovers on January 28th, but one of the pair may be involved on Sunday in Ajose’s absence.
Though it might well be the case that Williams/Sherwood/whoever it is that picks Swindon’s team will have an eye towards next season when selecting the squad, making the opportunity to put a largely isolated loanee back into the squad an unattractive one. Possibly more beneficial to Swindon to offer game time to young players who are likely to be around for their attempt to make an immediate return to League One.
Young midfielder Jesse Starkey, yet to make his senior debut, was an unused substitute in the defeat to Scunthorpe and could make his first appearance this weekend, while Ellis Iandolo, Tom Smith, Jake Evans and Jordan Young are all teenagers who have appeared for the Robins in one way or another during this campaign and could be involved on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Nathan Thompson is a doubt having missed the previous three games with a heel injury, while Jamie Sendles-White remains absent as he continues to recover from rupturing his knee ligaments.
Karl Robinson has promised that Johnnie Jackson will lead the Addicks out on Sunday, with the suggestion that the skipper will be signing a new contract that places coaching responsibility ahead of playing duties.
That Jackson, who holds legendary status in SE7, could be making his final appearance in Charlton red is one neither my heart nor my head wish to contemplate. The 34-year-old will unquestionable make a fantastic coach, but he still has plenty of offer on the pitch. Not least as a leader, and a fighter.
Chris Solly will also be returning to the side, having recovered from injury, which we likely see Nathan Byrne move to the right of midfield and Karlan Ahearne-Grant drop to the bench. Unless, of course, Robinson wishes to give further game time to development squad players in this final game of the campaign.
At the very least, Ahearne-Grant is likely to be joined in the matchday squad again by Aaron Barnes and Anfernee Dijksteel, who can both count themselves a little unfortunate if they don’t make some sort of appearance having been unused substitutes at Chesterfield.
Elsewhere, loanees Declan Rudd, Jordan Botaka, Fredrik Ulvestad, Jay Dasilva and Byrne are all set to make their final appearances for Charlton, while Lewis Page remains absent.
KEY BATTLE – AGAINST THE REGIME, FOR HOPEFULLY THE FINAL TIME
I’ll be among those on Sunday in black and white, standing outside the North stand, demanding that this regime sells the club.
I want it to be the final time that my focus is on protesting, and not supporting. I want the catalogue of protests to reach its conclusion. A catalogue as long as the regime’s list of mistakes.
For it is a chore to protest. I take pride in the efforts that our supporters have gone to in order to fight against this poisonous regime. But it pains me that it must be done.
And that is unfortunately the truth. That it must be done. That we must battle against this destructive ownership, inflict further embarrassment upon them, and force them to sell.
A sale does not provide instant success, but it does provide instant relief. A regime that cannot be trusted replaced, and fresh optimism injected as a result. Next season not starting with fear of what damage Duchatelet will inflict, but with the hope and belief that a fresh start brings.
I, like everyone else, just want to return to being a normal supporter of a relatively normal football club. That something that will only happen once Duchatelet departs.
Couldn’t care less. Just get them gone so the end of next season stands a chance of being a much more enjoyable one.
As a disappointing season reaches its conclusion, there no question that thoughts must immediately turn to shaping Charlton Athletic’s squad for next season.
A squad that will hopefully be shaped under a new ownership regime, that take the club out of Roland Duchatelet’s destructive hands and allow for both sensible and proper investment. Not once under this current regime has the squad had enough quality or depth.
But before the process of strengthening the squad can begin, and regardless of how the potential sale of the club affects Charlton’s summer activity, there are plenty of decisions to be made by Karl Robinson regarding the futures of those already at the club.
So too are there judgements to be made over whether young players and those returning from loans away from The Valley are good enough to mean signings in their positions aren’t required, while there also a need to fight to retain the better players in this current squad, and not lose them so readily as has been the case in recent years.
A high turnover of players likely once again, but it necessary for Robinson to have some sort of base of a squad from which he can work and build from.
Those on loan
The contributions made by those that have been on loan at Charlton during this season have been relatively mixed. No one particularly disappointing, but no one excelling on a consistent basis.
And no one has mixed excellence and disappointment in more obvious fashion than Declan Rudd. Outstanding during spells at the start and end of the season, but enduring a horrid period while the Addicks went eight games without a win as mistake after mistake was made.
His performances in the final weeks of the season have reminded supporters that there is a decent goalkeeper in the Norwich loanee, and with his contract set to expire at Carrow Road I would suggest that Rudd is the most likely of the loanees to have a Charlton bade on his chest again next season.
Jordan Botaka also out of contract at Leeds this summer, but I’m considerably less convinced there will be an attempt to sign him permanently. Though sometimes offering a bit of additional pace and drive from the bench in the dying embers of contests, his bit-part role has largely been a frustrating one. Too many ineffective runs, too many poor decisions, and not enough threatening final balls.
A third player on loan from a Championship club is Nathan Byrne, who has been frustrating at right-back but generally quite impressive when playing on the wing. I think whether Charlton are able to make a permanent move for him will depend on whether Wigan Athletic somehow manage to maintain their status in the second tier. His chances of still having a future there will probably rise considerably if the Latics return to League One.
Certainly greater chance of attracting Fredrik Ulvestad to SE7 on a permanent basis. The Burnley loanee has been steady if unspectacular during this season, and has certainly been a reliable figure in Charlton’s midfield. Nothing, however, to suggest that he’s good enough for the Premier League and, at 24, time isn’t really on his side, meaning the Clarets will probably want to cash in.
No chance of the Addicks signing Jay Dasilva permanently, but you wonder whether Chelsea would be willing to send him back out on loan given that he’s broken into the side in recent weeks after such an extensive period gathering dust on the bench. It would also be nice to see Stephy Mavididi back at The Valley, having impressed prior to suffering a loan-ending hamstring injury.
Those out on loan
Among those out on loan, the main focus of attention is Nicky Ajose. Struggling to make a real impression in SE7, at the very least failing to live up to the 24-goal season he had for Swindon in 2015/16, the forward was shipped back to his former club for the second half of this campaign.
His record since returning to the Robins, with five goals in 15 games, not breath-taking, but they were important goals for a side attempting to salvage themselves from the bottom four. Swindon’s relegation at least confirming his loan deal won’t be made a permanent on.
But will Ajose, who showed some positive signs in a Charlton shirt but constantly frustrated with his finishing, be given a second chance at The Valley? I don’t see the harm in him being allowed to prove his worth, but I’m not totally convinced Robinson is a fan. Bottom-half League One clubs would happily take him off our hands, should the boss not want him.
Elsewhere, there a chance that Robinson is going to have a handful of players that were signed by the regime long before he arrived thrown at his feet. Igor Vetokele, Cristian Ceballos and Naby Sarr all set to return from spells out on loan.
Though, personally, I don’t see a future at The Valley for any of them. It would provide no surprise if Vetokele and Ceballos, both about to enter the final year of their Charlton contracts, have their loan spells at STTV made permanent, while Naby Sarr’s incompetence while an Addick means he’d do incredibly well to win the support and trust of anyone at the club. Under this regime or another, I would imagine as much lost cash as possible will attempt to be regained by cashing in on the trio.
There also a handful of youngsters set to return to the Addicks, all with a degree of first-team experience in Charlton colours and all holding some degree of potential. Josh Umerah and Mikhail Kennedy with limited game time while on loan at Kilmarnock and Derry City respectively, but rated highly in SE7 and might well be utilised next season, while Regan Charles-Cook returns from a more profitable spell at National League side Solihull Moors but with a greater sense of doubt as to whether he’ll make the grade at Charlton.
Terell Thomas also returns, having played the best part of a full National League season with Woking, but the centre-back is out of contract this summer and I find it unlikely that he’ll be kept on.
Those out of contract
One of the many positives about this season coming to an end is that there’s a very high chance these are the final weeks of Roger Johnson’s Charlton career. The centre-back not only dreadful, but finds himself as an enemy of supporters having approached fans after the defeat at Bury on the opening day of the season and told them “if you don’t fucking like it, don’t fuck come,” or words to that effect.
Having made just two league appearances all season, and not appeared since the turn of the year through a combination of injury and incompetence, it fair to suggest his contract definitely won’t be being renewed.
But a character in complete contrast to Johnson will certainly be remaining an Addick. Skipper Johnnie Jackson set to sign a new deal this week, which will seemingly combine duties as a player and a coach. His performances in the second half of this campaign, particularly during periods where the Addicks had been incredibly poor, prove he still has a role to play on the pitch.
Less certainty, however, about the futures of Andrew Crofts and Adam Chicksen, who both signed one-year contracts at the start of this campaign.
With Crofts, who has appeared in all but two of Charlton’s 52 league and cup games, being such a regular feature in the side, you would expect another 12 months will be handed to him. But the Welshman is 33 at the end of May, and has performed inconsistently. Sometimes a stable, calming influence in the centre, other times persistently losing possession and appearing very weak.
I suppose the questions Robinson will be asking himself is can I do better than Crofts and if so, can he still contribute to the squad. I wouldn’t be disappointed to see him depart, but I wouldn’t be disappointed to see him given another 12 months. He does a job.
I would, however, be a little disappointed to see Chicksen depart. That he can play at left-back and on the left side of midfield makes him incredibly useful, and he’s generally performed consistently in the appearances he’s made in both roles. Though his lack of appearances since the defeat to Peterborough United, with no mention of injury makes think he might well be on the way out.
Those from the development and academy squads
Aaron Barnes and Anfernee Dijksteel being named on the bench for Saturday’s game at Chesterfield, in addition to signing new contracts this season, suggests the pair will be the latest academy graduates to have some involvement with the first team.
Robinson has spoken highly of the pair on a number of occasions, while Barnes really impressed me during the Kent Senior Cup semi-final defeat to Welling United. Too often, with Kevin Foley, Ezri Konsa and Byrne all filling in, we’ve had square pegs in round holes when Chris Solly has been injured. It might be better if Barnes is the alternative at right-back next season.
It would also appear that, with Robinson reintroducing him to the first-team squad and handing him his first start since December 2015, there is an increased faith in Karlan Ahearne-Grant. I’m very much undecided on the forward but, given that he’s been around for so long, it’s easy to forget that he’s still a teenager and there’s still time for him to develop.
The 19-year-old is relatively decent on the ball and possesses bundles of pace, but lacks physical strength and I’ve not seen much from him with regards to finishing or a final delivery. In fact, it would be ideal if we could blend together Ahearne-Grant and Brandon Hanlan. His fellow teenage forward, who did well enough in the opening weeks of the season, possessing all the strength and ability to hold the ball up that Ahearne-Grant does not.
There’s certainly something there with regards to both of them, and while I wouldn’t want to depend on them even as immediate alternatives to the genuine first-team forward options, the pace of Ahearne-Grant and the strength of Hanlan makes them useful to have around and handy options from the bench.
Finally, if Rudd isn’t retained, I’d have no problem at all with Dillon Phillips becoming number one. The young goalkeeper really impressed me during his stint in the side while Rudd was injured, and I wouldn’t suggest it would be a lack of ambition or anything along those lines if we were to make the academy graduate our number one.
Those with uncertain futures
Let us not pretend that eyes won’t have been watching Charlton’s most impressive player during this campaign. Particularly since returning from injury, Ricky Holmes has been extraordinary even when the side has been pathetic, and there no doubt that even as he approaches 30 he has the quality to player at a higher level.
I don’t think there’s much doubt that Championship sides will show an interest, but it of vital importance that the winger is retained. He’s irreplaceable.
Let us also not pretend that the signing of new contracts for young players prevents them from being sold. Interest in Ezri Konsa and Joe Aribo has already been reported, and Charlton’s record under the Duchatelet regime when it comes to retaining young players doesn’t fill you with confidence. And even if they club were to be sold to a regime with greater footballing ambitions, it’s not always a simple equation to retain young players when Premier League teams are circling.
I do think, however, that Charlton and League One is the right place for both Konsa and Aribo to be for the time being at least. Both have already shown their unquestionable quality, but both still require a degree of development, and more game time at this level would be beneficial to them. They’re not quite at the level of Joe Gomez or Ademola Lookman.
Less terrifying questions can also be asked about the futures of Tony Watt and Lee Novak. Watt divides fans, but he’s been okay since his return from Hearts, though the point that being just ‘okay’ doesn’t justify his wages is reasonable. Novak, however, has been utterly terrible, and it might be best for both parties if he moves on.
It also wouldn’t come as much surprise to me if Jorge Teixeira finds another club. He’s been alright since returning to the team under Robinson, helped by his frequent contributions in attack, but a sense of distrust seems to remain to an even greater extent than it does with Watt. In reality, he’s also fourth choice behind Patrick Bauer, Jason Pearce and Konsa, and I can’t see him being willing to settle for that.
Finally, I do wonder what next season holds for Ahmed Kashi and Harry Lennon. There was a suggestion from Robinson a couple of months ago that he’d not had contact with Kashi, who has spent an entire season out injured having been unavailable for much of the previous campaign with the same Achilles problem. I’m not convinced he’ll be around next season, recovered or not.
In the case of Lennon, he’s had a very unfortunate season. Sent off against Oxford United on one of the two occasions he made a league appearance, and otherwise spending much of the campaign dealing with a hamstring problem. I think that, after such a frustrating season for him, he’ll want to be playing football in the next one, and that might well result in him moving on.
Either way, I hope from a perspective of the individual that both are able to resume their careers after such lengthy periods out of action.
In the final weeks of a disappointing season, where games are to be played that have neither genuine consequence on the top or bottom of the division, creating encouragement becomes as important as creating celebration.
The value of victory, knowing that three points merely changes the position of Charlton Athletic among League One’s also-rans, decreasing, while the value of positive performances, with supporters wanting to see signs that Karl Robinson is capable of making the Addicks competitive in the next campaign, rises.
Which, of course, isn’t to suggest that points become an irrelevance. Certainly not an irrelevance to the Addicks who had travelled to the Proact Stadium to see Charlton’s final away game of this tiresome campaign. Certainly not an irrelevance as a 2-1 victory over Chesterfield, a first away victory in nine attempts, was celebrated come full-time.
A tiresome campaign of watching the Addicks on the road had produced only its fifth win. Some joy, as inconsequential as it might be, for supporters that have been subjected to persistent suffering. Delight amid the disappointment and despair.
Those supporters, however, had not seen a performance from Robinson’s side that meant their delight could translate into something that resembled optimism for next season. It, to some extent, a victory against the already relegated Spireites that relied upon good fortune. At the very least, it a performance that lacked the intensity of Monday’s effort against Gillingham.
So much so that the moment of quality that swayed the fixture in Charlton’s favour came not only out of the blue, but after Chesterfield had wasted a glorious chance to go ahead. Wastefulness from the home side, often failing to make the most of openings offered to them by poor defending, something that stuck with them, while Jake Forster-Caskey’s 37th-minute powerful strike from distance stuck into the bottom corner of Chesterfield’s net.
And as Gary Caldwell’s men pushed for an equaliser, fortune provided the assist for the Addicks to double their lead with 57 minutes played. Ricky Holmes’ free-kick deflecting off the head of a man in the Chesterfield wall, wrong footing Thorsten Stuckmann, and bouncing into an unguarded bottom corner.
The remainder of the game, however, giving off the impression that Charlton’s two-goal advantage was slightly flattering. The Addicks dropping deeper and deeper, defending with less and less composure, and most grateful to their opponents for their lack of composure in the final third.
Something of a tiresome final half hour, therefore, and three minutes of additional time set up to be particularly so as Chesterfield’s pressure finally told. Declan Rudd saving from David Faupala, but Reece Mitchell able to emphatically convert the rebound.
Tiresome, in fact, until the final kick of this campaign that won’t take place on The Valley’s turf, despite victory being secured. A penalty awarded to the Addicks as they broke and Jon Nolan hauled down Forster-Caskey, but the resulting spot-kick from the man fouled was saved by Stuckmann. It probably summing up an affair low on quality, with the final whistle immediately following.
The joy of the supporters concentrated in a rare positive result on the road, and not the repercussions of it. For if a foundation has been laid for the next campaign, by this victory and the two achieved in the previous three games, it is not a very stable one. You still look at Robinson’s Charlton with uncertainty.
And maybe, amid those full-time celebrations, a reminder was offered that there would be instability to any foundation set by Robinson’s Charlton. “We want Roland out” belted out passionately by almost all of those in the away end before a minute of victory being confirmed had even passed. You still look at Roland Duchatelet’s Charlton with complete disgust and distrust.
But what those three victories in four have done, and not least this first away win since January 28th, is provide the smallest amount of relief and respite to suffering supporters.
It those in the away end at the Proact, combining opposition to an awful regime and support for a side who have shown greater levels of determination and drive in recent weeks, who warranted the good fortune, as much as those representing the Addicks on the pitch.
A small one, and it not something that necessarily inspires hope of more, but some sort of reward for remaining defiant in this season of dire despair.
The promise of some of Charlton’s younger players being handed starts, and the run without victory on the road, meant a replication of the ruthless win over Gillingham wasn’t necessarily expected, but the side Robinson named wasn’t as inexperienced as was hinted at.
Karlan Ahearne-Grant, handed his first start since December 2015, came into the starting XI in place of Jordan Botaka, but otherwise the side representing the Addicks had something of a familiar feel to it. Patrick Bauer dropping to the bench, though only to allow Ezri Konsa to take up his more natural centre-back position, while Joe Aribo took the spot vacated by Konsa in midfield.
But despite changes to the XI that was so impressive against the Gills being minimal, the Addicks started at the Proact in an unconvincing, unsettled fashion. A better connection from Mitchell in the middle after teenager Joe Rowley had broken free down the right far too easily might have put the hosts ahead with just two minutes played, but Charlton were just about able to scramble clear.
In fact, the threat of Rowley and Mitchell were causing persistent concern in the game’s opening minutes. Nathan Byrne and Jay Dasilva seemingly a step behind each time, as the Spireites midfield looked to set one of the pair through as soon as they received the ball. Rowley playing centrally but running into wide positions, while Mitchell hugged the touchline.
And it was the former who was involved as the hosts tested Declan Rudd for the first time. Rowley combining with Dan Gardner, allowing the winger to break into the box and sting Rudd’s pals with an effort that was only claimed at the second attempt. A sigh of relief that Gardner had shot and not cut the ball back, where several blue shirts stood unmarked.
Slowly, however, the Addicks were beginning to grow into the game. Remaining unconvincing defensively, but displaying greater threat and fluency going forward. Holmes first of all driving wide after a half-cleared ball fell to him, before driving down the left and seeing his cut back intercepted by Tom Anderson with Josh Magennis lurking.
And, as is so often the case, this growth in attacking threat continued to be led by Holmes. Having earlier, in disappointing fashion by his standards, struck a free-kick against the Chesterfield wall, a second invitation to display his dead ball skills was made better use of. The effort heading for the top corner, until the fingertips of Stuckmann tipped the ball over the bar.
Holmes, and his incredibly consistent free-kick qualities, were generating more noise from an away end already making themselves hear. Chants against Duchatelet persistent in the opening stages of the match, though mixed with support of the side.
Mixed, too, with cries of frustration, and not just because the Addicks remained unconvincing at the back. Magennis played through into a fantastic shooting position, but managing only a tame prod towards goal that was easily claimed by Stuckmann.
And with that, the game settled into something of a rhythm. A rhythm of both sides exchanging attempts to get forward, normally having given an opponent the ball, but lacking any sort of potency to make their moves count. Rowley and Mitchell still threatening, but lacking an end product, Andrew Crofts drove comfortably wide, and Konsa failed to turn being played through over the top into a shot on goal.
But it seemed that with 35 minutes played, an end to that rather tedious rhythm had been found, and a side had broken the deadlock. That side being the hosts, as Crofts had the ball robbed from his feet on the edge of the area and Rowley was able to break through. A pull back to Kristian Dennis but, through a combination of red shirts throwing themselves in front of the ball and the hand of Rudd as the deflected shot trickled backwards towards the line, the forward could not capitalise.
Charlton supporters still bemoaning their side’s inability to defend, and feeling thankful for their good fortune, as less than two minutes later the ball fell to Forster-Caskey on the edge of Chesterfield’s area. Nothing really on for the midfielder, though a bit of space ahead of him, so the January signing opted to drive towards goal. A drive that combined both beauty and power as it flew beyond Stuckmann and into the bottom corner.
Out of nothing, and having flirted with falling behind, a moment of quality that went against this game’s nature had given the Addicks the lead.
Though there were immediate reminders that Forster-Caskey’s sublime strike was neither a match winner, nor a justification for further untidy defending. A Chesterfield free-kick ultimately falling to Rowley, and an important block from Konsa required to prevent him from scoring. Nolan attempting to emulate Forster-Caskey with the follow-up, but instead sending the ball in the general direction of the corner flag.
And while there was still time for Holmes to bomb down the right and strike into the side netting, the half-time whistle was a sound of solace with the Addicks still appearing something of a mess at the back. A situation not helped by a sliced clearance by Rudd causing chaos at the back, but Konsa just about able to tidy up.
But the break was a source of solace because Robinson’s men had the lead. A lead that, with Chesterfield’s finishing so tame, they would surely protect if the backline could be sharpened up over the course of the interval.
Alas, the early signs as the second half got underway were not exactly encouraging. But at least the Spireites remained woeful in front of goal, as Dennis fired horribly off-target after taking advantage of a Konsa slip to move through goal, and Nolan got in behind down the left only to tamely poke an effort into the hands of Rudd.
Gardner soon to fire straight at Charlton’s goalkeeper from a half-cleared corner, but there would surely come a time when Chesterfield would make the most of one of their openings if they continued to be given them. The defence still concerning; a second goal needed.
And it looked to have been found when Ahearne-Grant was hauled down by Paul McGinn. For though contact most certainly started outside the box, it appeared to continue into it. Referee Salisbury, however, opting to award the Addicks a free-kick on the edge of the box.
But when you have a free-kick taker of the quality of Holmes, a free-kick can often produce the same reward that a penalty might. Certainly not the winger’s finest effort, with the ball bouncing off the Chesterfield wall and ultimately trickling into the opposite corner he was aiming for, but another dead ball had produced a goal for the Addicks. A goal so vital in the context of the match.
And you could be forgiven, despite Robinson’s side being underwhelming and there still 33 minutes to be played, that the deflected strike had effectively sealed Charlton’s three points. McGinn’s ball across the face of goal, which needed just a touch to be turned home, a reminder of the wastefulness and tameness of this Chesterfield side, who would surely not recover from two down.
To the credit of Caldwell’s side, however, they had not yet accepted defeat. Mitchell’s striking wide from a promising position, substitute David Faupala not quite getting enough on a Rowley cross to divert it beyond Rudd, and Dennis dragging a first-time effort across the face of goal and wide. The Addicks sitting deeper, and the already relegated Spireites, with nothing to lose and plenty of youth in their side, having a go.
Having a go to the extent that, with 16 minutes still to play, they were agonisingly close to putting themselves back in with a shout of stealing a point. Anderson’s knock down volleyed goalwards by Dennis, only for the ball to bounce back off the crossbar.
The ball also bouncing back off the hands of Rudd, as the goalkeeper horribly fumbled a strike from Laurence Maguire. The ball travelling some distance out of his control, but there thankfully no man in blue inside Charlton’s box, and Rudd was able to pounce on the loose ball.
And so, despite the visitors having a two-goal advantage against an already relegated side going into the game’s final ten minutes, there was still an element of pressure on the Addicks. Pressure that was always eased by Chesterfield’s quite laughable inability to finish, as Rowley flashed wide from a half-cleared corner, but pressure all the same.
Pressure that would have been eased completely had Charlton substitute Jordan Botaka not done an impression of a Spireite forward. All the time in the world for the Leeds loanee to calmly finish after a Holmes cross came through to him at the back post, but instead the ball was blasted well over the bar.
A miss that, with the game now drawing close to stoppage-time, really shouldn’t have counted for anything. But in the first minute of three added, Chesterfield forwards stopped doing impressions of Chesterfield forwards.
That despite Faupala, in behind and firing straight at Rudd, doing his best to waste another glorious opening for the hosts. Mitchell alive to the loose ball, and depositing it right into the far top corner of the empty Charlton net.
Two more minutes still to play, the home crowd encouraged, and the visiting supporters uncomfortable. More importantly, the visiting defence was uncomfortable. As a series of long throws were launched into the box, time-displaying devices were looked at every half second in the away end, in the hope that would somehow speed up the arrival of the conclusion of this contest.
But there was speed displayed as, from another attempt from Chesterfield to get the ball into the box, the Addicks broke. Botaka leading the charge into the opposition penalty area, with Forster-Caskey with him for company all the way. The winger, probably quite wisely after his previous attempt, opting to pass to his teammate, only for Nolan to bundle Forster-Caskey over and concede a penalty.
This, irrespective of whether it was scored or not, was surely game over. Probably a contributing factor to the away end signing for skipper Johnnie Jackson, subbed on a few moments previously, to take the penalty despite his dubious record from the spot.
Instead, and with Holmes seemingly also taking an interest, it was the man fouled who placed the ball on the spot. Alas, so too did Forster-Caskey place the ball comfortably for Stuckmann to save.
The midfielder’s penalty, in some contrast to his goal, lacking power and direction, and Chesterfield’s goalkeeper able to at least prevent the scoreline from flattering the Addicks. The final scoreline, with the referee’s whistle blowing before Forster-Caskey had even placed his head in his hands.
But it mattered little, a source of humour in fact for seemingly both players and supporters, as a rather bizarre game ended in Charlton victory despite the miss.
Appreciation for the players was combined with determined and vocal shouts against the regime, but this remained a victory that, regardless of the overall context it sat in, was to be enjoyed.
Without a win on the road for almost three months, and with only four previously gained this season, there every reason to make the most of the final away game of this campaign providing a rare moment of joy.
And in some ways, this was the sort of away win that the Addicks have rarely had this season. Perform in a relatively unimpressive fashion but, through moments of quality and fortune that didn’t necessarily suit the overall pattern of the contest, secure victory nonetheless.
On many occasions, though still performing poorly, they have played in a manner that emulated Chesterfield. Incredibly tame in the final third despite getting into good positions, and cracking somewhat in the important moments both going forward and backwards.
That, in one respect, is credit to the increase in determination that has been on show since the pathetic defeat to MK Dons. If nothing else, you need a degree of determination to grind out unattractive wins.
In another, it is really down to good fortune. Holmes’ deflection and Chesterfield’s wastefulness allowing the Addicks to claim three points from a performance that wasn’t exactly worth of three points. Periods of sluggishness in possession, combined with horrendous defensive efforts that were somehow not capitalised on.
But make no mistake that there is enjoyment to be had in only the second away victory of the calendar year.
For particularly in this half of the season, there have been some unbearable games and moments on the road. To make a list would leave me forgetting some of the other horrendous experiences away from SE7 during this campaign, but Oldham, Shrewsbury and Peterborough spring to mind as being particularly painful.
And while Charlton’s unconvincing performance attempted to do otherwise, there was no pain to be had come full-time at the Proact.
Not a win to inspire or allow predictions of success next season, but, having witnessed all 23 league away games this season, merely a win to be enjoyed in isolation.
And if nothing else, I’m simply grateful that this torrid campaign of away performances has ended with victory.
Apologies for the lack of proper photos. My camera was confiscated because of “what’s going on at (our) club”. Stewards are strange people.