On this Easter Friday, supporters of Charlton Athletic and Coventry City will be overseeing crucifixions of their own, in the hope that the resurrection of their clubs will follow.
For a combined protest effort, emulating the one seen at The Valley in October, will again seek to highlight the damage Roland Duchatelet and SISU have done to cripple these clubs, and force the change that is so desperately required.
The two sets of hurting supporters, who have suffered unrelentingly in recent years, will march with determination towards the Ricoh Arena and demand their respective ownerships move their clubs into safer hands.
That a meeting between the Sky Blues and the Addicks is one that features two sides in the bottom nine of England’s third tier is enough in itself to highlight the damage done by the respective regimes, but the problems for both clubs, and both sets of supporters, extend far beyond matters on the pitch. And that despite Coventry’s relegation to League Two likely to be confirmed over the Easter weekend.
In fact, on-the-pitch failure is merely a sideshow to the real damage that these two ownerships have caused. Their actions destroying the identity of two football clubs, and leaving supporters detached and demoralised. What they currently support are shells of the clubs they once adored.
The final destination of Friday’s march, the Ricoh Arena, probably the greatest reflection of that. Not only providing a genuine problem for the Sky Blues, with uncertainty over their future at the ground, but highlighting the soulless and empty states that both of these clubs have been placed in by their owners.
Duchatelet and those involved in the SISU group will undoubtedly show ignorance and a lack of interest in the actions and emotions of the supporters of the clubs they own. The clubs that they believe are primarily theirs, and not the supporters.
In fact, Duchatelet, despite not watching a Charlton game since October 2014, will probably go out of his way to make some sort of offensive comment in the aftermath. Ample support to be provided by the mouths of Katrien Meire and Sue Parkes.
But these stupid, terrorist-like and vinegar pissing customers will not be beaten. This another weekend of embarrassment for two of the worst ownerships in English football, and another weekend of pride for two of the most determined sets of supporters.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 3-0 COVENTRY CITY (15/10/2016)
The numbers involved in the pre-match march, the embarrassment-inflicting disruption of the game, and the passion behind each moment of protest shared by supporters of Charlton and Coventry issued a reminder to their respective ownerships that they would always lose.
But it was the Addicks who claimed the on-the-pitch victory at The Valley in October.
For once the pigs had been cleared, and Ruben Lameiras had cut inside to strike the base of Declan Rudd’s right-hand post, the hosts took control of the contest.
Ricky Holmes, turning away from Coventry’s backline and poking home from a Fredrik Ulvestad ball over the top, making the most of some dreadful Sky Blues defending to give the Addicks a 32nd-minute lead.
It a lead, however, that never looked totally secure. The visitors still firmly believing there was something in this for them, and only brilliance from Rudd prevented them from drawing level. A fine save from Andre Wright, before reacting to tip Chris McCann’s follow-up attempt over the bar.
But there could be no sense of injustice when Charlton, still the game’s better side despite being made to work to protect their advantage, effectively confirmed their victory with 12 minutes to play. Jordan Turnbull pressed into gifting possession to Josh Magennis, before the Northern Ireland international squared for Ademola Lookman to finish from close range.
And Magennis, marvellous not only in that moment but throughout much of the game, grabbed the goal his efforts deserved with two minutes to play. Ulvestad’s ball over the top perfect for the forward, as he shook off Mark Ricketts with ease and finished coolly.
A slightly flattering scoreline, but a deserved victory nonetheless for Slade’s side.
The lifting of the EFL Trophy at Wembley, in front of 43,000 of their own fans, and three consecutive home wins has done little but temporarily mask Coventry supporters’ suffering.
In fact, that mask is likely to be lifted on Friday. Anything but victory relegates the Sky Blues to the fourth tier of English football, where they have not played since the 1958/59 season. A reflection of the failure that SISU have overseen while in charge of the Sky Blues.
And that three consecutive home wins under the management of Mark Robins have given Coventry no genuine chance of survival is a reflection of a season of a failure.
A season where a squad that was always short of quality, and too reliant on young players, simply hasn’t been able to compete under the management of Tony Mowbray, Mark Venus or Slade. The last of that trio arriving at the Ricoh after his sacking by Charlton, and achieving just three wins in 16 games.
A bit of pride restored with the Wembley result against Oxford United, victories over Port Vale and Bristol Rovers, and Saturday’s 1-0 against Peterborough United, but it all relatively meaningless. Relegation days away from being confirmed.
Supporters of Charlton were promised by their failing and club-destroying regime at the start of this campaign that a top six finish in League One would be achieved as a minimum.
Instead, the Addicks sit 16th, on course for their lowest league finish since World War Two, and managed only their second win in 15 games on Saturday with victory over Southend United.
But it was a victory, somewhat unexpected after dreadful efforts against Peterborough United and MK Dons, that averted complete crisis. Karl Robinson’s side would have been just two points above the bottom four without it, with the side occupying the final relegation place – Port Vale – possessing a game in hand.
And while with the gap between the Addicks and the bottom four at five points meaning relegation fears cannot be completely laughed off, the effort and determination of those in red at the weekend suggests this side will not embarrass itself in the remaining four league games. All against sides sitting in the division’s bottom five positions.
Not a completely polished performance, with saves from Declan Rudd and a horrendous miss from Franck Nouble required, but one that possessed the intensity that had been completely absent in the previous two fixtures. Chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” replaced by unrelenting support from the Covered End.
Avoiding being dragged into the bottom four is hardly cause for celebration, and this season a horrendous failure regardless, but the least that can be asked for is that level of determination and intensity is replicated in the final four games of this campaign.
Young midfielder Ben Stevenson should be fit for the visit of Charlton despite being forced during the second-half of Saturday’s victory over Peterborough with a slight niggle.
Stevenson, who was heavily linked with a move to Brentford during the January transfer window and will surely depart the Sky Blues in the summer, is one of several promising homegrown players who have salvaged some degree of pride from the wreckage of this football club.
One of that contingent, however, is a doubt for the Easter Weekend clash. Jordan Willis, skippering the Sky Blues at just 22, missed the win over Peterborough with a thigh injury that has plagued him for several weeks, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be fit enough to return to the squad.
Doubts also surrounding the fitness of forward Kwame Thomas, who was prevented from featuring in the Posh victory with a groin problem.
Elsewhere, a large contingent of players with Charlton connections are likely to feature for Robins’ side, though former Addick Kyel Reid may not feature from the start having been withdrawn at half-time on Saturday.
The winger is joined in Coventry’s squad by Kevin Foley, who followed Slade to the Ricoh after his six-month contract in SE7 expired, one-time loanee Marcus Tudgay, and reserve goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook, who is the brother of young Charlton midfielder Regan.
Robinson a man that likes to tinker with his team, but there a reasonable chance the Charlton boss could name an unchanged XI for the trip to the Ricoh.
Saturday’s victory over Southend not only featuring a determined performance from each man wearing the red shirt, but ending without any fresh injuries being picked up. Something of a rarity given the turnover in the treatment in recent months.
And with Charlton finally discovering a bit of fight, intensity and intent, Robinson might well instil his trust in the same side that started the game against the Shrimpers. Changes only really likely in midfield, where Jake Forster-Caskey, particularly after playing a hand in the winning goal at the weekend, and Johnnie Jackson will be pressing for the places of Ezri Konsa and Andrew Crofts.
Elsewhere, Lee Novak remains a doubt with a groin problem, while his season-ending hamstring injury means former Coventry left-back Lewis Page won’t feature against the club he played for a start of this campaign.
KEY BATTLE – THE ONE AGAINST THE OWNERSHIPS
There no question that both sides, and as such both sets of supporters, acknowledge the value of collecting three points at the Ricoh Arena this Good Friday.
Coventry’s relegation all but confirmed, but there still a desire to prolong the inevitable, while Charlton’s flirtation with the bottom four is not yet over. Three points, regardless of the situation, is football’s most important currency.
But the future of these football clubs is dependent on change. Three points for either of these clubs, in the grand scheme of things, does very little. A change of ownership does so much.
It quells the fear of total destruction, and sets a platform from which to rebuild. It ends regimes of complete failure, who refuse to change their ways, and allows supporters to regain a degree of belief. It allows supporters who feel detached to reconnect with clubs that have been taken away from them and had their identity damaged.
What these clubs require cannot be achieved with three points. Only be winning the battle against these poisonous regimes. By forcing change.
And so while once the game is underway the immediate focus turns to collecting three points, the real battle for these two sets of supporters is against their ownerships.
Despite Coventry’s improvement in recent weeks, you’d still like to believe the Addicks will have enough to come away from the Midlands with a positive result. Coventry City 1-2 Charlton Athletic