Charlton Athletic are a club that have become synonymous with “family” and “community” in the past dozen years or so but their past has many wonderful stories and elements of clever protest that has seen them become revolutionary, nay pioneers, in this field. Over the last couple of seasons the fans have been embroiled in a bitter battle to try and force the removal of their unpopular owner who oversaw the clubs disastrous fall into League One.
Back in the 1980’s the club were in such a sorry state that they had to leave The Valley and ground share with Crystal Palace. The local council refused to approve plans to renovate The Valley so the fans formed their own political party, The Valley Party, and stood in the local elections. They got 15,000 votes and forced the hand of the council to approve the plans and the rest, as they say, is history!
But I digress, back in the modern era Charlton fans have been using similarly innovative tactics to make their dissatisfaction with the current owner, Belgium millionaire Roland Dutchatelet, known. They have set up billboards protesting near the ground, boycotts of merchandise and catering, set up an alternative programme and even had marches and mock funeral processions through the streets. It is always sad to see fans having to take such drastic action but it is an unfortunate reality of modern football that owners do not always have a clubs best interests at heart and the fans feel a duty to protect what they invest so much time and emotion into over the years.
The ownerships lack of vision and patience led to a ridiculous number of managerial changes that directly contributed to the side’s relegation to League One. Fans get tired of impatient owners continuously chopping and changing managers after a few bad results, in fact it is often very easy to see which clubs tend to be successful by the number of (often very few) managers they have had over a number of seasons. It is not all doom and gloom as things might be about to change for The Addicks …
Enter Karl Robinson
Whether or not you like the man, no one can deny that Karl Robinson did an excellent job with MK Dons to improve them year on year until they eventually got the promotion to the Championship that everyone desired. It is true that it did not turn out exactly how everyone at the club would have liked but his achievements were there for all to see.
What was the key to his success? Well it is not as simple as naming just a one factor as there were many but one of the biggest was the time he was afforded to do his job. He never felt that he was under pressure or in danger of losing his job if he lost a couple of matches and was, therefore, able to instil his philosophy onto the players and club.
If he, and this is a big IF, is allowed the same time to work with his players at Charlton I think it is only a matter of time before this great club will be back in The Championship again. His record last season was not particularly great but then again it is unfair to judge any manager who takes over part way through a season. One encouraging sign however it that he managed to end the season with a 5 game unbeaten run, including 4 wins, indicating that he was starting to get it into his player exactly how he wanted them to play. Now, with a summer of recruitment under his belt, you feel he is starting to assemble a squad capable of promotion. Each game that goes by you sense that the players are improving and despite the recent defeat to Wigan, there is a real sense of purpose.
With the transfer window finally shut Robinson will now look to shape his team into promotion contenders and there is more than enough talent to achieve this. Even with the off the field problems the fans should and probably will, get right behind their team. Billy Clarke and Mark Marshall are both excellent signings from a Bradford side that were within one match of promotion last season. Marshall is yet to really feature due to injury but he is widely accepted as Bradford’s best player from the last campaign.
One player who has been instrumental is Ricky Holmes, heralded by his manager as the “best winger in the division” he has been involved with almost everything good that the team has done. He has improved at every club that he has played for from Barnet to Northampton and now Charlton! The creative fulcrum of the side and a player who will chip in with a fair few goals, he will be key to the Addicks success.
Just what you need in League One! A big man up top that can hold up the ball, be an aerial presence and score plenty of goals. He has been a handful for defenders already this season and you still get the feeling there is more to come from the former Kilmarnock man. He is likely to be used to bring others into play in Robinson’s system and could be a great foil for Holmes.
Not to everyone’s liking but he is strong and dependable. Charlton need him to have a good season as the defence is probably the weakest area of the squad. Bauer can also act as an attacking threat with his aerial ability from set pieces.
A couple of players that are really showing promise are Jake Forster-Caskey and Tarique Fosu. They are 23 and 21 respectively and have a great opportunity to thrive in this side. Forster-Caskey has been threatening to become a top, top talent for a number of seasons and this could be his break out year. He has already shown that he has an eye for goal in the win over Northampton and there is plenty more to come!
So Charlton fans D3D4 will be watching the developments at The Valley closely this season as you could well be on the verge of something very special. The loss to Wigan shows that there is still work to be done, especially at the back, but then again there will not be many teams that will take points of Paul Cook’s team this season. Karl Robinson is still a legend at MK Dons and he may well fulfil that mantle at the Valley in the not so distant future!
words James Richards