14 April 2012

Charlton 44 Third Division 0

Now that promotion is confirmed, maybe we can stop being superstitious, and start talking about how good Charlton have been this season. We can no longer jinx the team.

Top of the league since mid-September. Promotion gained with three games to spare. 94 points (and 100 a real possibility). 20 clean sheets. 15 away wins. A goal difference of +44 (the best outside the Premier League). According to 25-1 on to win the title. With that sort of performance, Charlton should have been promoted long ago. In a normal season they would have been.

Which just goes to show what a strong competition League 1 has been this year. In particular, the two Sheffield clubs have not let up in their pursuit. Now one of them, probably Wednesday, will face the torture of the play-offs. In a normal season, the league would have been a straight and thrilling contest between them, and they could probably both have got and deserved promotion.

But this wasn't a normal season. Charlton's achievement has been phenomenal. All the more so, when you look at how it started. An almost entirely new squad was assembled over the summer, and lots of established players left. We've seen similar changes before. In the years of post-Curbishley decline the turnover of players was dizzying, but the common factor always seemed to be that the incoming players were no help at all. You just need to think of Hasselbaink, Jeffers, Faye and others too appalling to mention to be reminded of those years.

The difference this time seems to be that Chris Powell was involved. He has spoken about his intention to change the mindset of the club, to get in players who shared his approach to the game. And it's worked. One of the striking things about Chris Powell, once you get past his huge charisma, is his football intelligence: he has an exquisite eye for a good player. The best example of this is Yann Kermorgant. Powell knew him from Leicester, where he was out of favour and unwanted, but obviously saw something in him that no-one else did. He's gone on to be one of the stars of the team, not just for his skill and physical presence, but for his indomitable spirit. He must be one of the most fouled players in the league, but he shrugs it all off. As he's a Breton I'd liken him to a menhir, but of course he's far more mobile. More of an Obelix, perhaps.

So the result has been that a rookie manager, in his first full season, with a squad that had never met before the season started, has achieved one of the best performances ever in an English football season. Yes, it really is as good as that. It has been a privilege and a huge pleasure to follow Charlton this season

We knew what had to happen for Charlton to be promoted today. They had to win, and Wednesday had to fail to win at Colchester. It could happen, but I didn't think it would. Be honest, you didn't think it would. That's not how it happens with Charlton. The rulebook says we don't get these breaks. But now, Charlton fans, we've got a new rulebook. I was following the game on twitter and once BWP scored, I felt secure. Charlton don't give away the lead these days. All we needed was for Colchester to hold out against Sheffield Wednesday. And that happened, and suddenly my eyes were full of salty water and I lost the ability to speak.

My only regret about today is that I wasn't there. But next week there's a similar situation. For the first and only time in my life I'll be wanting MKDons to win. This pains me, but if Charlton beat Wycombe, and Sheffield United don't win at Milton Keynes, Charlton will have won the league. And then we can celebrate properly, all of us, at the Valley.


Hungry Ted said...

Really enjoyable read. Looking forward to Saturday at The Valley...

Brian said...

Thanks, Ted. I have a feeling that with the pressure suddenly off, Charlton are going to give poor Wycombe a shellacking on Saturday. Which will be nice.