It seems an awful long time since that warm September evening when Charlton went to top of the table Norwich and not only maintained their unbeaten start of the season but staged a smash and grab raid to take all three points. Yes, Norwich had fifteen shots to our four and nine corners to our one and we were hanging on hopefully for a point with less than ten minutes to go but our reward was the outrageous deflection which took Jackson's effort past Ruddy for the only goal of the game in the 86th minute. Joe Gomez had looked accomplished at right back until his injury. Karel Ahearne-Grant had looked lively in his cameo. There was time to applaud the team off before sprinting to the station for the last train. There was a lot to enjoy that evening.
Just over four months later Charlton are sliding towards the relegation zone amidst gloom, anger and apathy. Hopes of staying up seem to reside in the hands of Blackpool, Wigan and Millwall rather than in our own.
Things also went downhill for Norwich after that September game. They won just one of their next nine games and fell from top spot to outside the top six. The prevailing opinion of their fans after the Charlton defeat was that it was just one little slip on their inevitable march to promotion but, by December, their complacency was gone. They stuffed Huddersfield 5-0 and Millwall 6-1 but still didn't make up sufficient ground to reach the play-off positions. After their FA Cup defeat by Preston manager Neil Adams handed in his resignation and was swiftly replaced by Alex Neil from Hamilton.
This had an immediate impact with a fine 2-1 win at Bournemouth with ten men for half an hour and a 3-2 defeat of Cardiff, but home defeat to Brentford and a draw at Birmingham punctured the optimism a bit. Saturday's 4-0 drubbing of Blackpool raised the spirits somewhat.
Norwich have a bigger and better squad than Charlton. In Jerome, Hooper and Grabban they have three proven Championship-quality strikers who have scored more goals this season than the entire Charlton team. Redmond and Houlihan provide guile in the midfield. Their defence is not the strongest, however, even though it may well include former Charlton youth player Michael Turner who has had a respectable career in the Premier League. Their goalkeeper has played for England. They are far better than Rotherham but not as good as Middlesborough. A draw would have to be considered a good result for Charlton.
Finally, Norwich are a club that Charlton would love to be right now. Rooted in their community; attracting loyal (26k) enthusiastic support; Owned locally, and with a chance of promotion via the play-offs. Yes, please.