Most years there seems to be one club which goes into freefall in the winter and drops into the relegation places from a position of apparent safety. Until last Saturday it was looking as if Fulham might be that club. Since the beginning of November their record was worse than Charlton's. They had taken 9 points from a possible 45 (1 win, 6 draws, 8 defeats) and had dropped from tenth place to twentieth. The run had seen the demise of manager Kit Symons and the appointment in December of ex-Watford boss Slavisa Jokanovic. He watched from the stands while his team despatched Rotherham 4-1 but then supervised two draws and four defeats. It seemed that, if Charlton could string together a win or two, Fulham might be a club they could overtake.
Last Saturday, however, they went to near neighbours QPR and beat them 3-1. When, later the same day, Milton Keynes won at Derby and Bristol City beat Ipswich, Charlton's fortuitous point at home to Cardiff was put into perspective. We go to Craven Cottage on Saturday seven points behind our hosts. There is some hope in the fact that Fulham then reverted to type on Tuesday night losing 3-0 at Blackburn. It hasn't escaped our notice that for the QPR game Fulham fielded Scott Parker in midfield for his first game for months and that he was absent from the squad at Blackburn. He was very influential in our 3-0 defeat at Craven Cottage last season and it wouldn't be a bad thing if his absence up north was due to recurrence of injury rather than being rested.
Charlton have made seven new signings since the turn of the year but it is perfectly possible that none of them could feature in the starting line up on Saturday. The latest recruit - Yun Suk-Young - is a left back and it might be timely to give Morgan Fox a rest for the game. It is noted that Tareiq Homes-Dennis featured for the u21s earlier this week so he might also come into contention. Johnnie Jackson will be out for a fortnight and there is a question mark about Jordan Cousins so our midfield will have a new look. El Hadji Ba, although he sometimes looks disastrously error prone, can bring some moments of creativity which the team urgently needs. Sadly, it looks as if Igor Vetokele may yet again miss out through injury and Yaya Sanogo apparently has some back pain.
The burning question remains: given the home team's colours, should the well-dressed Charlton fan don a black and white scarf for this fixture? The CAS Trust Fashion sub committee has issued a statement clarifying that it sees this as a matter entirely for individual consciences and that members should be reassured that no disciplinary action will be taken whatever they decide to do. Given the way that the wind blows off the river over there, however, it is strongly recommended that some sort of scarf is worn.