While Karl Robinson was enthusiastically rebuilding his squad during the summer the comparison was often made with the situation of Chris Powell in 2011. Both managers, it was argued, knew the weaknesses of the squads they had inherited and both were clear about who was needed to remedy the situation. It was understood that both would be given reasonable financial backing.
The optimists among us bought into this narrative - buoyed by the superlatives that Robinson used to describe his acquisitions. But the league table doesn't lie and, however much we might have wanted Robinson to make a success of it, there can be no doubt at all that Powell's recruitment and retention was pretty much perfect and that Robinson's has been woefully flawed.
After Boxing Day 2011 Powell's Charlton sat proudly at the top of the league with a record of fifteen wins, six draws, one defeat and 51 points. Goal difference was 47-18. Six years later Robinson's outfit is in ninth place. They have won ten, drawn six and lost seven. The team has accumulated 36 points and goal difference is 31-30. Yes, they have played one game less but, given that the game in hand is at Shrewsbury, it is hardly significant. Injuries have played their part and it could be argued that Powell was lucky in this regard. On the other hand, could it be that he recruited more robust players and managed them more efficiently? Would anyone swap Hollands, Morrison, Stephens or Wiggins for Clarke, Reeves, Marshall or even Fosu? I don't think I'm alone in feeling that Kermorgant was a slightly better late addition to the squad than Dodoo.
All this brings us to Wigan who are replicating the achievements of Powell's 2011/12 champions. They have won sixteen, drawn four and lost three. They have 52 points and a goal difference of 49-12 and the indications are that they are likely to surpass Powell's 101 points by the end of the season. Since their home defeat to unpredictable Bradford in mid November they have taken sixteen points from six games with a goal difference of 19-1. They gave ample demonstration of their vast superiority back in September at The Valley and will expect another three points on Friday evening.
Many Charlton fans were ready to accept that Wigan and Blackburn were likely to take the automatic promotion places this season, but this was on the assumption that Charlton would at least secure a play-off spot. The team's first half performance at Southend on Tuesday was so abysmal that mid table is now looking more realistic. Modest but well-run clubs like Shrewsbury, Scunthorpe and Peterborough are showing us how it should be done. We are hoping to beat Gillingham next week to be able to hang on to their coat tails.