A demoralised trek to Welling

The annual pre-season curtain raiser against Welling has traditionally been a pleasant and optimistic event, even under the Duchatelet regime. The weather is good. The result doesn't matter. It is a chance to meet up with old mates not seen for a couple of months. There is a usually a new player or two or a young prospect coming through. There's an opportunity to pit your wits against the vagaries of the Park View Road tannoy system.

In July 2014 Charlton fans made the journey hoping for the best but still a bit shell shocked by the sacking of Chris Powell and the decision not to offer popular Jose Riga the manager's post. Nevertheless, there was some intrigue about the new man - Bob Peeters - and anticipation about his new signing Igor Vetokele. Welling won 2-0 but the season itself started well with Vetokele among the goals.

By the following July Peeters had long gone. Anger about the appointment of his replacement Guy Luzon had dissipated a bit following the magic Spring in which a Tony Watt-inspired team had won seven games out of nine. There was still hope that Watt could inspire the team further in the new season. Karlan Aherne-Grant scored twice in the first six minutes and Charlton won 2-0. Luzon was sacked a few months later. As that great tactician Roland Duchatelet commented - "he ran out of steam"

In 2016, despite the disastrous appointment of Karel Fraeye and the subsequent relegation of the previous season, Charlton fans turned up at Welling wanting to give Russell Slade the benefit of the doubt. He wasn't the most inspiring managerial appointment but at least he wasn't the latest offering from the Belgian roundabout. The signing of Swindon goal ace Nicky Ajose looked exciting and it was he who netted a hat trick in a 4-1 win.

Last year Charlton supporters were in the unusual position of going to watch a team managed by a British manager who had had the luxury of assembling his own squad during the summer. Karl Robinson was never short of a superlative or two and he was engagingly enthusiastic about his squad. A 3-0 win was followed two weeks later by a 6-1 demolition of Ipswich at The Valley. Any excuse for a bit of optimism?

But it is really hard to see how Charlton fans can approach this Saturday's game (kick off 12.30pm) with much enthusiasm.

The club is in limbo. The owner wants to sell. There are interested buyers but an actual purchase is elusive to say the least. A promising young player has departed to a club we have traditionally looked down on and there has been just one new signing. Our manager is in a caretaker role and there is no CEO or Head of Finance. Costs are being cut.

It seems as if the dashing of hopes about new ownership has demoralised supporters almost as much as the experience of the last four years itself. The level of dismay is such that fans are carping at each other more than ever.

The World Cup has been played out to euphoric scenes. The contrast in SE7 could hardly be starker. We salute those who are able to drum up the enthusiasm and loyalty to get themselves to Welling this Saturday.