How does it compare with the 2012 squad?

Having famously conquered League One with 101 points, Charlton kicked off their first home game in The Championship in August 2012 against Leicester City. The programme for that game listed 33 players of whom probably 23 were realistically likely to be challenging for a first team place.

Remarkably, the starting line-up against Leicester showed only two changes from the team which had beaten Hartlepool 3-2 in the final triumphant match of 2011/12. Matt Taylor and Scott Wagstaff made way for Leon Cort and Bradley Pritchard, both of whom had been in the squad for the Hartlepool game. There had been no significant departures during the summer and both Taylor and Wagstaff were still at the club. Furthermore, there had been no loan players at all in the promotion winning team. In fact the influence of loan players had been very limited throughout the whole season. The level of continuity was remarkable.

Ben Hamer, Bradley Pritchard, Dale Stephens and Danny Hollands had never previously played above League One level and Chris Solly and Rhoys Wiggins had made just one Championship appearance each. More than half the team, therefore, were without Championship experience. Johnnie Jackson had nearly 100 appearances at Championship level - mostly with Colchester - and Michael Morrison and Yann Kermorgant had had 42 and 20 games each for Leicester. Only Bradley Wright-Phillips and Leon Cort had played in The Premier League. When Ricardo Fuller joined a few days after the Leicester game he brought further Premier League experience with Wimbledon and Newcastle. Dorian Dervite and Lawrie Wilson both made over thirty appearances that season but had never played at Championship level before.

Chris Powell was a relatively inexperienced manager with less than a season and a half under his belt but he had a tremendous rapport with supporters and commanded enormous respect and good will. He didn't have an expansive budget to play with.

Charlton finished ninth in the 2012/13 but much of the season was spent not far above the relegation zone. It wasn't until March that safety was achieved with Jon Obika scoring ninetieth minute winners against Wolves and Leeds, and the team producing that extraordinary 6-0 win at Barnsley.

So how does that compare with our current situation?

There are still two weeks before the start of the season and the transfer window is open until August 8th but, if we look at the team sheet for the Welling game and add Jonny Williams, it seems like there are about 27 players of whom perhaps 20 would appear to have realistic first team prospects. There will presumably be some additions over the next couple of weeks and we can expect at least two or three loan signings, although not necessarily before the start of the season. In terms of squad depth we are certainly lacking at the moment.

In terms of continuity the 2012 squad wins hands down. Whereas Powell saw no major departures in the summer of 2012 Lee Bowyer has said goodbye to Bauer, Aribo, Parker, Cullen and Bielik from his Wembley team. It is unlikely that more than six of the play-off squad will be in the line-up on August 3rd at Blackburn. Team building will be a priority.

Darren Pratley has played eight Championship seasons and two in The Premier League. Chris Solly and Jason Pearce have both played four solid seasons in The Championship and Jake Forster-Caskey has 67 games. Ben Amos played a full season for Bolton and a handful of games for Millwall last season. He even boasts one Premier league appearance for Manchester United. Ben Purrington has 13 games, albeit in a relegated Rotherham side. The current squad would thus appear to be pretty equal with Powell's in terms of higher level experience even though Phillips, Taylor, Bonne, Aneke, Sarr, Lockyer, Djiksteel, Page, Morgan and Lapslie have none.

Of course, experience is not the same as ability or potential. Of Powell's squad Stephens, Kermorgant and Hamer went on to play in the Premier League and Morrison, Jackson and Solly were successful at Championship level. It is hard to be confident that any of our current squad have real Premier League potential although we would hope that most of them will prove more than adequate in The Championship. One of the intriguing things this season will be seeing how they all step up. Will Lyle Taylor be able to take on Championship defences? How will Naby Sarr cope with the extra speed and guile of the forwards he faces?

Just like Powell, Lee Bowyer is a relatively inexperienced manager who has a tremendous rapport with supporters and who commands enormous respect and good will. Like Powell, he is credited with creating a strong and vibrant team spirit. He is also developing a reputation for improving players and building their confidence. His management team have been shrewd and insightful in their transfer dealings. All this bodes well.

At the moment the task ahead appears more daunting than it did for the class of 2012, particularly as the gap between the haves and have-nots has grown wider as a result of parachute and media payments. But we suspect that most Charlton supporters will be approaching the season with a certain amount of buoyancy. They recognise that it will be crucial to maintain the affinity and togetherness which was apparent in the play-off games and to celebrate the value of every point won. If Millwall can do it, then surely so can we.

As Bowyer says:

"We’re not going to win as many games as we did last season, I’m a realist but it’s going to be good."