Heather McKinlay will be smiling and positive on her way to The Riverside Stadium:
The last time the Addicks and I ventured to Middlesbrough was the end of October 2015. The first match of the interim - to become infamous - era of Karel Fraeye. According to Simon Makienok (remember him?), the newly-arrived boss from the Belgian third division wanted the players to be smiling and positive. This would, he was sure, bring about an upturn in results. On the eve of the match I was travelling north from Kings Cross, having attended the CAST AGM the previous evening. Sauntering across the station concourse, I found myself face to face with the Charlton squad. The black track-suited bunch looked anything but smiling and positive – most had headphones in, standing in silence, wearing sullen expressions.
I gravitated towards one of the few familiar faces in Jason Euell, congratulating him on his elevation to first team coach. Charlton were in a major slump, having secured just two points from the last ten matches. Euell pretty much confirmed that our ambitions for the Riverside extended to clinging on for a dour 0-0. And we managed it for an hour, but then capitulated to three goals in 20 minutes. You might have described such a 3-0 defeat as a Halloween horror, except Preston and Brentford had inured us to that score-line in the two preceding home games. The Charlton stats laid bare the ugly picture witnessed by the hardy souls at The Riverside: 26% possession, 16 fouls committed, five yellow cards, two corners and one shot on target.
Now the Addicks and I are poised to return to the home of the Smoggies. We’re in marginally better on-pitch form this time, having required just the last seven matches to garner two points. Normally we’d be in crisis mode but instead the mood is nervously upbeat. The smiling and positive elation of last Friday has faded a little as we keep everything crossed that the EFL will seal our escape from the clutches of Roland Duchatelet. Meanwhile we hope that Bowyer’s vomiting, hobbling and hamstrung troops will gradually re-enter the fray as fit as new.
Prospective Chairman Matt Southall was beaming and spreading positivity at The Valley last weekend. Will the man from East Street Investments put in an appearance in the North East? It looks likely there will only be 500 or so resilient Addicks in attendance so every extra voice will be needed to cheer on Bow’s boys as they confront Woodgate’s warriors. The novice gaffers have more in common than their chequered past at Leeds, with similarly threadbare squads and having to trust inexperienced youth. Yet Woodgate finds himself under significant pressure, whereas Addicks remain solidly behind their man. Gallagher returns from suspension for the Addicks, but now Lockyer has taken his place on the naughty step. Ex-Addicks Darren Randolph and Anfernee Dijksteel both feature on the lengthy Boro injury list.
The Riverside has not been a rewarding venue for Charlton, who go into the match sliding rapidly down both the form table and the real Championship table. Boro’s current form is barely any better, and even their second win in 13 attempts would not propel them above us.
I’m travelling in expectation of another dour affair but in the hope of three points. My three wishes? 1. We keep a clean sheet. 2. Lyle Taylor emerges in slow-motion from the sub’s bench to convert a late penalty. 3. The EFL get a move on so the Addicks and I can smile and be positive, for reasons that Karel Fraeye and his compatriots will never understand.