How to enjoy a relegation struggle

We have dropped to 17th place and are just six points above the bottom three. We haven't won for ten games. The bookies have us priced to finish 21st. It looks like a relegation struggle.

It isn't inevitable, of course. An end to the injury crisis could return us to the form of the autumn and push us comfortably into mid table. New owners might bring in players in January who can make the difference. But, without wishing to be overly pessimistic, the next five months might well take the shape of a fight to ensure that 21st place and maintain our Championship status. If so, can we enjoy that?

I would argue that we can, provided the following conditions are fulfilled:

1. Expectations

This is the main thing. When CAFC were promoted to the Premier League in 1998 nobody had expectations of anything else but a battle for survival. Therefore, regular defeats were expected and every point gained was celebrated. Pringle and Mendonca snatching last minute equalisers against Newcastle and Leicester were relished like victories.

This season we were in second place at the end of August and some of us had delusions of a play-off place. Lee Bowyer on the other hand was never taken in and he warned us against such inflated ideas. Expectations may since have been raised by the prospect of a change of ownership but that has yet to come to pass and is anyway no guarantee of instant success. With the lowest wage budget in the division and a crippling injury list our expectations should at best be moderate.

2. That it goes down to the wire

Being cast adrift with relegation all but mathematically secured by mid March is completely depressing as we discovered four years ago. But, if there is a chance of survival right up to the final games, that is a different matter. That 4-3 win at Aston Villa in May 1999 is one of my all-time favourite games not just for the drama on the day but also for the fact that it kept the hope going for another week. More recently, remember those last minute goals by Dervite and Johnnie Jackson in the spring of 2014 as we survived under Jose Riga? Let's not underestimate the joy to be found in a defiant chorus of "We are staying up."

3. The team are battlers

If it is possible, whatever the result, to come away from games feeling that at least the team never gave up, then that is a major bonus. There is no doubt we have this in abundance in the current squad whose effort and commitment can rarely be faulted. Yes, Middlesboro was an exception but most of the time we can applaud the endeavour of every player even if we might wish they were a little more skilful.

4. There is visible hope for the future

Even if the team are struggling it is always possible to enjoy the performances of young players who should be the future of the club. They may not be good or strong enough yet to turn the tide, but you can see the promise. I think that, in Morgan, Doherty and Vennings we have sufficient young potential to raise our spirits. Anything is better than a series of loan players going through the motions.

5. There is a feeling that we are all in it together

There is a unity among Charlton fans that we haven't seen for a few years. This grows out of the empathy that fans feel towards Bowyer, Jackson, Gallen and Marshall that they didn't feel towards Robinson or Riga, let alone Peeters, Luzon, Slade or Fraeye.

If the sale fell through and Duchatelet continued to own the club I suspect that the fans' loyalty to Bowyer and his team might become even stronger because there would be an even greater sense of triumphing against the odds. If the EFL approve the sale then we should see an immediate upsurge in support and spirit.


So, although we would all prefer to be at the other end of the table, my argument is that the next few months could bring us plenty of the drama, emotion and sense of community that we all crave from football. My suggestion is to adjust your expectations, roll up your sleeves, get on the edge of your seat and relish it.