So, after a fifteen week wait, we at last have a game of football to look forward to. Or, depending on your state of mind, to dread.
Most pundits reckon that, after such an unprecedented break, form is irrelevant. If so, it is a real pity because, whatever you think about Charlton's form in the first three months of the year, it was nothing to match the absolute appalling direness of Hull's.
They celebrated New Year's Day with a 1-0 win at Hillsborough. After that, they accumulated just two points from a possible thirty three before lockdown arrived to spare them further punishment. During that run the sold their two best players (Bowen and Gorsicki), scored nine goals and conceded twenty nine. They were beaten five times at home and only narrowly escaped a sixth defeat through a 95th minute equaliser in a bizarre 4-4 draw with Swansea. Their last two games were a 0-4 home defeat to Leeds and a 1-5 thumping at Stoke. Saturday 14th March would, without doubt, have been a good time to play them.
This Saturday, fitness, commitment and the quality of preparation will be more important than the form and confidence of three months ago. Charlton fans may be dismayed by the absence of Lyle Taylor but Hull fans are outraged by what they see as the disloyalty of four of their players. Captain Eric Lichaj, vice-captain Jackson Irvine and Stephen Kingsley have all failed to agree short term contract extensions and loanee Marcus "high maintenance" Maddison has opted against featuring for Hull any more. Head Coach Grant McCann says he only wants players “that are fully committed to the cause” and has said that the quartet will not feature in the run-in. Furthermore, Barnsley have decided not to extend the loan of Mallik Wilks beyond the end of the month so, although he will be available for selection against Charlton, he won't be playing for the final seven games. Among those who will be available is old friend Josh Magennis who has hardly been prolific in his first season at Hull with 3 goals in 21 appearances. At Bolton he scored 4 in 42 over two seasons so it looks like Charlton got the best out of him with his 20 in 81 appearances (2016-18).
It is hard to imagine that the encounter, in front of a few cardboard cutouts, will be a high quality one but few of us will be worried about that as long as our team at least avoid defeat. A five point gap would be hard to make up with eight games left and, on the pitch, Hull would appear to be our best chance of avoiding relegation. In the boardroom of the EFL however there are other matters to consider. Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby and Charlton are all undergoing disciplinary proceedings with no apparent signs of early resolution.
It will be very strange to go through the usual pre-match emotions on Saturday and then to watch the game in isolation and almost total silence. Nevertheless, provided we have sorted out our Valley Pass arrangements, we will at least be able to watch a game of football involving a club in which, for whatever reason, we have invested so much emotion. One significant individual, who would without doubt have been there in person, will for the first time in twenty two years not be joining us.
Let's hope the team can do it for Seb.