We learnt last season how Lee Bowyer could rise above the adversity of a disinterested owner and somehow secure promotion against the odds. We all knew we entered this season with the lowest budget by far in The Championship, hoping somehow to compete and be in with a chance by the final game. And here we are on the day of that final game, in with a chance, against the odds.
They often say that fact is stranger than fiction. No editor or film producer would buy the script emanating from Charlton this season. From Abu Dhabi to Worsley and Macclesfield to Bucharest, our football club has spread its influence far beyond SE7 - though we remain largely in the dark as to why.
Off the pitch in the past decade and a half, we’ve gone from model club to basket case via laughing stock. And who knows what is yet to come?
Yet on the pitch in the past two and a half years Bowyer has repeatedly rebuilt the squad and and kept them focussed no matter what and against the odds. Just this season he has dealt with an horrendous injury crisis. The mockery of a January transfer window when we were actually under EFL embargo. The sudden departure of Conor Gallagher. Public contract shenanigans with first Duchâtelet then ESI. A lovely dinner with Tahnoon Nimer and friends, when all seemed rosy. The very serious matter of a global pandemic bringing the season to a temporary halt. All the scary talk of PPG. The second ESI takeover that hasn’t yet transpired to be a takeover. The bailing out (being polite) of star striker Lyle Taylor and club captain Chris Solly.
We are going into the final game of this season, in with a chance. That’s all we could ask of Bowyer, the coaching team and the squad and they have delivered – OK, apart from that unfinished business of beating Millwall which will just have to wait for another season.
Charlton have been here before, where one match takes on much larger significance for the future of the club. The closest parallel would be the play-off final in 1987 at St Andrews. Back then we were homeless and virtually penniless, facing relegation from Division One after our first season in the higher league. The guile of Lennie Lawrence and the grit of the team, led by Peter Shirtliff, snatched victory against the odds, against Leeds United.
Now it will end at Leeds tonight, the final game of the season and we’re in with a chance. We will learn our on-pitch fate back at Elland Road where Bowyer reached the prime of his playing career. He has the ability to shut out the off-pitch noise, even as it reaches a crescendo. This match will again be played in an eerie half-silence. Yet rest assured, there will be thousands of Charlton fans screaming themselves hoarse on the other side of screens and willing the Addicks on, proud of this bunch who repeatedly give their all.
We’ve come so far, against the odds. It’s the final game and we’re in with a chance.
Now come on you Reds!