Local author and CAST member Paul Breen asks whether our glass should be half empty or half full as we set out on the new season:
Starting off with a nod to one of my favourite Charlton blogs, this is going to be a glass half-empty, glass half-full rollercoaster kind of article. Maybe it’s an appropriate topic too since my last article in one fanzine was about The Royal Oak and my latest in another is again connected to the joys of drinking amongst the Charlton family on a matchday.
When it comes to Charlton-related writing, the glass is certainly overflowing. There’s a health and an exuberance around the club that would give anyone a buzz with or without a beer. Popular young journalist Benji Nurick has also been given a new position in the club as editor of Valley Review. A whole range of other initiatives are happening across the club in terms of the Women’s Team, diversity, inclusion and fan engagement, including those with four legs or otherwise equipped. All of this has contributed to the buzz in different ways. But will that buzz still be there by the time Shrewsbury come to town on 23rd April 2022?
Hopefully yes, with plenty of positives to come. And being Charlton, a few hiccups along the way. By the time we go to Ipswich on the weekend of 30th April, we’ll have passed through 22 other away grounds in League One. The first glasses of the season will be raised at home in SE7 though. We start against Sheffield Wednesday next Saturday 7th August. In some quarters, a lack of signings and consequent squad depth has caused justifiable concerns. However, past experience has shown that rushing into signings for the sake of it can cause even more long-term damage. Just think of Dowie in 2007 and Neil Lennon’s last summer at Celtic where years of good work was undone in a single disastrous transfer window.
We do need a stronger squad though to compete across the duration of another long, arduous season in which there will inevitably be injuries. Nigel Adkins, having won several promotions at this level before, obviously knows that and must have a plan in place. Compared to Chris Powell’s team of 2012 which had a look of champions from the outset, the 2021 squad looks thin on the ground. Hopefully though, by the time we go to Gillingham on the 4th of September, the squad will have been bolstered in a few key places.
Ideally that would come before Saturday 21st August when we face Wigan at home. Although buying big is no guarantee of success, they have had a summer overhaul of their squad. At the time of writing, they have brought in nine players including Ben Amos and Jordan Cousins. Most importantly, they have added a couple of strikers with goalscoring potential. If they hit the ground running, we could be drinking our sorrows in local pubs after that game. And worse than that if they hit the ground running, there are 5 games in August. We have 3 of those at home and the very same in September, so we need a good start too.
October and November could be tough months in terms of stretching our resources. We have six games in October, including away trips to Fleetwood, Lincoln and Sunderland. Home games against Rotherham, Accrington and Doncaster make this a very north-facing month. November then is where things are tough in a different way. We have three away matches at Burton, Morecambe and Shrewsbury. Burton’s a good away trip for the ale but if our squad’s getting stretched, the old glass could be emptying in other ways by this stage.
At least in December we’re back to a good stock of home games including one against Ipswich Town, another of the promotion favourites, on Tuesday 7th December. If we win that, it sets us up nicely for a good Christmas, so long as we are somewhere at the head of the hunt. Come Boxing Day, we have a pleasant little away trip to AFC Wimbledon which could be the El Supportico derby in light of our respective battles as fans. Even though Dulwich Hamlet are this year’s visitors to Welling on the same day, they and Dartford might not be too happy if we stole the El Kentico name for our home ‘derby’ with Gillingham on December 29th.
Going into the New Year, I hope we’re still among the runners and riders and ideally in pole position for a stab at automatic promotion. We begin 2022 with a home game against Wycombe Wanderers on January 1st before only having one more match at The Valley that month (excluding the FA Cup maybe) and three away. Amongst these is a trip to Portsmouth on Saturday 29th January, which is a match that always whets the appetite. Though they have not been so active in transfers this summer as far as I know, Pompey always seem to be a team that is there or thereabouts when it comes to play-off contention
February is another packed month as we build up a head of steam for the home straight with a crazy-sounding six games in twenty one days. This includes away trips to Bolton Wanderers, Wigan and Sheffield Wednesday, with the latter almost two years to the night since we went there just before Covid curtailed our travels for too long a while. By now, if we are in the promotion pack, we’ll be well set up for a big home match on Saturday 5th March against old foes Sunderland. They have also been quiet this summer but will surely be somewhere in the reckoning despite running out of steam in last season’s promotion race.
March is a quieter month with only four games and then comes April with another half dozen packed into the schedule, leading up to that final crunch game against Ipswich. By then I hope we have nothing to play for because we will have been promoted beforehand. But …. I would predict that in true Charlton style we will have something or other to fight for or salvage. Being such a long, hard season and seeing what happened last year with a similar squad, it would be an achievement to set the bar at comfortably reaching the play-offs.
Hopefully though the squad will be strengthened in coming days and weeks as I fully expect it to be. That way the glasses will be full from Saturday’s beginnings at Sheffield Wednesday to a season of trips through Oxford, Fleetwood, Lincoln and Sunderland in the autumn, on to Wimbledon and Cheltenham in the winter before that home straight back to higher levels. Championship here we come hopefully and I say that completely sober because there is still almost a week to go before we raise our first glass during Saturday’s massive massive game.
Paul Breen @CharltonMen on Twitter