Charlton's season starts here, home to newly promoted Leyton Orient on Saturday afternoon. After three seasons stuck in the station of League One, we are wondering where this season's journey will take us.
The fixture list takes us from Orient on opening day to Wycombe on the final day. Along the way we're going to face Carlisle where historically, up in the far north, we've sealed a couple of very important promotions. Since we face them in November, that's not going to be mathematically possible this time around, but it'd be very interesting to have a crystal ball to see where we'll be when we face them in the home game on March 9th next calendar year.
Before then though, there's a lot of football to be played. That kicks off Saturday against last season's League Two champions, Leyton Orient managed by Richie Wellens. Just like Dean Holden, he's a Manchester man with a vision of how he wants his teams to play. When Orient come to town, we can expect attacking football, with the team playing out from the back in the style that swept them to success one division lower last season. However as we know from last season's foray into a brief second life as ‘Swindon Town Reincarnated’, League Two stars don't always shine in the higher divisions.
Leyton Orient though seem well equipped to hold their own in this division. Midfielder George Moncur was almost ever present in last season's title winning squad, hitting the net 9 times in 43 games. Fans from our time in the Premier League might remember his father John playing for West Ham in the mid-90s to early 2000s. Alongside George Moncur in the centre of the pitch, there's another familiar name. Darren Pratley has been at Orient since leaving Charlton in the summer of 2021, forever remembered for his heroics in that play-off winning season, not least for his crucial goal against Doncaster. Meanwhile, up front, they've added another ex-Charlton face to their ranks, with the signing of Joe Pigott. Further to that, they've also brought in highly-rated striker Dan Agyei, scorer of 16 goals with Crewe Alexandra last season.
These new striking additions should cover the departure of last season's top scorer, Northern Irish international Paul Smyth, another ex-Charlton loanee, who has gone back to Queens Park Rangers where he started his English league career. Interestingly though, despite being top scorer in a title winning team, Smyth only netted ten times last season. In this Orient team, the goals are spread out across players and positions, suggesting they can be dangerous in all areas of the pitch. They're also likely to be hungry to get points on the board in their first game back in the higher division.
Dean Holden too is going to want to get off to a flying start. The Guardian has us amongst the favourites for promotion, though others such as Radio London have recently predicted us to have nowhere near the depth required to last the pace. Harry Isted, Lloyd Jones, Alfie May, Panutche Camará, Tayo Edun and Terry Taylor are all decent signings for this level but there's still a question mark over whether we'll have the depth to sustain a challenge. At the very least we could do with another striker to back up the four we've got listed in that position at the minute.
A lot of our fortune might depend on what the new owners see as an immediate priority and when or if they see further investment as being essential in this transfer window. We haven't a crystal ball when it comes to this either so it could be a case of seeing how this squad mount a promotion challenge in the first part of the season and then invest in January if we are hovering in and around the top six. Time will tell.
Right now though, it'd be good to get off to a flying start on our League One journey. We don't want to be parked in this division for so long that we start to feel settled down here. Opening day fixtures don't always tell us too much about how seasons are going to progress (remember this one on our first day back in 2009 when Norwich went on to win League One but they should give us a sense of how competitive our full-strength first team is likely to be this season. All aboard the Orient Express then; just 45 more stops until we reach Wycombe.