Just over two years ago, Charlton had been humbled 2-1 away at Dagenham and Redbridge.
For some Addicks, things were as bad as they had ever been. Halfway up the third tier of English football, with neither hope nor expectancy that things were set to improve any time soon, a cloud of despair loomed over the once-proud Valley.
Fast forward twenty-four months and even the most ardent pessimist would struggle to put negative spin on the club’s transition under boss Chris Powell. A ninth-place finish this campaign certainly constitutes a successful return to the Championship – particularly as the club were just three points short of the final play-off spot.
Skipper and midfield talisman Johnnie Jackson has once again made a significant contribution to the team, breaking the 10-goal barrier for a third campaign in a row. Having averaged a goal every three games since joining Charlton, “Jacko” has established himself as a fans’ favourite, although next season could be his last in SE7 unless a new deal is done.
Supporters will unquestionably also be keen to see right-back Chris Solly stay in south London – at least for the time being. The 22-year-old has already featured in over 100 league matches, but his impressive performances are rumoured to have attracted interest from Premier League clubs – most notably neighbours West Ham.
Solly was voted Charlton's Player of the Year for a second successive season and is widely regarded as one of the Championship’s hottest prospects.
As Charlton fans know only too well however, it’s not just about hanging on to their important players, but adding to what’s already there.
Last summer’s transfer dealings were at best uninspiring and at worst inadequate, which is arguably why Powell’s side spent the majority of the season languishing, rather than challenging. Most would have taken that at the start of the season, but a lack of reinforcements following League One promotion may ultimately have cost the Addicks a second in as many years.
A minority of supporters – rather unrealistically in my view – believed there was a chance of Powell’s side achieving successive promotions. This conviction was based on the accomplishments of both Norwich City and Southampton, who managed it in the previous two years.
However, while those two clubs invested fairly heavily in playing staff, Charlton didn’t. A sense of perspective is required when analysing why the club have fallen short of that benchmark. It’s all very well questioning the ambition of management and players, but what about the ambition of the owners?
The only thing that has been guaranteed by the club’s hierarchy recently is that season ticket prices are due to be increased. You could make a case for them having their priorities completely wrong.
Charlton’s home form has been abysmal, and with that under-performing has come disillusion in the stands. Rightly or wrongly, there will be those who don’t visit The Valley as frequently next season. Of course, most fans will attend irrespective of results, but you can empathise with the reasoning of a minority who won’t.
At this juncture supporters certainly advocate a more active transfer policy over the summer months, to try and build upon the success Charlton have already enjoyed. Powell has worked miracles with what he’s had at his disposal, but now is the time to freshen things up and add some proven quality. Of course, quality usually costs money.
Easier said than done, granted, but imperative all the same. Communication from within the club has stagnated in recent months and there is no better way to break the silence than by putting hard cash on the table.
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