Football

Light at the end of the tunnel for Charlton this season?

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Charlton legend Powell has been sacked. (©GettyImages)
Charlton legend Powell has been sacked. (©GettyImages).

Charlton's season has been anything but an easy ride.

As if being in a relegation battle isn't enough to contend with, fans of the Addicks have witnessed a takeover, the sale of one of the club's most iconic players, and the dismissal of a much-loved manager.

Therefore, it is fair to say that an awful lot has happened at The Valley over the last seven months. An awful lot more than you could ever expect.

The south-east London club kicked-off the current campaign under the ownership of Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez, with ex-Charlton left-back Chris Powell in charge of the team.

Club legend Powell took over as manager when the Addicks were lumbering mid-table in League One, but was responsible for winning promotion in his first full season in charge, having amassed an incredible 101 points.

Under Slater and Jimenez, lack of funding was a serious problem and Powell was forced to work on a shoestring budget.

In Charlton's first season back in the Championship, Powell did exceptionally well to guide the club to a ninth-place finish with virtually the entire same squad that played in League One.

Ricardo Fuller from Stoke was the only addition with any top-level experience. Otherwise, several short-term loans were required to keep the Addicks competitive.

Having massively surpassed expectations for the season, fans could have been forgiven for having promotion aspirations for the 2013/14 campaign, but the cash-strapped club were forced to make cut-backs in the summer, leaving the squad depleted and understrength.

And it was clear right from the opening weekend that Powell's side were going to be in for a long, tough campaign, when they lost to newly-promoted Bournemouth.

A home win over current leaders Leicester back in August could have been, but was anything but, the result to kick-start the Addicks' season as victories continued to be few and far between.

Talks of a takeover had been brewing for months with Slater and Jimenez unwilling to spend and looking for suitable buyer. After talks with American Josh Harris broke down, the club was finally bought in January by Belgian businessman Roland Duchatelet.

Charlton were added to the new owner's network of football clubs, having already purchased four, most notably Belgian Pro League leaders Standard Liege.

The takeover led to the inevitable discussions about transfer activity as well as much uncertainty over Powell's future, along with a host of current players in the last year of their contracts.

And come January transfer deadline day, the vast majority of Addicks fans were left feeling angered and outraged. In came a number of unheard-of players from clubs in the Duchatelet network and out went midfielder Dale Stephens to Brighton.

Fans were unsurprisingly sceptical about the new additions, and the sale of Stephens was largely considered to be a blow. But nothing more.

It was the sale of fan-favourite and icon Yann Kermorgant to Bournemouth which turned the stomach of every single Addicks fan. The French forward made no secret of his love for the club either and Powell claimed him to be his best signing.

The sale of Kermorgant was not only a dagger to the heart of every Charlton fan, but it signalled the beginning of the end of Powell's reign as boss. The relationship between Powell and the new owner was already severely fractured and it was not long before the Addicks' manager for over three years was shown the exit.

Results in the league were still going against the team and not even reaching an FA Cup quarter-final could save Powell. In fact, the Addicks produced one of their most lacklustre performances of the season in his last game in charge, being knocked out by League One side Sheffield United.

Elimination in the cup, as well as slipping to rock-bottom in the Championship table was the perfect opportunity for Duchatelet to relieve Powell of his duties. But, in truth, the writing had been on the wall for three months.

Powell's dismissal felt like the heart had been ripped out of the club as he was Mr Charlton. The man loved the club in the same way as every supporter and he certainly epitomised the club spirit. In that sense, he produced an emotional attachment between himself and the fans that simply can't be replicated.

His replacement was Belgian Jose Riga, a man who Duchatelet trusted from working with previously at Standard Liege. Riga had joined at The Valley from being an advisor for the youth set-up at Italian giants AC Milan. But with no former experience managing in England, you would have struggled to count on one hand the number of Addicks fans who were overjoyed with the new appointment.

In his first game in charge, the whole of The Valley broke into chants of "Chrissie Powell," letting their feelings be known by showing their support for the former boss. The game against Huddersfield finished 0-0 but Charlton were unfortunate to not come away with three points in a significantly improved performance from the one in the FA Cup.

The following match also finished 0-0 but away to Millwall in a hostile south London derby. Charlton were resilient and fully deserving of the point they gained. Riga still may not have been very liked but he seemed to have his team playing well as a defensive unit and even playing some nice football at times.

Then, in his most recent game, Charlton seemed likely to draw a third successive game 0-0, at home to Bournemouth, which would have been unjust for a very solid performance. But deep into injury time, centre-back Dorian Dervite popped up to head home from a corner and send The Valley into jubilant celebration.

The faithful North Upper stand were even chanting Riga's name as the win moved the Addicks out of the relegation zone with two and three games in hand still remaining on teams around them in the table. It was just the lift that was needed in what has been an extremely turbulent short period at the club.

Powell will forever be loved at Charlton but as long as Riga can keep the team playing well, keeping clean sheets and picking up points, he will undoubtedly earn his admirers. With extra games to play on rivals and huge home fixtures approaching against fellow strugglers Barnsley and Yeovil, the feeling of doom and gloom has quickly evaporated in SE7.

From feeling destined for the drop only just over a week ago, there is now general confidence among supporters that the club will survive in the Championship. It will take a mighty effort from everybody but football isn't supposed to be easy.

But the most important thing to know is that whatever changes take place at the club, whether players, managers or owners, the fans will always be there to give their full support to the team, meaning no situation is too tough to overcome.


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Topics:
Football
Championship
Charlton Athletic
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