To say I’m excited would be a bit of an understatement!
How foolish we all are on the eve of the first day of the season. This feeling is exactly the same as it was 30 odd years ago when my Dad had bought me my first season ticket and I was dreaming of Derek Hales staying injury free for a whole season and firing us into the top flight.
Of course those first few years of being an active Charlton supporter, this feeling always petered out into resigned acceptance that ’WE WOULD NEVER REACH THE TOP FLIGHT OF ENGLISH FOOTBALL…EVER!’ pretty quickly. Followed by excitement again when the time for the draw for the third round of the FA Cup came, then another lull after ‘plucky’ Charlton lose against Ipswich, Tottenham, Watford, West Ham etc…
Then, of course, the mix of elation and relief when we finally secure the magic point/s that keep us in the second division for another season.
Back to the top and so the cycle continued. That was until Lennie made some astute signings, Rob Lee broke through from the youth team and we confounded the experts and bookies alike who in general were expecting us to fight against relegation again. Particularly after we’d announced the move from The Valley to Sainsbury’s. Besides the 6 odd years knocking around The Championship (or whatever it was called back then) it’s been a pretty eventful ride in the 28 years (yes 28! How old does that fact make me feel) since that promotion. Play Off’s, Relegation's, two league titles, takeovers, more takeovers, Clive Mendonca, Chris Powell, Lisbie’s hat-trick. Phew, never a dull moment being an Addick.
I’m actually quite impressed by the way we have conducted our business in the close season, well thought out signings (so it would seem), ground renovations, a commitment to youth. The only thing that’s stopping me becoming completely deluded about our chances this season is the fact that Andy Delort hasn't signed, and I don’t think he will. I watched some you tube clips of him playing from last season, and regardless of the fact he was plying his trade in Lige2 he looked pretty awesome.
This season the press and bookies seem to have written us off. Joint second favorites, alongside Millwall and Rotherham to join Blackpool in the third division in a years’ time.
I’m not so sure. In Peeters I think we may have uncovered a rough cut diamond, who’s articulate and from what I've seen so far charming manor, may well help gel this team of players quickly into a decent unit. That’s not to say for a minute, if I’m realistic, I believe we’ll reach the top 6 and a shot at play off glory.
But at 25-1 in some bookies it could be a tenner well spent.
The reality, I think, will be a decent mid table finish. I don’t envisage the same struggle that we endured last season.
As for the rest of the division, I see Cardiff and Derby as my stand out favorites for automatic promotion, being pushed by Wolves for the play-off spot. As for the rest, it’s a pretty open field. Bournemouth will suffer, much as we and Millwall did, from second season syndrome. On the face of it Blackpool will suffer, but with Houdini Riga in charge may scrape through. Fulham may well, despite Ross McCormack’s potential goals, emulate Norwich, Southampton and Charlton and go straight down. I think with the manager they have and some of the pampered players they will find the Championship a rather big culture shock. Rotherham, you've also got to view as facing a difficult season trying to acclimatize to the skill and physicality of The Championship.