Charlton - A faltering opponent?
Over the last 6 years there have been many clubs who have fallen from grace; from the likes of Liverpool to Lincoln clubs have hit on hard times. We have fallen from the Premier league to the third tier in English football during this time.
But we are not the only ones who have fallen so far and so fast. Step forward a side we have played in many divisions over many years, Charlton.
Though unlike us they have become more a faltering opponent than a phoenix from the flames,through financial constraints more than anything else.
For years we faced Charlton in the Premier League, in the 2003/04 season Charlton were challenging for a champions league place eventually finishing seventh, the year before we had finished 11th and were FA cup finalists against Arsenal and in the 03/04 season we finished 12th during which we defeated Manchester United on they`re own soil.
Success was parallel for both sides during these 2 years but as was the loss of key players, around this time we lost Wayne Bridge to Chelsea, who at the same time snapped up Charlton`s midfield general Scott Parker.
The 2004/05 season proved to be a dark year for people associated with the Saint`s, with our relegation to the championship starting a spiral that would leave us in the third tier, Charlton finished comfortably midtable under the stewardship of Alan Curbishley.
Both clubs had lost players during the season before, and had gone from strong finishes in the league and European football to drifting nearer to the relegation mires, perhaps the most fundamental difference was the managerial situation at both clubs?, we had lost the inspirational Gordon Strachan, whereas Charlton managed to keep hold of Alan Curbishley despite the loss of key players.
As we fell however in 2005, Charlton were not to be far behind with Curbishley leaving the club at the end of the 05/06 season, after which they appointed Iain Dowie for the upcoming 06/07 campaign. Unfortunately for Charlton the loss of Curbishley was evident, the club slumped to a poor start to they`re premiership season.
With the club on the brink of relegation, the Charlton board looked towards current Saint`s boss Pardew as successor to the ever faltering Dowie, though he failed to keep the club from spiralling into the championship.
Southampton and Charlton were back in the same division once again for the 07/08 season.
Charlton reformed they`re team under the management of Pardew, signing several players as well as losing many more as they prepared for a season in the Championship, ourselves on the other hand had lost the playoff semi final to Derby, and were resigned to lose Gareth Bale and Kenwyne Jones amongst others.
The expectations couldn`t have been different, we were just hoping that we could stay in the league come the end of the season as we demonstrated anger towards the directors at the club, Charlton fans were angry for different reasons, namely an 11th placed finish in a campaign where they failed to live up to expectations.
The season after saw things become worse with the ultimate relegations of both us and Charlton, 2 teams who had once battled it out in the premier league were set to face each other in the third division of English football.
Last season was a tale of different fortunes despite similar expectations, 2 wins for Saint`s in the JPT and in a home league game respectively and a draw at the Valley were the results between 2 sides battling for promotion. We of course failed to reach the playoffs but Charlton narrowly missed out on a top 2 place and were set to fight for the prize. Charlton lost on penalties to Swindon Town to guarantee another season of league 1 football for them.
With they`re unlucky playoff defeat last season you would then assume that Charlton is a side that will once again be amongst the top teams in league 1, but contrary to popular belief that is not necessarily the case, why? Because with relegation and the failure to win promotion has come with it financial implications.
Charlton are not the team they have been over recent years, in fact they aren`t the team they were last year even, with the sale of highly rated midfielder Jonjo Shelvey as well as inspirational captain Nicky Bailey to Liverpool and Middlesborough respectively, they are a team weakened by financial restructuring.
There are doubts over contract negotiations with striker Deon Burton who notched 13 goals last season, as well as fiery winger Lloyd Sam who has attracted the interest of many championship clubs. Midfielder Matt Spring has also moved on, joining London rivals Leyton Orient.
Manager Phil Parkinson has a limited budget at the Valley, with financial restructuring in place it is believed that he will have to work with miniscule resources to add to the current squad, the former Reading player started as a trainee at the Saint`s but never made a first team appearance. 'Parky` isn`t new to tight budgets and getting the best out of players though, with a promotion success at Colchester, a less successful time at Hull City led to his sacking before being appointed as Charlton boss just a few weeks later.
Are there any threats posed by Charlton?
Despite the departures of key players in the summer they should not be ruled out completely, they have a mix of academy youngsters and experienced players who have played in the championship, former Saint`s loanee Christian Dailly and Nigerian international Sam Sodje are part of an experienced addicks defence.
The midfield has been damaged with the loss of captain Nicky Bailey, Lloyd Sam, and Matthew Spring but is boosted by youngster Scot Wagstaff and Frenchman Therry Racon, though with the loss of 3 starting midfielders they are severely weakened of course.
The strike force is still strong at the Valley, with there still being a decent chance of Deon Burton remaining at the club as well as the imposing stature of Sam Sodje`s brother Akpo, a member of the 10 strong Sodje family who has signed for the club after a successful loan spell. There is still hope for Izale Mcleod who was linked with Hearts in January last year, but seems to have lost the form that made him known at MK Don`s.
Match/league predictions then? I personally can`t see Charlton being as prolific as they were last season, with the loss of the midfield and financial constraints at the Valley the side needs considerable strengthening if they are to make a second push, I still believe that they can be a good league 1 outfit, but in terms of playoff/title credentials? Charlton have become a faltering opponent, not that this is ever a guaranteed 6 points though as history has proven.