This season has been better than Charlton Athletic fans ever expected. From being written off by a certain football magazine before the season started – predicting an 18th place finish – and the plethora of negative questions to Powell in press conferences such as; “You’ve got to make a good start to the season after the finish last year, do you think you’ll make it past the first ten games?” Powell, the players, the board and the fans have proved them all wrong.
The Addicks have led the league since September. During the season we have been labelled the champions months in advance of actually winning the league – when there were still over 40 points to play for.
We’ve had some bad times the last few years, and dropping into the third tier has hit most fans hard. Remember, when we first entered League One it was only three years after we’d been playing Premier League football, and were a model for other teams across the country on how to run a football club.
If the drop to the Championship hit us hard, the fall to League One was even worse. It wasn’t something we were prepared for. Worse, however, was that of the fans, the owners, the management, the players – no one predicted how difficult it would be to survive, compete and get back out of League One.
Teams are fighters in this league. That’s not a comment on styles of play or the freakishly large centre backs on show. The top of the table is littered with clubs seen as too big to be there, Charlton included. They are all desperate to get out. The other half of the table is full of clubs who are desperate to stay there and develop in a league where the finances are sustainable for them.
The result of this is that nobody gives up. Every week each game is a battle. There is so much at stake. Relegation from the Premier League is ominous – the hallowed ground of money, fame, wealth and an inevitable false sense of self-importance. The Football League provides an undercurrent of real football, radiating charisma, honesty, purpose and most of all, pride.
I’m proud to support Charlton in any league we’re in. I’m thrilled that we’ve managed to cement our place as Champions this season. I’m also glad to be out of this league and look forward to playing against teams we’ve become more accustomed to over the years and, most importantly, to not have the threat of impending administration looming all the time we’re not in the Championship.
I will miss a few things about League One though. The fans you meet are genuine, core fans of the club. Both at Charlton and across the league, people see football in this league for the genuine love of their team and the game in general. What’s more, the clubs tend to have a more open communication, knowing they’re talking to fans, not to a journalist or scout who will twist what is said into a national headline.
For all of this, there is little doubt that Charlton are now heading in the right direction. Unless there is a late complacency-fuelled collapse, they will win the league by very healthy margin. Powell has proved himself – in his first managerial role – to be an intelligent, diligent and passionate manager. The Chairman spoke recently about tying Powell to a chair. That speaks volumes about how well he has done. Powell’s name is shouted from the stands at every game. What’s more, Powell is becoming talked about more and more in the world of football press and punditry. If the club can keep hold of him long term – and I think they will – this may just be the beginning of a fantastic new chapter in the life of Charlton Athletic.
Written by Sunny Seabrooke, We Are Going Up’s Charlton Athletic blogger
Sunny tweets at @sunnyseabrooke