And so, after what had been a huge summer of transition for Charlton, the new season was finally upon us. Chris Powell’
s appearance at a supporters club meeting
in May had left an already disappointing season on an even more disheartening note. The normally chipper manager was noticeably weary and downbeat, and though it was made clear there would be a great deal of change over the summer, the snippets being offered gave little encouragement to those in attendance that come August there would be a real positive vibe to start the season.
Either the manager was being economical with the truth, or the budget was subsequently improved, but it soon emerged that both the quality and quantity of summer signings were well above the average expectations of the fans. Supported by compensation from Carl Jenkinson
’s move to Arsenal and the maturity of existing high-earning contracts (Semedo, Racon and Youga
amongst others), the wage bill was freed-up and put to full use, effectively strengthening all aspects of the squad. Powell said "We have one aim this year. We've got some good players who want to express themselves and do well. They've got to bed in. We've got a lot of new faces, and they've got
to realise what it's like to play at a great place like The Valley. We want to play good football, but ultimately we want to play winning
football and three-point football.
We're going out to win each and every game. People may look at what we've spent, but in reality, with the money
we got in for Carl Jenkinson, we're actually ahead. The board and the owners have tried to make sure we're stable. We
haven't gone mad, we haven't spent money we haven't got in, but people
will say we should be up there - and that is the aim."
Ahead of the season opener versus Bournemouth, an incredible 15 new players had been given a locker at Sparrows Lane. There was a noticeable emphasis of rebuilding the spine of the side with proven experience at this level; Ben Hamer
in goal, Matt Taylor and Michael Morrison
as a potential solid, no-nonsense centre half pairing, and Danny Hollands and Dale Stephens
in midfield to provide both a combination of guile and energy. Up front Paul Hayes
was brought in to partner BWP, whilst Dagenham’s star player Danny Green
arrived to give Wagstaff competition down the right. To emphasise how well the management and board did during the short summer period to make the club an attractive proposition, Rhoys Wiggins
turned down Championship football with Watford in order to fill our left-back birth.
It was Stephens who was first out the blocks to receive the plaudits following the opening day victory against Bournemouth
. The Cherries, perturbed after spending half their summer break stuck on the M25 on route to The Valley, looked exactly what they were; a side in transition that had lost their best players in the summer, and were comfortably rolled over 3-0 thanks to a Stephens strike, a JJ pen, and a cracking volley from Scott Wagstaff
From the unknown of how well an effectively new side would gel, the opener could not have gone better to banish any lingering negativity from the previous season.
Charlton had had positive openers in most of the previous seasons, so no one was getting carried away by the Bournemouth victory. By the end of the month however, it was clear this was going to be a season where we have a real chance. A further three league victories were recorded in August away to Notts County, Colchester and Bury
, while the reserves turned over Championship side Reading
in the League Cup. Only a last minute leveller by Scunthorpe
at The Valley soured what would have been the perfect opening start to the season.
The League Cup victory over Reading came later in the month than originally intended, with the game put back due to the widespread outbreak of looting and rioting in London
, which continued for several days throughout various regions of the capital and beyond. Locally, Woolwich and Lewisham were some of the worst effected, with the former receiving little in the way of press coverage, other than our own Inspector Sands
brilliant writing on Woolwich
. The retail parks of Charlton, and other nearby areas such as Orpington were also badly impacted. But it was on the Croydon streets where Charlton Lifers felt the coverage most, with Leroy Ambrose
providing live updates of the riot that was taking place outside his own front door, 21 posts down this page here
August had given Charlton the perfect platform to launch a successful campaign at the top-end of the season.
Could it be continued though ?