Part 1 HERE
looked at the first three parts in why Charlton won the league:
1. Board were clear they were backing their man
2. Summer captures were made early and the signing policy correct
3. A successful team was also formed off the pitch
Part 2 below looks at reasons 4-6:4. Opening Day victory against favourable opponents
Against a backdrop of a dire previous season, and wholesale changes at the Club during the summer, getting off to a decent start to the season was absolutely crucial. Team spirit, belief and the backing of the supporters was still very much fragile, and nothing brings these pieces closer together than points on the board.
If Charlton could have cherry-picked an opening fixture, AFC Bournemouth most probably would have been it. Having lost their impressive manager Eddie Howe earlier in 2011, the club were clearly going through a similar transition to Charlton, but in the opposite direction. Whilst the Addicks were actively strengthening for the campaign ahead, Bournemouth was experiencing the reverse, with a number of their key players leaving the club. Two of those, captain Danny Hollands and Rhoys Wiggins were integral parts of the recruitment drive at The Valley.
As a club, they clearly were not ready for the start of the campaign, and if this wasn’t enough to unsettle them, a torturous nine-hour trip on the M25 to The Valley on the Friday proved disastrous preparation.
Charlton gave debuts to seven players in the season opener, and a comfortable 3-0 victory was just what was needed to provide a much-needed positive starting block to the season. We were on our way. 5. The back four provided a brilliant base, and delivered points at a spell when goals were hard to come by.
Many new units were forged throughout the season across the team, but nowhere was it seen more successfully than across the back four. Goals they say win you promotions, but it is defences that win you titles. Charlton conceded just 36 goals across the 46 league games, with only Swindon (32) conceding less in the Football League. In the key period between January to the beginning of March, just four goals were conceded in eleven games, securing 27 points out of a possible 33 at a time when strikers were struggling for goals. Seven of those eleven games saw us score only a solitary goal.
At the heart of it were two centre halves, Taylor and Morrison, who seemed to fit as a partnership right from Day One. Taylor was looking to make the most of what was his biggest move as a pro, while the younger Morrison was striving to establish himself after a stuttering start to his career. Both had opposite reasons to make their move to Charlton successful, but they were going to go about it in a similar way; With full commitment and as a cohesive partnership.
As the season progressed, Morrison began to put in the more noticeable performances, but for much of the season the two could not separated, as shown by the almost identical marks received in the Charlton Life Statbank. When the manager felt the partnership needed freshening up, Taylor made way for Leon Cort, who equally impressed in the run-in.
If the centre half combinations provided the structural base to the side, it was on either side of them that were Charlton’s arguably strongest assets.
Quite simply, in Solly and Wiggins we had the two best full-backs in the division.
Wiggins at first took a few games to settle into his new team, but from then there was no stopping him as his energetic, overlapping wing play and quality delivery provided an extra dimension to our attacking play, whilst remaining solid in defence. A niggling injury impacted his game in the run in, but Wiggins had proved a vital asset to the team.
Solly though, was one of the two standout consistent performers throughout the season. In the opening phase of the season, the right back area was clearly targeted by the opposition as a perceived weakness of the side. But this was soon dropped as teams discovered this small but tenacious youngster, electric over the first five yards, was anything but a weakness.
As the season progressed, so did Solly’s confidence with the ball at his feet. Opponents were being shown a clean pair of heels, and his attacking play, both in overlapping and in cutting inside with a surging run to play into a striker’s feet, had come on leaps and bounds.
Seeing the popular, unassuming ex-academy grow as a player was one of the supporter highlights of the season.6. The signing of Yann Kermorgant
The manager had a big decision on his hands. Charlton had made an excellent start to the season, and the front pairing of Bradley Wright Phillips and Paul Hayes had been working relatively well, scoring nine goals in the opening nine games (BWP 6, PH 3).
But as the end of September approached, Chris Powell saw an opportunity to potentially improve the side. It was a risk of huge proportions, but ultimately it was one of the key reasons why Charlton went on to win the league.
Yann Kermorgant football career had been on an interesting journey. The 30-year old Frenchman had beaten leukaemia as a teenager, and spent the bulk of his career not pulling up trees in the French leagues, before securing a contract with Leicester in 2009 after a successful trial. It was there as a coach Chris Powell saw the ability that the Frenchman possessed, though noting that he struggled to fit in with Leicester life, and with the rest of their squad. He scored just one goal in twenty appearances for Leicester, before bringing his spell there to an abrupt close with a failed audacious penalty chip in the play-off semi final vs Cardiff.
Kermorgant was quickly labelled the fall guy by the Leicester fans, and was shipped out on loan that summer back to France, where again he failed to impress scoring just three goals in 26 appearances for Arles-Avignon in 10/11. He returned to Leicester that summer to find himself without a club.
In September 2011, Chris Powell was once again impressed by Kermorgant in a trial at Sparrows Lane. He knew the player had ability but had a number of considerations to ponder. The squad was working well because it was a tight unit on and off the pitch, would the introduction of a quiet, distant Frenchman impact on the good vibe that had been building? Had Paul Hayes really been poor enough to replace in the starting eleven? Would Yann settle in London, and more importantly make the effort to fit in with his new team mates?