Amidst all the nerves of what Sir Alex Ferguson has named ‘squeaky bum time’, it’s worth casting our mind back to 12 months ago: following the trumpeted arrival of returning legend Chris Powell as our saviour the team started off with some terrific wins before embarking on a soul destroying run that finished with us mid table and disgruntled.
In some quarters fans felt Chris was not up to the task; others, such as myself, were telling anyone who would listen that he needed to be judged on a squad that he had put together as the squad he inherited was a rag bag of free transfers and loanees, and fair play to Phil Parkinson, he managed to steer this band into the top six.
Come the summer we saw players leave and very quickly they were replaced by Chris Powell’s picks, suddenly we were filled with enthusiasm. I know for fact the research that went into these new signings was extensive; the manager wanted players with determination, ability and the character to deliver his vision of how his Charlton should play.
I felt from the off (as did others) that there would be the now traditional bedding-in period, but I vividly recall interviewing Chris Powell with Terry Smith after the Woking friendly when up stepped a BBC commentator who proceeded in his first question to tell Chris Powell he only had a handful of games to get it right or he would face the sack!
Terry visibly moved away aghast at such a ridiculous question, but clearly if we were not in a decent position at Christmas and having brought in 20+ players, the manager would have been on very dodgy ground. The team dealt with that by going 12 games unbeaten in the league.
As the season has progressed we have seen this team play some glorious football and dish out the odd spanking here and there (my personal highlight was Hartlepool away who were dispatched mercilessly 4-0), we have seen the team end Huddersfield’s ‘unbeaten run’ and two back-to-back victories against our main rivals, the Sheffield clubs.
In this last part of the season the fluent football has been less evident, and it’s been a hard slog, but in this time Charlton have shown unbelievable levels of character and determination to grind out results when Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday have been putting together impressive runs to apply huge levels of pressure on Charlton.
The team have been top since September, and many teams have buckled under the relentless pressure: look back at Newcastle United who seemed to have the Premier League title at their mercy with a massive points gap, only for Man Utd to go on an incredible run to pip them to the trophy.
We are finally getting our club back to a higher level, and as much as I have enjoyed travelling to new grounds in League 1, I think three seasons is enough, thank you very much!
The end of the season brings us to the voting for the supporters’ player of the year. Last year it was won by Jose Semedo, with Johnnie Jackson denied by a season-ending injury in February, and in reality it was between those two and nobody else. A year on and the viable field is much larger.
I cast my vote at the Walsall game, and I will tell you who I picked and why, but first I will look at the main candidates:
The best left back at the club since a certain Chris Powell. Very often you get full-backs who can either defend really well or attack, but very rare you get both I have found. However, Rhoys’s defensive work has been excellent, how many times has he been beaten? And he has provided so many assists when overlapping the skipper on the left flank.
Rock solid at the heart of the defence, willing to throw his body in front of either the ball or the opposition. Had a tough time at Sheff Weds previously, but came to The Valley and settled straight in despite being the subject of some spiteful abuse from the desperate Gary Megson and his doomed team at Hillsborough. Will probably not win the award but deserves a mention.
This season’s captain has waded in with his usual haul of goals, which include a couple of vital free kicks against the Sheffield sides which just oozed class. Injuries have disrupted his chances again: the hamstring problem picked up at Brentford kept him out for a long time, and between this and his recent ankle niggle, medical misfortune may again rule him out of the running this term.
Started the season like a rocket with seven goals in the first 12 games of the season, and by the time the Brentford trip came along in November he had plundered 13 league goals from 17. Although he then drew a blank for the next 11, he has since hit his first ever senior hat-trick, but I suspect that barren period has effectively cost the striker his chance at the fans honour.
Well it seems Chris is the favourite to win this season, and he could realistically do the double of Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year. A gritty, determined little right back, and as Chris Powell has said, many teams have had Chris down as the weakest link.
Stick a big man up against him and he will struggle, they thought, how wrong they have been proven. His defending has been superb, and he is not one to shy away from overlapping on the right wing.
Surely that Valley goal is not far away, and what a popular goal scorer he will be. How many times have we seen him beaten by a winger who thought he was away, only to find Solly has caught them up and won the ball back?
And now we come to my choice. In truth, it was one of two for me, either Solly or the man who was signed while the season was in progress. I was in the tunnel waiting to interview Chris Powell, when Matt Wright handed us a press release announcing the signing of Yann Kermorgant.
A quick bit of research garnered a YouTube clip of Yann’s penalty for Leicester City in the 2010 play-offs, but other than that unfortunate moment we knew nothing about him at all.
His first goal came against MK Dons, but it was at the following fixture he really announced his arrival, away at Sheffield Utd.
A slender 1-0 lead given to us by a laughing Bradley Wright-Phillips, but the game was still in the balance. As we wait for a corner, Powell sends on Yann, and demonstrating that prodigious leap that we have grown accustomed to, Yann headed the ball home with his first touch to send the 1,176 away fans into delirium.
For me, celebrating in the away end with my son Daniel, that was when I really believed we had a team to do the job. Since then the Frenchman has been roughing up central defenders, winning a huge amount of aerial challenges against the big men of League One, and at this level defenders are not subtle. How many times have we seen Yann decked with Erol the physio running on to patch him up and send him back torejoin the battle?
There was the comical sight of Yann swathed in bandages trying to get back on the pitch with the fourth official earning a volley of abuse, which then led to an on air apology for my remarks at the hapless individual.
On top of that, if you get a chance have a chat with Bradley Wright-Phillips, who describes Yann as a beast, but more importantly ask him about during BWP’s barren run: who was it that encouraged the mis-firing striker before and during every game?
At five foot 11, he should not win half of the balls he does. He also demonstrates a very decent level of technique on the deck with the ball at his feet, throw in his never-say-die attitude and you have a hell of a player. When the game is tight and players around him are tiring and struggling it must be great to know you can knock the ball up to Yann and he will move heaven and earth to win the ball.
I agree he is not a prolific scorer, but that’s not really his job in this team. After the Walsall game I found him in the tunnel area with his swollen ankle wrapped in ice and bandages, an injury he picked up in the first half, I asked him if he considered coming off at half-time. He laughed and said no, and to me that sums that man up completely, a fighter, and my player of the year.