It’s August 27th and as regularly as night follows day, a new season starts and Charlton get knocked out of a cup competition. Except for a run to the FA Cup quarter finals where the Addicks lost a replay to Middlesbrough (mid 2000’s), I don’t remember a decent cup run in my time as a Charlton Athletic supporter. We’ve never been good in the cup, and fans don’t see that changing any time soon.
So why aren’t Charlton any good in cups? Perhaps the attitude of the fans filters through to the players? It appears that the club as a whole just isn’t that interested. The fans know what to expect, and therefore the players have no pressure to deliver. They go out there for 90 minutes against some inconspicuous opposition, appear disinterested and head home after equaling the previous seasons similarly dismal achievement.
This may often be the case, but it can’t be said for the FA Cup two years ago, with the Addicks taking 7000 fans to Fulham. The Charlton players played for the fans that day, and despite a fairly comfortable victory for the home side, the noise, atmosphere and spirit amongst the Charlton players and fans will not be forgotten by those that were lucky enough to witness it.
Clubs historically field weakened sides in the cup, giving their star players a break ahead of the next important league match. With league titles and promotions carrying so much more important for a club than a couple of extra games, motivating players for a cup game is harder to do. Gone are the antiquated days of the world’s most historic competition, the giant killings. Instead, these have been replaced with an over-marketed training competition where the elite can bed in their youth players, and the minnows can try and claw in some revenue in a game that increasingly separates the rich from the poor.
Other sides can do it though. Peterborough smashing 6 past Reading, Notts County pushing Liverpool close, Bristol City beating Palace. It doesn’t appear to necessarily take a huge tie to motivate a side, but Charlton continue to disappoint. In addition, the Addicks have played decent players for the last few cup matches, and nothing seems to have changed.
What’s more frustrating, is in a season where the Addicks’ financial situation is becoming more and more public, a cup run would have carried extra importance. Powell is still keen to strengthen, and based on the defence frailties of recent games he will certainly need to do so over the coming weeks. The revenue generated from a big tie may just have helped Powell with that task, but as the side make their way back down from Yorkshire, the League Cup is over for another year.
The truth appears to be that Charlton just aren’t that bothered about the cup. In the Premiership, it was all about pushing for Europe. As the Addicks began to fall down the English pecking order, expectations turned from promotion, to survival, to rebuilding. At no time, certainly in the recent history, have Charlton had a stable season, with expectations of a mid-table finish that allows them to focus on a cup run. Perhaps in a couple of years, if the Addicks can establish themselves as a Championship club, that may become a possibility. Until then, the league is just too important.
What is also becoming apparent, with particular reference to the early stages of this season, is that some of the players are perhaps becoming a little too comfortable with their positions in the squad. Solly, Wiggins, Hamer and Morrison are just some of the usually reliable players that have disappointed in recent games. I am certainly not looking for scapegoats, and I would argue that no player has covered themselves in glory in the opening few games. What these players in particular have done, is fall victim to the exceptionally high standards that they have set themselves. Everyone has off days, but with no one pushing them in their relative positions, perhaps an off day isn’t so detrimental to their starting credentials.
Further evidence to support this comes in the opposite fortunes of the Addicks’ attack, which over the past game and a half in particular has flourished. Harriott, Cousins, Kermorgant, Pritchard, Pigott…the list of players that have impressed so far this season is growing and growing. Whilst Charlton haven’t exactly been blessed with goals, the flowing football on the attack has caught the eye on more than one occasion, and with every player being forced to play for their starting position, it appears that each is bringing out the best in each other.
It’s up to Powell and his coaching staff to sort out the defensive errors that have crept in this season. Whilst the League Cup is over for another season, Charlton’s league form needs addressing. It’s still early days, and the alarm bells are certainly not ringing at this stage, but fans seem just a bit bemused by the defensive displays from usually reliable players.
I for one will never expect Charlton to be any good in cups. For a club that over the last 6 or 7 years has not had any stability, league performance is much more important. What I do expect, is when the players pull on the Charlton red, they go out there and give 100%. Powell is the man to make sure they do that. I’ve never seen players play for a manager like Charlton players have over the last two seasons. It’s important that whilst the players give their all, the fans get behind them. We’re a club, the supporters, the stadium, the players and the manager must all work together for success, and it all starts again against Leicester on Saturday.
In Powell We Trust!
By Tom Wallin