It was fun whilst it lasted, but Charlton’s dream of a first FA Cup semi final since 1947 came to an end on Sunday. In front of over 5000 Addicks fans, who defied the TV channel’s disgusting decision to show the game at 12pm despite no trains from London arriving in Sheffield before 12:30, the Addicks were largely outplayed by their League One opposition. Powell rued the missed opportunity to take Charlton to Wembley for the first time since 1998, and it could have been different. Harriott stabbed a guilt-edged chance wide in the second half, before their hosts pounced with two quick goals to steer themselves into the semi final.
With BT Sport refusing to do battle with Sky’s Saturday evening fixture, Charlton (who further ruined the TV channel’s hopes by destroying a possible Sheffield derby in the previous round) and Sheffield United took to the field on Sunday lunchtime with the latter reaching Wembley, and leaving the former to concentrate on league matters.
Due to the cup commitments and sodden pitch, the Addicks played almost no league games in January, and have been rewarded with the daunting task of playing every Saturday and midweek for the rest of the season. Both March and April have served Charlton almost 10 games a month, with the punishing schedule set to make or break the Addicks’ chance of playing Championship football next season.
The weekend’s Championship fixtures conspired against the Addicks to leave them bottom, but being only 4 points from safety and with 4 games in hand, their future remains firmly in their own hands. With a large number of the young squad currently in their first senior season, tired legs could be a huge factor as this season reaches its climax.
Another continuing saga surrounding the immediate future of the club remains Chris Powell’s contract. This week, Powell (who is one of the longest serving Championship managers at just over three years) announced to the media that financial terms of the contract have been agreed for some time, but that football matters have yet to be clarified. This could be viewed in two very different ways by Addicks fans, the majority of whom are also seeking clarification on Powell’s future. Optimistic fans will be pleased that Powell is not bending over to Duchâtelet and his network, with the former player clearly requesting a part in the purchase and sale of future players. If Powell can gain Katrien Meire’s trust (Duchâtelet’s eyes at The Valley), by proxy he will also gain Duchâtelet’s trust, and with the success in the cup he will surely be given funds to spend in the summer.
Pessimistic fans may suggest that as footballing terms have yet to be agreed, Duchâtelet may be determined to make use of his network and ignore employing players who are established in English football. Whilst this may be preferable financially for the Belgian, it’s a risky experiment, and if Powell walks he’ll have to employ a puppet who is prepared dance the way that Duchâtelet wants him to.
Final news this week was the news of season ticket prices for next season. Whilst certain sections have seen a decrease (the cheapest adult season ticket just £150), there has been outrage at the decision to create a ‘Crossbars’ section in the middle of The Covered End. With a huge premium on seats that have been occupied by the same fans since Charlton’s return to The Valley, fans have flocked to social media to voice their disproval. Charlton have issued a statement arguing that the decision aims to enhance current tickets, with supporters having the chance to renew without ‘Crossbars’, but with the Addicks so close to the relegation zone, the changes make ticket sales are hard to predict.
Charlton once again seem balanced precariously on the edge of a precipice that will define their future. With the cup dream over for another year, the players can focus on the league. However, with a punishing schedule, a Wembley dream dashed, and the manager’s contract still (italics) not resolved, the next two months are going to tell fans a lot about the future of the club. One thing the players don’t lack is desire (despite the flat performance against United), and they’ll be giving their all in the upcoming games. The question remains…will their all be enough?
In Powell We Trust!
By Tom Wallin