Last year, when we were headed across the Atlantic for a wedding in the Cotswolds conveniently scheduled to follow the opening of the Coca Cola Championship season, I was certain that we would be greeted with glorious victory over the Iron in what would be a triumphant romp through second division football for Charlton. Those hopes came crashing quickly as a lackluster effort by Charlton and my unfortunate decision to sit in the southern portion of the West Stand instead presented us with an enthralled Scunthorpe side and delirious away fans. It was, at least, an appropriate harbinger for the 07/08 season. Charlton would frequently take opponents for granted or field players that cared little for the shirt or for the supporters in the stands. For me, however, the season was a joy regardless. Charlton's troubles gave me extended opportunities to learn about new teams in a division unfamiliar to me; it also presented the opportunity for new heros to emerge from the ashes of a fetid premiership side (Chris Dickson?; Moo2Kill?; Lloyd Sam? JonJo?).
Now, on the eve of the 08/09 season opener, I am even more excited than I was last year. Absurdly, inexplicably excited; 10-year old on Christmas eve excited -- because this year I am going to enjoy the ride, even if I will not be able to participate first hand. While there is still hope that a return trip to West Africa may involve a slight detour to SE7 this fall, I doubt I'll be able to take in anything Charlton does with my own eyes. That is, however, ok. I am happy to rely on the good folks at Charlton Life (whenever the forum is free of technical hangups) for a narrative description of events. And I will be keenly interested in developments, because I am excited about the squad. For the most part, the players that emphasized prestige over effort and heart have moved on to suck the life out of some other club. They will be replaced by folks who may have limitations, but at least instill some confidence that they are poring every fiber of their being into the team every single fixture. I am thrilled to read on Charlton-related blogs a near unanimous call to get behind this squad and universal condemnation of the kvetching about the state of the club that seems to have prevailed over the last month.
Charlton's strikers (all 50 of them) are pure promise. With the exceptions of veteranos Gray and Todorov, the others -- Varney, Dickson, Fleetwood, and McLeod -- have shown flashes of brilliance in lower divisions and, as such, the hope of quality in second division football. JonJo, Sam, Racon, Semedo, and, with luck, Zheng Zhi make for a potentially exciting, if nerve-wracking, midfield. Holland, JT and Ambrose are the only old hands available to provide a steadying hand. Amdy Faye may not be available in that vein, but the Potters intend to keep Addicks on edge for at least the week (technically, five days) as they decide whether to sign the phenomenal, unparalleled talent that is the Senegalese international (he played Champions League football last year!). While Faye may go, the Shrimpers may provide another young talented midfield player, Nicky Bailey, who has termed a potential move to The Valley "a dream" (Bailey apparently has Charlton as much on his mind as I do). With the departure of Magic, the backline is where most questions revolve. But, even there, the players merit tremendous support -- Moutaouakil, Youga, and Basey, will be joined by Fortune and the new captain Hudson at the back. While I was hopeful that Sam Sodje would provide some cover, reports indicate that injury woes might keep him from contributing to any team for a month.
At this moment, there are less than 12 hours until Pards' limited squad is given its first meaningful test. 10 am EST. Charlton-Swansea. Good times.