Friday, 2 May 2008

Ten years after Wembley

Nearly ten years after that glorious day at Wembley Charlton are a mid-table Championship club. As Peter Varney points out in a farewell message on the Charlton website, at least we now have a stadium that we can be proud of. The challenge now is to get a team worthy of it and to get fans to fill it.

The club has come a long way since the dark days when it nearly disappeared, but we need to look forward rather than back. Somehow or other we have to put together a decent challenge for promotion next year. I am no longer on any of the lists because I got tired of the circular arguments and the negativity, but no doubt those who like to 'read off' results have been predicting relegation to League 1.

I think the real danger is that we can become the Burnley of the south, neither challenging for promotion or facing a real threat of relegation. The club has lost momentum and that is a key requirement in today's fast changing world.

The last day of the Championship looks like being an exciting one and I hope that I am not too jet lagged to follow it. In the past Chaventry City supporters used to irritate me with their smug 'We never go down' assertions when the Wee Man kept them in the top flight. But now I feel rather sorry for them as fellow sufferers of the curse of Dowie.

But then I have many good friends who support Southampton, while I regard Hillsborough (for its sad associations) as a great historic ground. I don't have any particular animus towards Leicester City. The 5-3 defeat at Blackpool did irritate me because I thought that the odd configuration of the ground and the strength of the wind gave an unusual advantage to the home side.

When we were in the lower/mid-table reaches of the second division in the past we tended to go for 1-1 draws at home against teams like Port Fail on the last day of the season and it seems to me that this is the most likely result on Sunday (particularly given that we have been 1-1 draw specialists this season).

For the last time you will read the exhortation 'Enjoy the game!' from Peter Varney in the programme. Peter Varney has different values from mine and we have had a number of disagreements over the years, but I salute his dedication to the club and the honesty and resilience with which he has approached a very difficult job. I sincerely wish him well for the future. He deserves a rest and then a new challenge that will make use of his considerable abilities.

Finally, a reminder that the fate of Leamington will be decided tomorrow when they face Stourbridge in the BGB Midlands Division play off final at the New Windmill Ground. Having won 2nd place by a convincing points margin, it will be a great blow if their bogey team deny them promotion. I suspect it may go to extra time and even a penalty shootout.

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