Charlton go to Portsmouth today in their latest pre-season friendly. No doubt if we lose, or even if we draw, pessimists will claim that it means a relegation battle ahead.
I am going to a pre-season at my local non-league club today. I haven't been to any of the others, perhaps just as well as they lost 1-2 at home to Cheltenham Town, 1-3 to Walsall (admittedly at almost full strength) and could only draw 2-2 away playing the Bardsmen at the Anne Hathaway Stadium. The only win has been 3-2 against Birmingham City's development side. Do I therefore conclude that they are facing a relegation battle: no.
However, the manager has been complaining in the local press that he hates pre-season matches. Actually, his comments seem a bit bland compared to the swearing in his Black Country accent which happens when he comes into the vice-presidents' lounge before a game. Nevertheless, he has my sympathy. A number of players have already picked up niggles and we have just one physiotherapist to deal with them.
Even at Charlton's level, there is nothing worse than getting an injury in a pre-season match. I remember Matt Svensson banging the side of the dugout in frustration when he got injured at FC Roda: it kept him out for a long time. (A happier memory of that game was sweeping up in equine magnate John Window's Merc: he told the car park attendant that we were Charlton directors).
In the old days there was generally one practice match pre-season, Probables v Possibles or Reds v Whites or sometimes Blues v Reds. These were generally played behind closed doors, although the one on 11 August 1956 attracted a crowd of 3,392 and that on 11th August 1957 saw 3,843 at The Valley. A combination of senior and junior trial matches in 1958 brought in 4,095. A match today between the first and second eleven might well attract a bigger crowd. But I hope those going to Pompey today enjoy themselves.