Charlton Athletic welcome Doncaster to the Valley this afternoon, knowing that three points are vital.
In 1996, Charlton Athletic’s first four games in Division 1 saw a return of just a single point, after defeats against Huddersfield, Manchester City and Wolves and a 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion.
That City and West Brom are now in the Premier League, and Wolves in the third tier, perfectly illustrates the changing tides of English football. But if Charlton do not wish to take the Midlands side’s place in League One, they would do well to kick-start their season this afternoon.
Today’s home match against Doncaster Rovers is vital for Chris Powell and his team, given their poor start to the new campaign.
After last season’s ninth-place finish, there was a mixture of hope and trepidation among Charlton fans. There is no doubt they exceeded the expectations of many. But to go from that to their current position of 20th – with just a single point – is quite a comedown.
Anything other than a defeat this afternoon would see Powell’s side avoid their worst league start for 17 years. But a draw is not enough in a division when the waters are less unpredictable, more treacherous in the extreme.
To be pulled into a relegation fight at this stage is a prospect the Addicks cannot entertain. And in Powell, they have a manager with the nous to avoid such a fate. Under their former player, Charlton have been on an upward trajectory that should have seen them stabilise in the Championship, with higher hopes reserved for another day.
Instead they have lost away to Bournemouth and at home to Middlesbrough, with their single point coming in a 2-2 draw at Barnsley.
When you consider the opposition, Charlton have cause to be concerned. In a league containing the likes of Nottingham Forest, Reading, Wigan, Watford and QPR, points are hard enough to accrue as it is.
That Bolton Wanderers are currently just one place ahead of the Addicks may give them hope. But given the Trotter’s fixtures thus far, in truth the situations are incomparable.
Charlton should win this afternoon. But if they do not, their next league games at home to Leicester and away to Watford will become even more difficult as the pressure sets in.
Powell has done nothing but impress since he took over at the Valley, to such an extent that in a previous piece I hailed him as the next great football manager. Now he has to show how great he is, starting today…
What do you think this season has in store for Charlton?
image: © Ewan-M