Usually, we like to find an opposition's blog to get some perspective before the match. This week though, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I actually have a friend who supports Charlton Athletic (after all, he has to be useful sometime, right?). Please welcome my good friend Dan Esam in his blogospheric debut. Without further ado...
Not too long ago, Charlton Athletic was in the Premier League, challenging for a Champions League place. Several disastrous seasons led to the Addicks spending 3 seasons in the 3rd division. What factors contributed to this fall from grace? (Financial problems, poor personnel etc) What was it like as a fan?
Dan Esam: I think the biggest factor was without doubt the departure of Alan Curbishley. He'd established Charlton as a solid Premier League club over a number of years, and we'd finally got to the point where fans were looking to the top of the table instead of worrying about the bottom. We've never been a club with a lot of funds at our disposal and he did a great job of making smart signings and developing youth players. The decisions after he left were fairly inexplicable in my mind. Iain Dowie was a solid manager at times but seemed a definite step down from Curbishley. When he failed to get the job done the decision to appoint unproven Les Reed from within put the final nail in the coffin for me. By the time the board realised their mistake and shelled out for Alan Pardew it was too late.
The following season we suffered a mid-season slump and I think not getting promoted straight away led to pessimistic feelings around the club and that translated into a second relegation season. We also had some fairly serious financial problems, flirting with administration a few times, and that prevented us from bringing in the quality we needed to push on.
As a fan it was incredibly frustrating, and obviously devastating. We'd become used to Premier League football and to striving for more, and I think the first relegation came as a shock to many of us. There are a lot more than 20 clubs that consider themselves worthy of the top flight, and it's always hard when you're not where you think you should be.
After those years of mediocrity, something went right for Charlton last season, as they ran away with League One setting the record for most points ever in the league, and the highest tally in any European league that year. What went so right for Charlton then, and how has that translated into the Championship?
DE: Well the new ownership had come in the season before and for the first time in a few years we actually had some money to spend over the summer. I felt bad for Phil Parkinson getting ousted after the job he'd done with so little resources, but his replacement Chris Powell is a club hero and he's made good use of the funds he had.
Bradley Wright-Phillips was unstoppable last season, and we simply didn't have the money to bring in someone of his calibre in the preceding years. Powell also seemed to instil confidence in his new squad, there was a sense of belief in the fans and the players that hadn't really been there since our poor first season in the Championship. It was a great year for us and I think the fans needed it after what we've been through.
Unfortunately we didn't really manage to carry over the momentum from last year and had a bit of a slow start this season. It's always an adjustment after promotion though and we've begun to string some results together in the last month or so.
This season thus far, Johnnie Jackson is the Addicks' top scorer with 4 goals. Charlton's 28 goals spread out between 14 different scorers. While this is perhaps overly simplistic, this seems to indicate that there is no one danger man. Is this true? Would you consider this a weakness, or depth of squad?
DE: I'd say that's certainly true to an extent. Wright-Phillips is a lethal striker but he's got less appearances with the likes of Rob Hulse, Ricardo Fuller and Yann Kermorgant all playing well. It's always nice to have a dominant player up front but we've been strong at the back and with goals coming from all over the pitch we've managed to go on a good run of late. The problem with relying on one striker is that they can lose form, so I suppose in a way it's reassuring to see that we have a lot of players with the quality to produce a goal.
This was mostly before your time, but Bolton's current assistant manager, Lennie Lawerence, spent 9 years at Charlton Athletic from 1982-1991 as his first proper managerial position. What is his legacy with the club?
DE: Well as you say he was a bit before my time but he led the club during an incredibly difficult period in our history. We'd had a string of managers and then serious financial problems forced us to leave the Valley and start a ground-share at Selhurst Park. Lawrence was still able to get us promoted to the First Division and I think he laid the groundwork for what Curbishley would achieve in the following years.
Finally, can I have a prediction for the match?
DE: We're unbeaten in our last seven, but only managed a draw in the last two and threw away leads twice against Brighton last week. That said, Bolton haven't been in the best form of late and I think in the end we should have enough about us for the win away, where we've been strongest. I'm going for Bolton 1-2 Charlton.
Thanks again to Dan for taking the time to answer our questions!