Saturday, 12 November 2011

2 years ago, in Round 1 of the FA Cup...

Charlton two years ago were in a similar position to which they find themselves now. Towards the top of the table. The FA cup draw had pitted what was then Phil Parkinson's side against minnows Northwich Victoria, a sufficient minnow for the tie to warrant a Sunday lunchtime ITV slot.

Parkinson fielded a pretty strong side: Randolph; Youga, Dailly, Sodje, Omozusi; Bailey, Semedo, Shelvey, Racon, Sam; McLeod. When I say pretty strong, I mean many of those players were usual first teamers. The way the season unfolded, I am definitely not claiming that they were all gifted individually. I mean, if you were a barn door, you'd feel safe when Izale McLeod lined up to have a shot at you...

The crowd was in for what they hoped would be an upset. The Charlton fans, already feeling pretty humiliated following their plummet through the football league, concerned by a blip in league form, and experiencing their first First Round tie for a long time, were extremely wary of an upset.

Three events of note in the first half. A header across goal met by nobody. A frantic goalmouth scramble. A wonderful reflex save from a header. And yes, you guessed it, all three involved Northwich on the attack. Charlton actually managed a shot in the 2nd half, but, of course, it didn't go in.

Northwich Victoria celebrate
Large bundle of players following Randolph's
attempt to start a new dance craze.
The most vivid memory is of the goal. I hadn't really watched with any great interest. The result would only be news if it was a bad one for us. You win, well you're expected to. You draw, you get mocked. You lose? I didn't want to know about it... But the goal, the oh so humiliating goal. A header managed to get passed the defence. No matter, Randolph has been solid today, he will disperse the worried feeling by coming out and picking the ball up. But no. He decided to come out, then go back, then come back out, then go back again. It was the most jittery and utterly disturbing goalkeeping I'd seen in a while. All he managed to do was maroon himself to the spot, allowing an 18 year old substitute to slot it past him.


It was awful. ITV were lapping it up. Praise left right and centre for a team they tried to claim 'they'd always supported'. A pitch invasion at the end, for goodness sake. This was the scale of the woe. Addicks across the land were sat staring at what was an utterly shambolic event, unable to come to terms with the scale of the mockery that they faced on Monday morning.

It is the memories of this day that fill me with apprehension about tomorrow's game. The stage is set. A non-league opposition. A Sunday lunchtime ITV-televised game...

I should really feel slightly less concerned due to the squad we now have. Chris Powell has been a revelation, and his players have been equally effective. We no longer employ the uncertain 'shall we lump it?' tactics seen under Parkinson, but a better, more convincing passing style. Admittedly, this means we can be stopped by packing the midfield and employing Tranmere's 'lets kick the shit out of them' style, but still, I'd rather have it this way. I'm also more confident in our rotation players. McLeod was shocking. Benson is better (though some would disagree about Benno).

It would be unfair to write off FC Halifax Town. They've been promoted as Champions two seasons running, having emerged from the ashes of Halifax Town FC when they went into administration in 2008. Currently 12th in the table, they have certainly started the season well for a newly promoted team. Tomorrow aside, they are a team most Charlton fans would wish well in future. Nobody likes to see a club go out of business, and the resurgence is a credit to the people behind the new club. A quote from a recent Daily Mail article reads: "This club is for the fans. We are merely its custodians." What a brilliant ethos. If only every club was like this one.

Nobody knows what perils await tomorrow. The only thing I know is that I'll be watching the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix instead of the Halifax vs Charlton game. And if we lose? Well, at least we're top of the league.

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