So after the traditional end of the season Play Off match, the curtain finally closes on the Championship season. Wasn't a bad one for the Addicks was it? Unfortunately we didn't manage to reach the lofty heights of the Premier League as did our neighbours, but overall I am satisfied that it was a very successful season for Charlton given the squad that we had available.
For me, the close season can be a frustrating time, in particular when it's an 'off-year' for the European Championships and the World Cup. When there is a tournament on there is some level of distraction which makes the couple of months without football a bit more bearable. It also stops me from trawling news sites multiple times a day looking for some scrap of Addicks news. So far the news hasn't been exactly positive.
If early signs are anything to go by, we could be in for another tough season when the campaign kicks off again in August. It's great news that Andy Hughes has signed a contract extension, but Cedric Evina has joined the long line of Charlton players that are heading away from The Valley. Evina becomes the eighth person to be released by the club, though that number could actually be nine if we include Bradley Wright-Phillips, though I have no idea if he has officially been released, I've read nothing that would confirm this.
I think the trimming down of the squad was inevitable with the financial fair play rules beginning to take effect, but we do need to add some new faces if we are to move forward. Chris Powell did brilliantly to manage the team to a top ten finish, especially as we were on such a tight budget. To finish above the likes of Wolves, Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Leeds is a good achievement. These teams would definitely be looked at as the heavyweights of the division pre-season, so congratulations have to go to Powell and the squad for their hard work and commitment.
For some time our fate was hanging in the balance as the season unfolded into one of the closest league campaigns that I can remember. I have to admit, there were times when I was getting a little uncomfortable with our league position as I was mindful of the fact that we have suffered a number of end of season slumps over the years. With our final ten games approaching, we were languishing a little bit too close to the relegation zone for my liking and I was trying not to think of the prospect of another relegation.
But, in fact, it was the end of season run that was to cement our place in this division. In those final ten games, we managed to pick up 6 wins, 3 draws, and spectacularly, only a single defeat. Unfortunately that loss was to that noisy lot from SE16, but there were some great wins in there to be proud of. The Bolton result was a memorable one after going two goals down before scoring three of our own to seal the points. The six goal thrashing of Barnsley will long be remembered by those who made the trip, and the win over Leeds was an important one as not only did the late goals show the character in the team, it also gave us the belief that a top ten finish was entirely possible.
I've often heard it said that you cannot stand still in football, and it's the truth. If we don't improve the team, we could face another season of uncertainty. Powell has done everything that has been expected of him so far, and a bit more besides. We are currently in the ascendancy as a club, and we need to keep that going. Slater and Co. have always insisted that their goal was to get us back to the Premier League, and as hard as Powell is trying, that cannot be done without some investment.