Chance to move forward with new owner
11 January ~ Last week, after a period of uncertainty and increasingly restricted cashflow, Charlton Athletic were taken over by Belgian businessman Roland Duchâtelet. It's impossible to say if he will turn out to be a saviour or a vulture but in the short run his impact has been immediate: a dome went up over the Valley's saturated pitch to enable it to dry out so that today's Championship match against Barnsley can go ahead – the scheduled FA Cup tie with Oxford United was twice postponed last week.
This might not be the most glamorous signal of intent from a new owner but many Charlton fans will be happy if it represents an interest in the nuts and bolts of what a football club requires to function. Duchâtelet already owns several clubs around Europe, including Standard Liege, so the hope is that he has some sort of plan for co-ordinated long-term development.
Of course, there are supporters who would like to see the club become the next Manchester City (talk of a move to a new stadium on the Greenwich Peninsula keeps cropping up) but there is a sizeable contingent who want to stay at The Valley (not least because of the efforts of fans to return there in the 1990s), believe passionately in the club's community projects and hope to see a continuation of the impressive recent record of youth development. Since Duchâtelet doesn't have the kind of bottomless wealth enjoyed by City's owners, this looks like the most realistic prospect – though at this stage his motives and intentions are undeclared.
One thing all Charlton fans can agree on is that it would be very nice if we could beat Barnsley today. With only three league wins at home all season, The Valley's muddy pitch is becoming an ever-uglier sight for home supporters, while visiting fans have found cold Saturday afternoons in south-east London surprisingly pleasant.
Charlton's recent form has not been quite so bad. Unbeaten in four, the team have a solid back four with good attacking full-backs in Rhoys Wiggins and Chris Solly. Midfield can lack creativity but the emergence of the homegrown Jordan Cousins gives hope, and it will be interesting to see if new loan signing Astrit Ajdarevic (from Liege, of course) has a role to play. The big problem has been creating and scoring goals. Yann Kermorgant battles valiantly but has lacked support.
A win against Barnsley would help take Charlton away from the bottom three and give confidence that the future might be bright on and off the field. Defeat would keep a relegation battle firmly on the agenda. Manager Chris Powell and many senior plays will see their contracts expire in the summer. Now is the time to prove their worth. Tom Green