Back on the opening day of the season, with optimism brimming from every corner of the Stadium of Light, Sunderland gave away a penalty and went 1-0 down after just ten minutes. A hell of a reality check.
A 96th minute header from Lynden Gooch flipped that back around though, as the travelling Charlton fans were brought right back down to earth. It would be easy to think that would set up a dark season for The Addicks and they would be no where near Jack Ross’ red and white wizards come this stage of the season, what with all their off the field strife. However, It’s been anything but dark.
Yes, those problems away from the pitch remain, but Lee Bowyer has his side performing very well. Charlton are fifth and with Lyle Taylor & Karlan Grant knocking in goals for fun, they look a good bet for the Play Offs at the very least. Which means we better break into the top two because a repeat of the 1998 Play Off final will be too much to bear.
To find out whether or not Charlton fans expect to break into the automatic spots themselves, what’s going on with their ownership situation and how they see the game going, we chatted to Louis Mendez of Charlton Live.
Oh, by the way, we had this conversion before they signed Williams, hence the lack of mention for Netflix’s latest breakout star.
RR: When we last spoke before the beginning of the season you said that any potential takeovers were progressing very slowly. This still seems to be the case with Charlton still in the hands of Roland Duchatelet. Any updates?
LM: There’s rumours in the air at the moment that we may be seeing some progress.
TalkSPORT’s Jim White, who has close contact with Duchatelet, has even suggested that a deal could have been completed this week with an Australian-led consortium.
Charlton fans will however take any news with a pinch of salt. We’ve been told deals could be nearly completed before, only for unexplained delays to occur. So we’ll wait and see.
RR: On the pitch this season has been an escape from all the off field issues, I would imagine, with you sitting nicely in fifth. How does that feel against the backdrop of the current ownership though? Do you think the best thing about promotion would be the fact that the club will be more attractive to any potential investors?
LM: You’d expect so, but the performances on the pitch have certainly been a welcome distraction in any case.
Lee Bowyer’s signings in the summer gave Charlton something to build from, even if the squad is light in some areas. An injury crisis has also hindered them somewhat but even then, they’ve managed to stay the pace with the top six.
Karlan Grant and Lyle Taylor up-top are as clinical a front two as you’d find in the league. If they can fire Charlton to promotion, the club will become a more enticing proposition for any potential investors.
RR: On the subject of potential promotion, how do you see the season panning out for you? Do you think you can make a push for the automatic places or do the Play Offs feel more likely?
LM: I don’t think Charlton have quite enough to mount an automatic promotion charge but there’s every chance we’ll be in the play-offs again. Anything can happen from there on in.
Injuries and squad size will temper our top two hopes in my opinion, but if things change at the club in January then who knows.
RR: Lyle Taylor caused us plenty of problems on the opening day and he’s had an excellent season so far with 14 goals. Along with Karlan Grant, are they the main threats for Sunderland fans to keep an eye on? Anyone else you would single out?
LM: The likes of Joe Aribo in midfield and Jason Pearce in the defence are steady but both have joined the ever-increasing injury list in the last few days. Aribo in particular has helped the team tick in the middle and has been a big miss over the Christmas period.
Special mention as well for George Lapslie who made his full league debut at the SOL on opening day. Many were worried how he would adapt to first-team football after a wobbly cameo from the bench last season but he’s really stepped up this campaign and looked the part.
Naturally, he’s expected to be out injured on Saturday as well.
RR: Like Taylor, Josh Maja was on the scoresheet when we last met and he’s kept the goals coming. Will his sheer goal threat be the main problem for you to focus on or is there anyone else in our squad you’re worried about?
LM: Maja will of course be a concern but Aiden McGeady on the wing will also keep us on our toes. He’s been amongst the goals as well.
Our full-backs are both not playing in their preferred positions, with Chris Solly a right-back playing on the left and Anfernee Dijksteel a defensive midfielder filling in at right-back – so they will need to be at their very best to keep McGeady quiet.
RR: How do you expect Lee Bowyer to approach this game and would do you think his starting line up will be?
LM: Charlton will look to play the ball around and use Karlan Grant’s pace to hurt Sunderland when the chance to get in behind comes. It’s going to be a cracking game.
My predicted XI (4-4-2 diamond): Dillon Phillips, Anfernee Dijksteel, Naby Sarr, Patrick Bauer, Chris Solly, Krystian Bielik, Darren Pratley, Albie Morgan, Tariqe Fosu, Karlan Grant, Lyle Taylor.
Finally, can we have a score prediction please?
LM: Both sides can score goals!
I’ll go for 2-2.