Charlton Athletic’s last two seasons have been characterised by a flirtation with relegation, a decisive change of manager and then pulling clear of trouble, but could there be a wind of change in the air at The Valley this season?
Certainly, the way Charlton have come through an exceptionally difficult opening month of the season gives rise to hope that they can stay away from the bottom three for the entire campaign.
In beating Queens Park Rangers and Hull City, two clubs relegated from the Premier League, at home, along with picking up draws at Derby County and Nottingham Forest, Charlton have showed they can be a match for any of the Championship’s top teams on their day. Even a 2-1 defeat at Wolves in the final game in August could not take the shine off an encouraging start to the season, especially when you also add in 4-1 wins over both Dagenham & Redbridge and Peterborough United in the Capital One Cup to set up a third-round date with local rivals Crystal Palace.
They are certainly making any price boosts on winning promotion worth a second look, with the club having not played in the Premier League since 2007.
True, it would be folly to get carried away just yet given that Charlton went unbeaten in 11 league games at the start of last season before a winless run at the end of 2014 and start of 2015 cost Bob Peeters his job and saw the Israeli coach Guy Luzon appointed as his replacement.
The season before, Charlton were always playing catch-up after winning just once in their opening 10 games and, after Roland Duchatelet bought the club in January 2014, Chris Powell eventually paid the price as Jose Riga was brought in to stave off the threat of relegation.
Luzon achieved the same feat last season in dragging Charlton away from any trouble after overcoming the doubts of the players upon his appointment. You could understand why the players were concerned whether Luzon had the requisite experience and qualities to succeed, but he has shown in his short time in charge that he can handle the division.
What potentially could be most beneficial to Charlton this season is the slightly more varied approach to their transfer business during the summer. Though the Standard Liege connection still remains through Luzon, along with Duchatelet, there was no mass influx of players from the Belgian club in the latest transfer window.
Instead, casting the net further afield could well have landed Charlton with some astute signings in the likes of Simon Makienok and Patrick Bauer, who should continue to improve with more experience of English football.
Allied to home-grown products like Jordan Cousins and Morgan Fox, along with the experience of Alou Diarra in midfield, Charlton have a core group of players with the quality to not just stay out of trouble, but potentially aim a little higher.
Given the form they have showed against many of the favourites for promotion so far, Charlton shouldn’t be under-estimated over the coming months. If they can maintain consistency, they will also break the habit of changing manager during the season.