Saturday got off to a great start after I decided to pass up my wife's offer of a lift and take full advantage of the balmy late summer weather by running the 6.5m to the pub where I'd left my car overnight. I do enjoy the virtues of a good run first thing in the morning - it really sets me up for the day. The run was particularly enjoyable as part of my route took me off-road and along countryside tracks, which is a terrain I very rarely run on. By the time I got back home I was about ready to grab a shower and head for the Valley.
To raise my mood still further, I had a raft of music to get through on the journey down to SE7. One of the great advantages of rarely having company to Charlton games means I can get deep inside the sort of music I want to listen to undisturbed. Being a music man, I love those self-indulgent moments. Later on Saturday evening my missus and I were going to an Arabian Nights themed fancy dress party (more on that later) and as my varied musical taste are well documented, I'd been asked to put together some music that fitted the mood of such an event. Therefore, I spent the 45mins on-route to the Valley thumbing through my collection of music from North Africa and the Arab Peninsula, with my personal favourite being some excellent jazz from the legendary Egyptian drummer, Salah Ragab.
Knowing that the club's £5 a ticket promotion pretty much guaranteed a decent turn-out (22,000 plus), and taking into account Charlton's recent history, the game looked like a stonewall banana skin. But for the first time in some years I felt confident we'd get a result because we were at home, had the better players and had good form on our side. As any Addick would know only too well, those facts alone (excluding the last one, perhaps!) would not have been enough in recent years and so often these sort of occasions ended up being horrible days to forget. The Covered End were in raucous mood, which made for a great atmosphere inside the bustling Valley. Long may it continue!
Having faced the sort of ungracious demise that we have, I think most Charlton fans still expect the wheels to fall off and continue to guard against possible disappointment by finding it easier to focus on the elements of the team that remain work-in-progress. I can understand that, but the apprehensive feeling and fear of impending disappointment is lifting in me, and my faith in the team to produce more consistent levels of performance is growing ever stronger. Charlton do look a different team...but that's because they are: completely different. There will be set backs - and the week ahead will be a huge test - but we are now deep enough into the season to stop referring to the 'good start' and concentrate on the 'continuing good form' of the Addicks. By the end of the week, we'll be a quarter of the way through the season!
I thought a number of players produced their best performances to date, which is another encouraging sign. Wiggins, in particular, was outstanding, as was Solly, once again. Although not at his best, I love Stephens desire to play football. How refreshing it is. I just hope that the crowd encourage him rather than grow frustrated with the odd misplaced pass that will inevitably happen. We do not want to end up with the 'hot potato' scenario that Racon & Semedo were never able to shake off, and how we suffered for it. Hollands, who understandably looked a little bit away with the fairies at times (his wife gave birth to Triplets earlier in the week) gives Charlton a real steely-but-classy edge in the middle of the park. He's my new favourite Addick (he'll no doubt be pleased to know)! So often the mark of a good side, the backbone of Charlton looks pretty impressive at the moment.
Despite Chesterfield pulling a goal back from the spot, the game never seemed in doubt for me.
So on to the evening, where I took on the role of a rich Arab (I've never seen a poor one), with my missus dressing up as a Genie. The hosts of the party had gone to extraordinary lengths to create an Arabian paradise in their home which included authentic cuisine and the creation of an amazing Bedouin-style desert settlement, complete with a 4 pipe Hookah (Hubbly Bubbly) in their front room! It was a fantastic night. And as for my music...it went down a treat...for about 15 mins (14 mins longer than I thought), before being replaced by the sort of pop drivel that Capital radio hammer to bits.
A great day all round...
If the weather holds and work permits, I will be taking in my first away game of the season tomorrow night, full of hope as always!