It seems way too early in the season to have that gut-wrenching, nervy feeling inside of my belly and where every train of thought leads inevitably to tonight's match. It's hardly 'must win', but tonight does represent our toughest test of the season so far, and the Addicted at The Valley tonight (and watching from afar on Sky) will be anxious for Charlton to prove they can raise their performance and overcome the challenge of a strong Wednesday side who will themselves be hoping to push for promotion this season. Perhaps more so, I want to believe that the renewed hope has some genuine longevity beyond the first few games of the season...and preferably for the next 41!
I do love evening games at the Valley. The atmosphere seems intensified and far more focused as if nothing else of such importance is happening anywhere else in the world. In way, I guess it isn't. The added advantage to playing this game on a weekday evening will be partly negated by the Wednesday fans who should turn out in numbers and add to what should be a great atmosphere. They, like us, will be hurting inside at the decline of their club and looking forward to better days ahead.
To add to the spice, tonight we'll see the return of last year's player of the year, Jose Semedo. In his time with the Addicks he was easily my favourite player. His determination, passion and effort was unquestionable and I loved the man to bits. But - and it genuinely pains me to say this - he also represented the biggest problem Charlton have had for the last 5-6 years (and certainly since we lost Danny Murphy) in our inability to pass the football or retain possession. It was no surprise that Semedo moved on in the summer: in fact, it was for the best. I will always hold Semedo in the highest of regards and no Charlton fan could surely begrudge him a chance to wipe his own slate clean and head off to the Steel City for a fresh challenge. I would have preferred him to have not moved to a League One club, but I for one will stand and applaud our former skipper, and it will be tough watching him playing against us tonight.
Knowing our luck, Semedo will be pinging 30 yard passes onto a postage stamp tonight...but unlike messrs. Defoe and Lisbie, I won't be too concerned about him scoring (oh, I wish I'd not written that!!!)
I've been impressed with the start to the season: not least of all as the sheer volume of new faces have appeared to gel far quicker that I could ever have hoped. Tonight those with little else to do on a Monday night but to tune into Sky can see for themselves whether Charlton are on the up. So often a monkey on our backs, the TV cameras should add an edge to what will be a tough game.