Almost two years ago I wrote this piece the morning after Charlton lost the play-off semi final to Swindon at The Valley. That agonising penalty shoot-out defeat has to rank as one of the lowest moments I've experienced watching football; far greater than the disappointment of seeing the Addicks relegated 3 times. When Nicky Bailey sliced his penalty high into the night sky, Charlton's dreams of escaping the 3rd tier of English football at the first time of asking disappeared along with it. The Addicks were no longer brief guests of League One - too big for this division - this now felt scarily like home. In truth, the season was far from convincing all along despite it's dramatic end, and perhaps the hardest thing to come to terms with was the harsh, gut-wrenching realisation that the decline had not necessarily halted following relegation from the Premier league in 2007. There could well be more dark days ahead. Very tough times.
When they took control of the club at the start of 2011, even the new owners recognised that these were desperate times and urged us to "please don't give up on your team" in a letter sent out to season ticket holders. The gates dropped alarmingly; the floating fan drifted off to find something better to do. The die-hards continued hoping.
Yes, there are more important things in life than football, and I know in my heart my priorities should sometimes be different, but if I could just have a pound for every time I've wished for better days...
Back in May 2010 I lamented that there would still be dark days ahead "unless a knight in shinning armour is riding in to SE7 at this very moment". Ok, things were not quite that literal, but in mid-January of 2011 he did arrive (or should I say, come home) in the familiar shape of Charlton legend, Chris Powell...or 'Sir Chris Powell' to his adoring public. Starting with a bang, Powell lead Charlton to 4 straight wins before facing his own tussle with the dark forces determined to drag Charlton further into the depths. So much needed to change and the big question was whether this young manager would be able to turn around the listing hulk that was Charlton Athletic. The die hards kept the faith and continued hoping.
But just like in the comic books, heroes always rise victorious in the end, and Chris Powell could not have made a more dramatic difference to The Addicks and I could not love the man more for it. In simple terms, Sir Chris has given us our Charlton back. The against-all-odds spirit that made me fall in love with a club to which I had no natural connection as a youngster is back.
Champions of League One...nobody in their right mind could have dreamt that in a million years!
And tomorrow we, the fans, are rewarded for our loyalty as the club puts on a show in our last game of the season. The Valley will be packed to the rafters: SOLD OUT!
There will be numerous events in advance of kick-off, which include strong rumours that the League One trophy will be parachuted into The Valley by the Red Devils, no less, with more events planned for half time. The football has become almost irrelevant to the overall occasion (although to equal the points record for this division would be the icing on the cake).
And what better opposition than Hartlepool United, who, for some years now, have a fantastic tradition of wearing coordinated fancy dress to their final away match of the season. The Valley will be awash with colour anyway, but it appears we will be joined by hundreds of Smurfs in the away end. Top marks for the effort, chaps, you will add to the occasion wonderfully.
And then there will be the sight of talismanic skipper, Johnny Jackson lifting that glorious trophy! Even the thought of it makes my eyes glaze over!!!
Just after Sir Chris was appointed I wrote "My heart aches with a desire to see Chris Powell lead my favourite football team to glory". Sometimes the things you wish for do come true!
Like a kid on the night before Christmas...I just simply cannot wait for tomorrow to come around.