"My message to the fans tonight is clear. We need your support when the team is doing well, but even more so in the lower moments"
"We are coming from a difficult position because we are the only Championship team to have played as many matches as we have recently"
"We are also doing this with a lot of young players. They are learning, and sometimes they will make mistakes. That is when we must get behind them even more"
"The fans and the players this evening must have the same mindset. The sole focus can only be on Charlton and giving everything to the cause"
Those quotes would not have looked out of place attributed to our very own Sir Chris Powell, except in this case, they were from the mouth of Jose Riga. Ahead of last night's game Charlton's
manager head coach gave a rousing rally call that was embraced by the Addickted in the same way he has so obviously embraced what it is to 'be Charlton'. Riga came into the club in the most difficult of circumstances - none of which of his own making - but despite this he has carried himself with perfect dignity throughout. It would appear his likable personality made an impression with the players and credit to him for recognising early on the fighting spirit and togetherness of the squad Powell left behind. Without the opportunity to add to it, he has continued to get the best out of a Charlton squad desperately in need of investment. Riga had a target to keep this club in the Championship, and last night on an emotional-charged evening at the Valley, Charlton finally clawed themselves over the finishing line. Well done Jose. Well done Sir Chris.
I've seen this club relegated three times and I can remember clearly the heartbreak of the moment it was confirmed on each of those occasions, no matter how prepared you think you are to cope with the event. I guess you don't forget things like that. There has been times this season when it felt all-ends-up like a relegation season; when I was convinced we would go down. It's only when it is no longer a threat do you realise how much it has been weighing on your mind, every single day, and most certainly more than it should with a wife and two young kids. When the ref blew for time I simply slumped back in my seat and stared out across the Valley, glassy eyed, completely unable to stand and cheer. I just needed a few moments to myself to let it all sink in.
Charlton are safe! No other results can change that now. I just can't describe the relief.
|Job Done Jose!|
Harriott started and ended the scoring in glorious fashion with two cracking goals. Riga stuck by the much-maligned young winger when many others questioned his inclusion, but was rewarded for his faith. Even when
Frank Sidebottom Deeney scored a wonderful equaliser for the visitors on the hour I remained calm and hopeful. A draw would not have been disastrous, but it was not what we wanted.
And how typical that it was Johnnie Jackson who powered into the box to latch on to a cross before scoring the goal that has kept his team up? We are so lucky to have him leading us on the pitch. Alongside him was a mixture of exciting young talent from Charlton's very own academy and some older, more experienced players, some of whom we expected to sweat blood for us despite them not knowing if they'd have contracts for next season. To a man, they fought for what we wanted.
After the game, Riga addressed the crowd and I sensed a man who was saying goodbye. Judge for yourself with the footage I took below. I know he's Duchatelet's man, and some will be skeptical of him for that, but if he does not continue beyond this season, then he leaves with my best wishes.
While we're at it, here's Johnnie's speech post-match also...
I made the decision not to go to Blackpool a few weeks back, but I'm so pleased that those travelling Addicks who do head north can now enjoy the occasion without fear of major disappointment. Once the final game of the season is over we can all enjoy the break!
It is destined to be a very interesting period at Charlton this summer, when perhaps Duchatelet's intentions will become much clearer. But for now, in the short term, I'm not going to worry about that. I've worried enough.
But in life you need perspective, and a few rows back from me in the East Stand a gentleman collapsed a short while after Harriott's first goal with a suspected heart attack. At the time of writing this there has been no word on his condition beyond the fact he was rushed to hospital in a critical condition. God willing he pulls through in the same way his favourite team did last night.