Since Roland Duchatelet bought Charlton there has been constant accusations from many that the identity of the club will be discarded mercilessly; that we will loose our Charlton to 'The network'. A summer of huge investment on and off the pitch has helped to calm those fears to some degree, but if you will allow yourself to look for small signs that the new owner might not be the ogre you think then you need only to have been at the Valley last night. In a high-profile position between the players entrance and the ticket office we now have a huge picture of Sir Chris erected. Far from brushed aside and forgotten, Powell has been remembered and respected for what he has done for our club. He's our hero, not Roland's, but the installation of this image alongside others (Kinsella and Killer amongst them) reflects very well on the new ownership and Katrien Meire's running of this club, in my opinion.
Signs of positive progress off the field, but what about on it?
With two home league games inside of the next week it's fair to say the Capital One Cup 1st round won't top anyone's priority list. So often the proverbial banana skin, Charlton fans could not be blamed for keeping their hard earned cash in their pockets, but perhaps it was the curiosity of seeing a refurbished Valley that drew a rather impressive (relatively speaking) 5,700 gate. Those committed enough to venture to the game would have been well rewarded with a decent Charlton performance and four goals in surroundings more suited to the Premier league. Food for thought in what direction we may be attempting to move towards.
Colchester started well enough but soon faded under Charlton's dominance. The sending off of one-time Charlton target, Okuonghae, and the resulting penalty killed any real chance of this encounter being yet another horror night for Charlton, and sure enough, three second half goals eased Charlton in to the 2nd round. It could have been more.
It's almost impossible to comprehend that Joe Gomez is still only 17. Playing at right back last night the young England U-17 international was outstanding and you have to wonder if Chris Solly was sitting rather uncomfortably at the back of the West Stand looking on. His calm and assured performance stood out, as did the experienced and reassuringly vocal, Bikey-Amougou. Yoni Buyens was impressive in the middle and his replacement on the hour mark, Gudmundsson, showed neat touches, an eye for a forward pass and most of all, a willingness to shoot from distance. It was his long range effort that provided Church with a tap in late in the game. I was pleased the much-maligned forward got a goal, as I was that the popular Wilson bagged two.
Sitting just behind the Charlton dug out I picked up on the enthusiasm Peeters has to play good attacking football and how cross he got when we wasted possession. I also picked up on the fact he seems to like smacking his players on the arse. In with the new regime, out with a good, honest, firm hand shake or a pat on the back and in with an open-handed arse slap, one of which seemed to take Tucudean by surprise after his substitution, much to the amusement of the coaching staff.
All in all it was a good night at the Valley made all the more memorable for the fact it was my daughter's first Charlton game. In fact, I took advantage of it being a non-school night and the low ticket prices and took my boy, 'er Indoors and my Addicks supporting Mum along as well. A real family affair! On the walk back to the car my little girl said she loved visiting the Valley. She knows how much the stadium means to me. Seeing her face light up when she first set eyes on the ground earlier in the evening will live with me forever. I asked her if she would now call herself a Charlton fan amongst her friends and she said "definitely, I want to come again". I told her that she will not always see Charlton brush teams aside and score four goals and that there will be highs and lows she must embrace. I warned her that we may never mix with the big boys in the Premier League. Just like her younger brother, I think they understand what supporting Charlton means, if only by virtue of what it's done to me down the years!
After the game Peeters hinted that the Delort deal was not dead and even the player himself admitted he was frustrated that the move has not happened yet. Hopefully Katrien can continue her good work and fill our number 9 jersey sooner rather than later.
It's tempting to get carried away, and I'd love nothing more than to do so, but the visit of Wigan will be a whole different ball game and will be another huge test of Peeters new-look Charlton. Let's not forget this is a new team that need time to gel despite early promise.
None the less, I, for one, will embrace the future with optimism! Bring it on!