My Saturday couldn't have started better. Despite wind and rain that drove in from every angle I stood proudly watching my boy's under 8's academy team tear their opponents apart. My pleasure at watching those young chaps follow their coach's instructions to the letter was well worth getting soaked to the skin for. A team unified. Success. What a wonderful thing that is.
I drove on to the Valley hoping for much of the same. I was asking too much.
In the west Stand a fan had set out a flag wishing Big Bob a happy birthday. Our struggling boss must have used up all his birthday wishes hoping for a break that would never come. There is little question Big Bob has a very limited deck of cards with which to shuffle, but I'm absolutely convinced the problems run deeper than available personnel and, once again, Charlton looked woefully unconvincing.
The first half was so forgettable I found myself daydreaming of being back on the rain-soaked touchline of my boy's game earlier that morning. I was happy there. Below me, Charlton players went through the motions without the bravery required to make something happen. Brighton looked very average. Two poor teams.
Where exactly has Wilson's smile gone? It is painful watching such a popular player so out of sorts. His normal cheerful and positive demeanor replaced by the appearance of a man who has had enough. He's not alone. Why?
As the game entered the second half with all the grace of a fat ballerina our new young hope, Tony Watt, came on and looked enthusiastic and determined on his debut. I can understand his desire to be the instant hero, he really should have squared the ball to Igor rather than trying to beat Stockdale from a tight angle. Vetokele stood on the edge of the 6 yard box unmarked and ready to side-foot home...or at least, you'd like to think that's what he would have done. In my eyes, that was a match-winning chance lost because of the wrong decision. Those fine lines between success and failure. The crowd applauded Watt for his powerful surge into the box, but Igor stood despondent and I slumped back on my seat. Chance gone.
But there would be a far better example of those fine lines...
Solly, forced into the middle of the park after Johnnie's injury, sent a rasping shot goalwards on the hour mark that surprised everyone in the Valley. It struck the underside of the bar when just a few centimeters lower and the Valley would have erupted. It was our best effort in our best spell in the game. Our bad fortune ensured the rebound fell kindly to the visitors.
And within two minutes Brighton had grabbed the winner from yet another set piece. The impressive Rohan Ince heading into an empty net after Etheridge missed the ball mid-air. It was a weak goal to concede and is becoming an unwanted habit. The steady, rock of a defence that gave us an encouraging platform at the start of the season a shadow of its former self.
Our response to conceding was just nowhere near good enough. I expect far more. No, I demand it. Brighton were nowhere near good enough for me to accept this defeat and yet in many respects we deserved it for not being brave enough.
It is a very sad reflection on Charlton's faltering season that Bikey is forced up-front out of desperation in the last 5 minutes time and time again. I've had enough of seeing him up top, and I imagine he feels the same.
Oh, how I miss watching the victorious tunnel jump.
Once again, I had my boy with me yesterday. He's got it now, even at the tender age of 8. He understands that being an Addick is not going to be easy but it hurts me watching his face drop when he knows hope is lost. His best mate supports Chelsea and the contrast in what they can relate to as 'fans' of their respective clubs could not be further apart. I fear I will lose my boy to the bright lights of the Premiership. I cannot tell you how much that worries me.
I'll be at Watford next week when I can only hope the football doesn't spoil a good beer with friends. By the time Charlton play at the Valley next we could quite easily be hovering just above the relegation places. Charlton desperately need a spark from somewhere. Something has to be done quickly. Whatever has happened behind the scenes to leave our team so despondent and disinterested must be sorted out now. This is not just about injuries and a run of bad luck; that much is painfully obvious.
Mr. Duchatelet has to back Big Bob or pull the trigger and try something else. Without fully understanding just what has gone wrong, I'm confused as to what one of those two I want.