The last time I saw Chris Powell, nearly a year ago at Bramall Lane after that hugely disappointing FA Cup quarter final defeat, he looked a dejected man who knew his time with Charlton was coming to an end. Before I'd even got home that day speculation was rife that Roland had pulled the trigger. I worshiped the man as a player and loved him equally as our manager. It was never going to last forever, but it just wasn't the way I wanted it to end. Losing Powell hurt like hell and I don't mind admitting it.
Yesterday I finally got a chance to say thank you. There is, for me, a sense of closure now. I've got to accept Powell will not be back at Charlton any time soon if at all, although you will never stop me from hoping. The standing ovation he received as he walked towards the away dugout was heartfelt and universally observed. Powell, showing humility and class in abundance, waved to us all whilst wearing a muted and respectful smile, before making a point of acknowledging the fans of his new club. What a man.
A tough moment for us all, but we'd seen it before. Almost exactly 8 years ago another legendary Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, returned to the Valley for the first time since departing and enjoyed a similar warm reception pre-match. On both occasions, however, the good-will didn't extend onto the pitch. Yesterday's three zero Charlton victory would have been slightly easier to swallow for Powell than the four zero Alan had to endure all those years previous.
And what a difference on the pitch! From a state of utter despair earlier this month, Charlton have somehow managed to find unity again and, most importantly, a formula for success. Three wins out of four since I predicted with some certainty that "I have no doubts whatsoever that we are going down".
Trust me, I'm only too pleased to be proven wrong...just as I will be about Guy Luzon, who I perhaps rather hastily predicted was "so far out of his depth it's embarrassing".
Only one embarrassed face around here, it would appear! I still have a very bitter taste in my mouth after the lies and deceit surrounding Luzon's appointment, but I may have to accept it could be replaced over time by the sweet taste of (a rather large slice of) humble pie!
Credit where credit is due, Luzon has got Charlton organized and well-balanced. The smiles have returned and the players look confident. That comes with winning games, of course, but it may also be a sign that the players are being asked to play a system they are better suited to. Luzon has taken us back to basics. His playing style may not win awards for flair, but it has given the attacking players an opportunity to make things happen. Yesterday was a great example of a clinical Charlton performance: 8 shots on target with three going in.
Two of those goals coming from Tony Watt, who could well become the new Clive Mendonca. High praise, high expectation, but the early signs are good. So much so, we've all forgotten just how much we needed a target man. His unselfish relationship with Vetokele continues to grow from strength to strength. Similar in style, they can play together regularly, and to devastating effect.
At the back, Roger Johnson continues to marshal the defense. I loved watching him gesticulating non-stop yesterday. Always vocal. Solid. The decision to bring him to the club looked more than questionable, but there's clearly enough humble pie to cover him as well.
Football never ceases to amaze me. Two and a half weeks ago I though all hope was lost, and yet on the pitch we've somehow turned things around. Is it too much to expect that off the pitch things may improve as well, starting with more transparency from Mr. Duchatelet?
I for one would much prefer to enjoy days like yesterday whilst looking forward to a more positive future without the cynicism and suspicion surrounding the true intentions of Mr. Duchatelet lingering away in the background.
One step at a time, I guess.