I got an alert on my phone this morning reminding me to get a ticket for Saturday. I recall setting it up just before the season got underway, knowing already that this was likely to be my first game. As a season ticket holder of 20-odd years I wouldn't have needed to worry about a matchday ticket, but times are very different now, in so many respects. There were plenty of occasions over the summer when I doubted my own strength not to renew, more because of tradition than desire, but discarding the forms was as easy as opening the bin.
The immense sadness I felt when I made that symbolic gesture of leaving my old booklet at the feet of Sam Bartram last season has long-since faded, but the deep resentment for those behind my decision has not. This current Charlton is not the club I fell in love with, and the cancer within it makes it impossible for me to see a future at all, let alone one to get excited about.
The sad truth is there is not a single bit of me that is remotely excited about going on Saturday, and I have quite literally forced myself to buy the ticket. To try and attempt to create an angle to look forward to I've got my son a ticket as well, but I would be very surprised if he wants to go and I certainly won't force him.
The problem is, once a cycle is broken, it can be very hard to get it back. Having made the decision to miss Bolton the one thing I do realise is how easy it is not to bother when you don't own a ST. In the dead of winter, when I face the prospect of a lonely 3hr round trip to the Valley, will I bother when we're sat mid-table, convincing nobody of our genuine ambition? At the moment, I very much doubt it...
My local team are not at home and I don't have other plans I'm sacrificing to attend the game, so it says a lot that potentially doing nothing still seems more appealing than going to watch Charlton. In many respects I'm shocked and surprised at my own apathy, but I just don't have the buzz anymore. If I could change that I'd do it in a flash, but then again if I had that power I'd rid my club of Duchatelet and Meire first.
I know there are a growing number who are getting behind Slade and the boys, deliberately or perhaps naturally ignoring the protests. Fair play to them. There is a clear change of approach on the pitch in terms of management and player recruitment, that much I will happily admit, but I remain unconvinced that Roland has added 'ambition' to his highly questionable intentions. For me, too much damage has been done in 2.5yrs of disgraceful mismanagement and it will take a whole lot more than the appointment of Slade and a few British-based players to convince me of change.
But having said all of the above, I would love nothing more than to admit to feeling differently come 5pm Saturday. The result will not alter my opinion; I've seen Charlton lose far more times than we've won! No, this isn't about league standings or results. What I hope for is that deep feeling I get inside my belly when I first see the Valley as I turn into Ransom Walk and exit under the railway arches. It's the sense of belonging that comes with the routines I've forged over two decades of regular attendance. It's the smell of the burgers and fags, and the sounds of the bustling crowd. It's the people I stop and talk to. It's the people I've sat with for many, many years. It's the friends I've made. It's the sense of pride when I hear the Red, Red Robin and see my team walk out. It's that little glance up to the Charlton badge atop the West Stand just before kick-off that (sometimes) brings us luck. It's cheering a goal like it means everything.
I just want my team to mean everything again...
It's everything Meire and Rolly wouldn't understand.
See you Saturday. Come on you Addicks!!!