Down the years there is nothing I would rather do than spend an evening under the Valley lights supporting my team. I'd look forward to midweek fixtures above any other, regardless of opposition.
But last night I didn't have it in me to make the journey.
I had a ticket - annoyingly bought only the day before when I was trying to convince myself I was up for it. For over two decades I've done the 90 mile round trip to the Valley on my own and more often than not loved the solitude it brought me. A chance to listen to my music without the kids or the wife moaning. But as the clock ticked closer to the time I needed to leave the enthusiasm drained from me like water from a leaking bucket.
A night in front of the TV more favourable than the Valley under lights.
For a while I stood in my kitchen, staring aimlessly out the window, desperately wanting to find the faintest flicker of a flame inside my belly, but I just couldn't force myself out the front door.
Charlton lost on a miserable night, but that alone doesn't vindicate my decision. As I climbed into bed my missus said "I bet you're glad you never went". But the truth is I'm not. I feel deeply sad and ashamed to have turned my back on my club. I'm gripped by a sense of detachment that is growing at an alarming rate.
I just want Roland gone before I reach a tipping point...
The official attendance was announced as 9,101 but gauging the response to those in attendance it seems more likely the true figure was closer to 6,000. The image above taken by Louis Mendez after around 8 mins paints a very bleak picture. Quite what goes through Katrien Meire's head looking out across the Valley I'd love to know. This, remember, a lady who when questioned on live radio about the 40% drop in season tickets blamed it on the inevitable result of relegation.
As usual, Karl Robinson's post match interview was a mixture of sound bites and nonsense, but in fairness to him, what else can he say, he's on a hiding to nothing. Whilst lamenting the lack of cohesiveness in the team Robinson suggested "some people want to play, some don’t want to play and we have a mishmash of players". Describing perfectly the characteristics of a typical squad assembled under a Roland Duchatelet regime, perhaps the penny has finally dropped for our street-wise manager and he realises he stands at the base of a very tall, craggy mountain with flip-flops on! In the next breathe he suggested "they’re a good group and an honest group. They work hard every day". You don't sound convinced to me, Karl, and I'm certainly not.
Instead of misguided play-off ambitions, Charlton's season is far more likely to end fighting to avoid being drawn into a relegation dog-fight.
The reality is, despite his commendable enthusiasm, Karl is trying desperately to finds the answer to a problem he is not in a position to solve. The cancer running through the core of the club has transcended way, way past the fillip that comes from a few positive results alone. The empty, bleak, soulless Valley will not return to it's former glory until there is change at the very top. The apathy that has gripped Charlton is as deep-rooted as the stubborn nature inside the man who owns the club and the lady he employs to mismanage it.
Ultimately there is one man responsible for the heartbreaking regress at Charlton, on and off the pitch, and if you think otherwise then you're part of the problem. This tweet below from an Oxford fan struck a cord with me last night. Sums things up perfectly for me.