For the first four months of the season, Charlton fans have dared to dream.
In public utterances expectations have been mellowed, ambitions have been dulled. But we’ve all glanced at the league table and our proximity to the summit and allowed ourselves to become carried away with the possibilities.
December is a month in which those dreams will either be extinguished or sent into further frenzy.
By the new year Bob Peeters’ side will have played over half of their games this season and will have a better picture of where they stand. Charlton are currently seven points off top spot and 10 points ahead of the relegation zone. One bad swing of results could avert attentions from what lies ahead to what’s lurking below.
On the last day of September Charlton travelled to then league leaders Norwich and took all three points. We entered October just two points from the summit. In the two months since we’ve picked up just two wins and that gap has slowly widened. We’ve meandered, while the rest of the pack has headed straight up the mountain.
If we want to head into the second half of the season with those dreams still alive then we need to find form, and fast. It would be easy to shrug, remember our stare into the crevasse of League One last season, and be content with a safe camp in mid table this time around. We’re certainly not in any position to be demanding promotion as the only acceptable finish.
Yet as we approach the midpoint in our campaign, there’s no reason why Charlton shouldn’t have all eyes set on the top. Look at those above us. Of the teams we’ve played just two have got the better of us – Ipswich and Bournemouth – and both games were settled by a slender scoreline. So far, no outstanding team has emerged as untouchable in the Championship.
We know we can more than hold our own amongst the top sides, but in December we need to prove we can get ahead of them too. Four of our five games this month are against sides above us in the table – Nottingham Forest, Blackburn, Cardiff and Ipswich again. If we can find form and, crucially, wins in these games we can make good ground on the Championship climbers. If we don’t, we risk being permanently cut adrift.
You don’t need me to remind you that the New Year is also an opportunity to spruce up our squad. But the level of ambition we act with during the January transfer window could well be determined by how we fare in the next five games. Roland Duchatelet is a cool-headed, rational football club owner. Yet even the most-unsentimental of minds can be swayed by a big pot on the table and an ace in their hand.
If Bob Peeters can play his limited cards right through December, he could be given a chance to really gamble in January and give Charlton fans reason to dream once more.