“Be part of the journey!”
That’s the invitation from the Addicks currently emblazoned on the side of numerous London buses, aimed at attracting yet more season-ticket holders to The Valley...
It’s a clever catchphrase that encapsulates the experience of supporting Charlton over recent years. Concealed within it, however, is a crucial question about the club’s desired destination and even what the next stop is realistically going to be.
Charlton’s seventh-place finish in 2003/04 has ratcheted up fans’ expectations another notch.
The pressure to progress grows ever greater, and in that respect manager Alan Curbishley may have cause to be grateful that Scott Parker’s January departure deprived his side of a probable fifth spot. At least it gives him a little room for improvement.
All his early summer signings look capable of making an impression at The Valley, but only that of Danish winger Dennis Rommedahl has caused a genuine stir of excitement among the fans.
And although the side hardly looked short of goals as they started their warm-up programme at Welling, missing as many chances as they scored, everyone on the Park View Road terraces knew that there was an unresolved issue up front.
What Curbishley is able to do about that in the next few weeks will do much to set the mood for the opening day of the season.
Increased competition from some of the Premiership middleweights could easily mean that Charlton finish lower in the table this term than last season even with an improved squad, a complication that won’t make the manager’s job any easier.
Progress isn’t always measured in the league, however, and the Addicks have set such a low benchmark in cup competition in recent years that there is plenty of opportunity there.
Just as significantly, the club needs to develop its grand design for The Valley.
The welcome installation of 230-plus extra seats in the Jimmy Seed Stand has tipped the capacity back over 27,000. But as the last decade has shown, major building work can provide momentum in itself.
It certainly makes the fans feel better about the club and lends a sense of purpose to proceedings even when events on the field go temporarily awry.
If the coming season brings a commitment to add an extra tier to the east stand, with the necessary planning permission, Charlton will send a strong signal to their public that their long-term goal is more than a regular place in the top half of the Premiership.
It would also be an appropriate way to mark the club’s centenary season, making a bold assertion that whatever pride and passion have been generated by the last 100 years, the best is yet to come.
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