Cottagers Confidential: Charlton Athletic is always one of the favorite away trips for Fulham fans. The last few years many of the fans have even come by boat. What is it about your ground that you think makes it such a great trip?
Craig Sloman: The main reason is tradition. In these days of non-descript stadiums on industrial parks away fans really enjoy going to an impressive stadium which is still nestled in the streets of its local community in the heart of south-east London. Given that this a similar experience to Craven Cottage (although the property prices on those streets might be slightly different!) it’ll be something that is familiar to the Fulham fans. The Valley is also easily accessible too, with regular trains from London to Charlton Station from which the ground is short walk and the designated away pub (the Antigallican) a stones throw. Unfortunately I think engineering works on Sunday may cause some issues, so perhaps boat is the best way to get from West to East!CC: This might be the game where Scott Parker makes his return. What kind of response do you think he gets? Charlton has been known for developing a lot of really great players. How do you feel when former players come back.
CS: Scott Parker will receive a few half hearted boos when he first touches the ball but I wouldn’t expect anything overly hostile unless events during the game dictate otherwise. Parker was the central point of a Charlton team which was in the running for a Champions League spot (yes, seriously) in 2004/5 when he moved to Chelsea in the January window under slightly undesirable circumstances. Charlton’s form subsequently nosedived. Some fans still assert that had he not left we would have qualified for Europe that season although in reality there was still half a campaign left to go so it’s impossible to say with any certainty whether we would have got there with Parker, he would have undoubtedly been a major asset though. Charlton’s academy is the life blood of this club and it is subsidized by fans through Valley Gold subscriptions. Other stars who have begun here, for instance Jonjo Shelvy (Swansea) and more recently Joe Gomez (Liverpool), will face a much more welcoming return to SE7 because many deem them to have left “in the right way”.CC: What are your expectation for Charlton this season? What would constitute success? What would constitute failure?
CS: The final league table would suggest that last season Charlton were the epitome of mid-table mediocrity, 12th place, with 14 wins and 14 losses (18 draws). In reality the season was an odd footballing sandwich, with great runs at the start and end of the season with a cataclysmic 99 day streak without a single victory (which cost Bob Peeters his job) in between. This year progress would equal success for me, and that means anything above 12th place. Some optimists were predicting playoffs and more this year after the club used the money from the Joe Gomez transfer to fund a number of foreign signings over the summer, however the most important pieces of business was tying down the best two players from last year, Jordan Cousins (another academy product) and Johann Berg Gudmundsson to long term deals. However the summer recruitment process failed to address the key problem which has haunted Charlton for the last few seasons; a lack of depth in squad size. Now, as the games come thick and fast, our great start which included wins over QPR & Hull as well as valiant points away to Forest and Derby is starting to fade from memory as the squad creaks under injuries, suspensions and individual losses of form resulting in a worrying winless streak stretching back to August 25th.