The football calendar has well and truly been put in place. Our first game is away to Bury on August 6 that will kick-start the campaign. We dropped down a Division and we will reunite with many teams that we have not played for some time. Coventry City we have not played since the Premiership days, if I`m correct. Then there is our old foe Millwall who dropped out of the Championship season before last but failed to bounced straight back via the play-offs. Looking forward to this encounter once again!
Looking through the Football schedules there is an interesting line-up waiting for us to test our resolve and fitness. It goes without saying that we will challenge the rest of Division One to push the Addicks to the summit and a possible play-off or even automatic promotion. Our first home game is against newly promoted Northampton Town. But I`m going to focus my energy on someone we have never played in League set-ups or cup games: Fleetwood Town.
The Cod Army as they are known, secured a move up a Division via the play-offs by beating Burton Albion at Wembley on 26 May to reach Division One for the first time. Playing at the clubs highest level the 2014-15 season was the club`s most successful yet. After three games the club was top of the league for two games and apart from a couple of games remained top in the top half of the league all season, eventually finishing a very incredible 10th place.
Notable results were a great win 2-1 away to Sheffield United and good home draws against Bristol Rovers, Preston North End, Swindon Town, Rochdale and Chesterfield. As I recall, many of the teams listed we have had mixed results against, most did finish in losses. I`m confident that our season will start with some good results.
Returning back to Fleetwood. Unknown quality that needs to be viewed with caution. We are not playing them until Saturday 10th September away at their Highbury Stadium. By then six games would have been played home and away which I hope would have put the Addicks in the right frame of mind to face the promoted side for the first time in Charlton`s history.
But like many promoted sides who have had a great season to secure their dream, the reality kicks in and very often teams will struggle in a higher Division. 2015-16 was a difficult season for the Cod Army. Chairman Andy Pilley announced that the club`s strategic direction would move more towards a self-sustained model utilizing the development and sell-on of the home grown talent rather than to buy players to attempt to climb the league pyramid further.
The playing budget was trimmed heavily. After a poor start to the season with only two wins in ten league games, (sounds familiar) Graham Alexander was sacked on the 30th September 2015 with the club 1 point above the relegation zone after being beaten by Gillingham 5-1 6th October 2015. Steven Pressley was appointed manager. After a season flirting with relegation, Pressley successfully guided the club to safety 5 points above relegation with ten wins in 35 league games. This shows that it can be done with the right man at the helm. Fleetwood is just three years younger than Charlton Athletics` 1905. The original club played on a pitch next to the North Euston Hotel, where the police station now stands. The stadium`s current capacity is 5,327; it is the largest stadium by capacity and the smallest in their division.
Although we are mixing it with unfashionable clubs and the Addicks have many memories of better times, this division will not be a walkover. This division is littered with clubs that are regarded possible contenders and should not be taken lightly. Four years ago we were successful under the guidance of Chris Powell. Now we must give the same respect to Russell Slade and support the team throughout this campaign and not let the past spoil what can be a very successful season.