It's "Leeds Against The World" time again here at Through It All Together, and this week, we were lucky enough to find a Charlton Athletic supporter to answer some questions for us in what has been a difficult season on and off the pitch for the Addicks.
While Leeds United has had it's share of nightmares and protests in the recent past, Charlton's season has been even worse. We've asked Craig Sloman, of the Charlton Athletic Supporters' Trust, for some insight into their season, their ownership, the protests, and the game on Saturday.
'The largest protests in the history of English football' #cafc pic.twitter.com/QOKuOzCvtj— Charlton Soul (@CharltonSoul) April 24, 2016
As always, we hope you find it a worthwhile exercise to see things from the other side before a match. Meet the Addicks through the eyes of Craig, have a bit of sympathy for a fanbase enduring a difficult time, and get ready for Saturday's match.
Leeds Against The World: Charlton Athletic
Hey, Craig. Thanks for being up for this. It’s been a rough season for you over at The Valley, no doubt about it. Can you give us a brief summary of where it all went wrong?
Wow, where to begin. Since our owner purchased the club (January 2014), we have underestimated the Championship, underestimated the value of the team spirit that existed in the squad at the time and vastly overestimated a lot of the sometimes expensive and in the main players with no Championship experience that were brought in. Probably the best case in point was the departure of the talismanic Yann Kermorgant who was replaced by Piotr Parzyszek at the end of the January 2014 window – haven’t heard of him? Don’t worry, he made one substitute appearance, scored zero goals and had his contract terminated in February whilst Kermorgant was promoted to the Premier League with Bournemouth.
Can you tell us a bit about the protests?
On the whole they have been incredibly successful. As a fan base we haven’t got the money that Mr Duchâtelet has, but we’ve shown that we have strength in numbers and by working collectively under the Campaign Against Roland Duchâtelet (CARD) banner we’ve used our nous and no little humour to make our point. When the protests began in earnest around the Autumn time, I really didn’t know what we could hope to achieve. But carrying that coffin before the Middlesbrough game, it really felt like the picture was changing and to have over 5,000 people marching together on Saturday against Brighton was a really inspiring moment – we will succeed.
Any bright spots in the season?
A couple of moments stick out. Our 4-1 win away to Rotherham in January was great, on the way home from Yorkshire that day I really thought we could stay up – we’d played like world beaters. The emergence of Ademola Lookman as a real talent is another; I truly hope we can keep hold of him in the summer. Finally, the protests themselves have shown that despite almost 30 years passing, the spirit of the Valley Party and grassroots supporter activism is still alive and well in our corner of the capital – that’s really positive.
How are you feeling about League One? Do you think you’ll be right back up in 2017?
It took us three years last time, and then it needed Chris Powell as manager and a really smart recruitment strategy to do it. I doubt we’ll have either of those this time.
What changes do you hope the club makes after the Burnley game next week?
A couple of months ago I would have said learning from the mistakes that have been made with regards to buying/selling players and engaging with the fans more. Now the only change I hope for is of ownership.
Do you have a favorite Charlton-Leeds memory?
You tonked us at the Valley in the season we were getting relegated from the Premier League (Mark Viduka I vaguely remember scoring for you) but the one great memory of recent times was beating you in May 2010 at the Valley with a last minute Akpo Sodje goal. I was on a stag weekend in Wales watching the results coming in with a Leeds supporting mate, the celebrations when we got the winner were pretty wild!
What’s one matchup we should watch for on Saturday?
If, and it’s a big if, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson could give young Charlie Taylor a run for his money. He’s a very talented right winger who will be one of Iceland's star players at this years European Championships.
Give us a reason you’ll win:
The old cliché of the pressure being off now that relegation is mathematically assured, plus we’ve looked marginally better (even if the results don’t show it) in the past couple of months since Jose Riga took over (again).
Give us a reason you’ll lose:
Because we’re absolutely awful and are double figure points from safety for a reason.
What’s your predicted result?
Ever the optimist, I’ll go for 1-1.
I think this is the first Q&A I've done where the other team is in worse shape on and off the field than Leeds United. Kinda depressing, though you have to love Craig's optimism in the end (even if I disagree with his prediction). I'd love to hear what some of our readers think about the Charlton protests in comparison to the Time To Go Massimo protests; there's space in the comments below and on social media for that.
Anyway, big thanks to Craig Sloman for responding to our questions and helping with our ninth edition of the Leeds Against The World Q&A. You can read more about the Charlton Athletic Supporters' Trust on their website.
We'll have a full preview of the Charlton match coming tomorrow from our own Anthony Linley. What do you think will happen against the Addicks, Leeds fans? We're trying to get some reader conversations going below in the comments after every article, why don't you start us off? Think we'll crush the relegation-bound squad? Identify with Craig's owner-fueled righteous anger? Think Charlton will turn it around next season? Let us know what you think, and as always, thanks for reading. Until next time, #MOT.