Charlton’s trip to the Galpharm Stadium is undoubtedly in my view the club’s most important game since the Feb 2007 encounter against West Ham.
On that occasion we triumphed in great style, but ultimately did not go on to achieve the ultimate prize of Premiership safety.
If we somehow pull off an unlikely win on Saturday however, it would all but guarantee a play-off place by opening up a nine-point gap with just eight games remaining.
The alternative scenario of a Huddersfield win however would leave us horribly exposed to being leapfrogged by them just seven days later as they travel to lowly Wycombe, whilst we travel to MK Dons.
It should never have come to this of course, and indeed many fans have rightly pointed out that reaching the play-offs would be a Pyrrhic victory anyhow, as Phil Parkinson’s rapidly fading side will surely be the least fancied to triumph.
Watching Millwall win impressively at Leeds on Monday night was a salutary lesson, and proved for the benefit of those not present at The New Den a fortnight ago, that the 4-0 result was infact unsurprising.
The Lions were excellent throughout, their movement off the ball and neat interplay being a real joy to watch.
As Millwall-supporting fans of Shakespeare will be aware, the path to promotion never did run smooth but based on that performance alone, they would be worthy recipients of the second promotion spot behind Norwich.
With four home games against bottom half opposition still to play, it’d be hard to bet against them.
Whilst the Addicks have suffered from a few injury problems, I don’t think anything we have experienced would reasonably be described as a ‘crisis’, but merely the typical ups and downs of a tough 46-game season.
Meanwhile with regard to Parkinson’s comment last weekend that, “ However, I do think there is a lack of understanding about what I, as a manager, have had in terms of resources to put this team together”, I simply don’t buy this either, if you’ll excuse the pun.
This may be true at least compared to the cavalier financial flexibility handed to his predecessor, but relative to most of the other League One frontrunners, he sounds like a man fishing for excuses for the way the team has become derailed.
After all he may not have had transfer fees to splash around on the likes of Holt (Norwich) or Lambert (Southampton), but he inherited a number of ex-Championship players that we paid fees for (eg. Bailey, Racon), plus a number of homegrown players with considerable value (eg. Shelvey, Elliott, Sam).
Meanwhile it can hardly be claimed that some of his free transfers were the detritus of the Football League.
Richardson was Leeds captain, Llera had just finished 3rd in League One with MK Dons, and Dailly was a highly experienced defender whose most recent club was Glasgow Rangers!
The number of loan signings meanwhile is frankly absurd, but in virtually every case the player has come from a higher level or has previously played for Parkinson elsewhere (eg. Jackson, and now Forster).
Anyone who has experienced the frustration of trying to regularly incorporate a succession of temporary staff into an organisation will appreciate the drawbacks of this obsession with loans.
Insiders would no doubt like us to believe that the football industry is different, except that it isn’t.
How are these players expected to slot seamlessly into the side, when they don’t even know their teammates names without referring to the backs of their shirts?
Why exactly are we paying Darren Randolph’s wages when he seemingly can’t be trusted to step in to Rob Elliot’s place when injured?
First it was Carl Ikeme, and now Tony Warner. The Irishman is after all nearly 23 years old, the same age as Joe Hart for example.
The reliance on those loans is the footballing equivalent of ‘instant gratification’, but it is so overwhelmingly a possible short-term solution only, that it risks damaging the medium and long-term future of the club (even if it works).
And of course if the plan doesn't work (think of 2007-2009) the consequences can be horrendous, both at the time and for the future.
How are the likes of Chris Solly or Scott Wagstaff going to learn and grow into the regular first-teamers of the future, if they are not offered a proper run in the side when injuries provide an opening?
After a fabulous start to the season (with an unchanged side admittedly), Parkinson has been unable to find any degree of consistency whatsoever, to the point where his team selections now appear to be resembling what statisticians term a ‘random walk’, with results to match.
It is difficult to point to any individuals in the side whose performances have noticeably stepped up a level, whilst any regular game plan or style of play with the ‘Parkinson stamp’ is seemingly difficult to discern too.
With no away wins all season against teams currently in the top half, it is difficult to generate much confidence about either the Huddersfield game, or the following week’s encounter at MK Dons, although Paul Ince’s side are surely too far adrift now to be play-off contenders, despite sitting in 8th place.
Tomorrow’s fixture is given extra spice by the fact Parkinson reportedly accepted the Huddersfield managerial job whilst assistant to Alan Pardew, before having a change of heart that was so late, that the press conference announcing his ‘arrival’ went ahead anyhow with an empty chair!
Whilst events are unfolding in Yorkshire, I’ll instead be enjoying some corporate hospitality at Stamford Bridge as my adopted Premiership side Aston Villa take on the team everyone (including me) seemingly loves to hate.
I will however be at MK Dons next weekend where in a moment of paternal madness, I hope to take my 3-year old son to his first game.