A year ago Charlton moved into third in the Championship with victory over Hull City.
It’s a sickening contrast that, as Hull were taking apart champions Leicester City in the Premier League at the weekend, Charlton were battling against Northampton Town in the Addicks’ first home game in the third tier since 2014.
The question on the minds of most of the fans sitting at The Valley on Saturday afternoon was: Is this a new dawn? Or just the same old nightmare?
Russell Slade’s appointment as manager – the first Briton selected for the role under Roland Duchatelet’s disaster-laden reign – had been greeted with relative optimism. New signings such as Ricky Holmes had given added hope.
But a subsequent lack of signings and the season starting with two defeats have left Charlton fans feeling hugely deflated.
On Saturday, many old friends had left their seats vacant, angered by the way the club has been run and by the deterioration of the connection with those on the pitch – a shift made plain by veteran defender Roger Johnson’s apparent attack on fans who travelled the 200 miles to Bury last week. (“Don’t f****** come if you don’t like it,” was the reported remark.)
Many others had turned up – around 11,500 if you believe the official figures. Maybe it was out of loyalty, habit or just to watch some football with friends – but few were looking forward to proceedings.
And those hardy souls in the stands spent most of the first half thinking – why?
They saw awful football seemingly played out by a new bunch of half-concerned mercenaries.
The fans tried their best to lift them but it was hopeless and a sight seen so many times over the last year came again when Alex Revell’s easy header put Northampton ahead.
Just when everyone was considering what odds on a second consecutive relegation, a new Charlton emerged after the break.
Holmes was the pick of the rejuvenated side, but Nicky Ajose and Andrew Crofts also shone, with stalwarts Johnnie Jackson and Chris Solly reminding the fans there are some “real Charlton” still on the pitch. It was Jackson who got the well-deserved equaliser with a well-made goal.
Charlton weren’t able to capitalise again on their dominance but it was the strange sound of relief which met the final whistle.
It is a bizarre situation when Charlton were happy about a draw at home with Northampton but these are desperate times.
Will the side gel? They still need time. Will Slade stick around long enough to see it? Who knows, but off the pitch matters still seem chaotic.
Protesters showed they were going nowhere even if there is an amnesty on anti-Duchatelet chants in the stand. Instead they congregated outside the club shop to urge others not to spend on merchandise.
Charlton’s new pitch side announcer – taking the place of much-loved Dave Lockwood who quit in opposition to the way the club was being run – turns out to be another heavy critic of the ownership.
Brian Cole has written a number of attacks on Duchatelet’s reign on social media.
On a week when one fan was ordered by Charlton’s management to curb his Twitter anger or lose his season ticket, it is a truly farcical situation.
A new dawn? Don’t bet on it.