Ahead of our visit to The Valley this weekend we caught up with Charlton fan Dave Thomson 'Drinking During the Game' to give us a preview of the game.

Not withstanding the fact that we meet again in League One, it’s good to be facing Sunderland once more on Saturday and welcoming Phil Parkinson back to The Valley. I still haven’t got used to ’no fans’ and am immediately thinking about a 20,000 gate at The Valley with a full and noisy Sunderland away end, buoyed by beer and expectation. These bigger games and gates usually bring the best out of Charlton both in terms of getting our own fans to sing up as well as a tendency from our side to over-perform. 

This time it will be different of course and it’s a tough one to call coming so early in the season and when home advantage doesn’t appear quite so much of a factor in empty stadiums. Two seasons back we also met you early, on the opening day, at The Stadium of Light, where I felt we were unlucky to fall to a late winner and left the game making a mental note that our players would be reminding themselves of the circumstances around that when we met in the return fixture, although we only managed a 1-1 in that too!

Casual observers of football headlines could be forgiven for thinking that we are a club in permanent ownership crisis. That has been true for the last five years and it’s been hugely demoralising and difficult to live through. We may have been promoted from League One in 2018 but believe me, that was more about Bowyer and the squad’s bloody  mindedness than any ownership intentions. However, it did all end, finally (we hope) in the last two weeks when wealthy Danish-American, Thomas Sandgaard, managed to take control from the potless opportunists who managed to acquire the club for a £1 before emptying the tills and looking to ransom us off. Sandgaard’s takeover has persuaded the EFL to lift the transfer embargo we have been under since January and we can now start replacing the dozen players who left us during the Summer. It’s going to take a couple of months for us to settle down, so I think you are playing us at the best possible time.

Lee Bowyer has been forced to experiment with systems and formations throughout his time at Charlton, driven largely by who’s been available to play. Diamond midfields and 4-1-4-1 set-ups have been absent so far this season as we have gone pretty much with a 4-4-2 in all three league games and I expect him do the same on Saturday. Our Player-of-the-Season from last year, goalkeeper Dylan Phillips, has yet to start this season. He has refused to sign a contract extension and is rumoured to be eyeing up a move, so Bowyer has dropped him and former stopper, Ben Amos is once again back between the sticks. Our defence has been a bit shaky so far (2-0 win at Crewe, 1-3 Doncaster, 2-0 at Lincoln) but hardly surprising given only one natural centre-half at the start of the season and a need to baptise a 17 year-old at right back. That said, youngster Chris Barker has been solid and we did get another centre-half in last week (Akin Famewo) from Norwich. In midfield you are likely to be up against the spoiler Darren Pratley and busy Manchester United loanee, youngster Dylan Levitt. The strong running Alfie Doughty may threaten your right side and any Charlton goals are likely to come from Conor Washington or Macauley Bonne. 

My mental image of the Sunderland side is that you don’t concede many but, equally, don’t score too many either. A good start so far for you and both sides should have something to fight for. Your boys to defend your unbeaten start and ours to retain their positions in what’s expected to be a hive of activity over the next two week. Having said that, we weren’t too clever on Sunday against what I thought was a very average Lincoln City side. So I think it will be a tight match. If Phil Parkinson is prepared to gamble a bit, I think you can win it. If we lose, I will be expecting us to get some revenge later in the season at your place when we are stronger and more settled.

Finally, I hope you all know just how much your club, and especially your supporters, are respected in our part of south-east London - passionate fans and really decent people. Qualities I hope we see in ourselves. I look forward to the next time we can lock horns at The Valley and all be present to once again make it a proper football match.

Catch Dave's match review on http://drinkingduringthegame.blogspot.com/