Charlton's 4-0 rout by Ipswich on the last day of the 2021-22 season was a fitting conclusion to a campaign of painful inconsistency. It meant they posted a 17-8-21 record with 55 goals
scored and 59 conceded, which earned them 13th place in a 24-team division. A 10-4-9 return at The Valley provided further evidence of their charisma-free mediocrity.
Beginning the campaign under the sunny-side-up managership of Nigel Adkins, whose guileless optimism was presumably based on their determined, but ultimately fruitless, attempt to secure a play-off slot a few months previously, Charlton opened with an stolid 0-0 home draw with Sheffield Wednesday but were promptly brought down to earth by successive 2-1 defeats at the hands of Oxford United and MK Dons. Their first home loss was inflicted by eventual champions Wigan Athletic (2-0) before Crewe Alexandra were beaten 2-0 at The Valley a week later when the Addicks -temporarily as it turned out - stopped the early rot.
September was the cruellest of months, with the 4-1 thumping by Bolton Wanderers on the 28th completing a five-game winless streak and sending Charlton to the bottom of League One. A return of only six points and one win from their ten opening games placed the relentlessly positive Adkins under pressure, eased briefly by 2-1 success at Fleetwood but impossible to sustain when losses to erstwhile minnows Lincoln City and Accrington Stanley all but finished off the out-of-his depth manager. A 3-2 midweek defeat by Stanley on October 19th was the final straw for owner Thomas Sandgaard and deputy boss Johnnie Jackson was in charge four days later when Jayden Stockley's goal proved enough to beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Four successive wins under new management lifted the gloom over The Valley until a two-goal lead was squandered at Morecambe (2-2) and was quickly followed by the added time defeat at Shrewsbury which brought Jackson's first setback. Back-to-back 2-0 wins over Ipswich and Cambridge highlighted December before the month ended in a single-goal reverse at Plymouth's Home Park.
The opening month of 2022 brought with it a hectic programme of first team fixtures, five of which were league games and brought mixed results. Defeats to Wycombe Wanderers and Crewe were balanced by solid wins over Fleetwood and historic rivals Portsmouth, while the 1-1- draw at Cheltenham was notable for the goalscoring return of Chuks Aneke after his frustrating re-union with Lee Bowyer at Birmingham.
An entertaining 3-2 victory over relegation-bound Wimbledon, during which centre backs Ryan Inniss and Akim Famewo both scored, kicked off an otherwise miserable February. Five consecutive defeats plunged the Addicks down to 16th position and re-awakened unpleasant fears of relegation. Assumptions that they were "too good to go down" suddenly adopted a hollow tone.
A creditable goalless draw at Sunderland on March 5th checked the slide and although pesky underdogs Accrington completed a league double a week later, Gillingham (1-0), Burton Albion (2-0) and Doncaster (1-0) were all beaten before the end of the month as Charlton virtually ensured safety from relegation.
Charlton's infuriating inconsistency in losing 2-1 to Lincoln City at the start of a seven-game month of May was followed promptly by arguably their best performance and result of a soon-to-be forgotten season. The 1-0 triumph at Championship-bound Rotherham featured a spectacular winner from runaway Player-of-the-Year winner George Dobson, whose consistent enthusiasm and commitment to an often thankless cause earned him the respect of Charlton's world weary fanbase.
Sandwiched between the Lincoln and Rotherham games was a 1-1 draw at desperate Wimbledon, where Inniss' second half dismissal highlighted a disciplinary record, which included four red cards and over 100 yellow cards. The inevitable suspensions, combined with injuries and the inability of certain players to manage full games, meant that Jackson was rarely in a position to choose from a complete panel of players. His rotation system was often born of necessity rather than choice.
On an individual front, there were few successes. Dobson, as already stated, stood head and shoulders above his colleagues and rose above some frankly dreadful team performances. His POTY runner-up, Sean Clare, made a versatile contribution in various positions, while goalkeeper Craig McGillivray recorded 16 clean sheets and conceded a creditable 52 goals in 43 appearances. In midfield, Alex Gilbey failed to live up to the promise he showed towards the end of last season, Elliot Lee faded after a bright start and Albie Morgan promised far more than he delivered. January signing Scott Fraser declared, on arrival, that he was impossible to ignore, showed early flashes of ability which included the irresistible cross he provided for Aneke's equaliser at Bolton, then retreated to the treatment room after only six starts and wasn't seen again. Charlie Kirk didn't last long and returned up north after only a handful of appearances. Jake Forster-Caskey, who returned in early April after a long absence through injury, will provide stiff competition for Morgan next July.
Jackson's problems at centre back cropped up with depressing regularity. Serious injuries to Inniss and summer signing Sam Lavelle, who were probably his preferred partnership, meant that central defenders came and went through revolving doors. Akin Famewo posted 34 starts, began the campaign well but fell apart somewhat during the last turgid months. Veteran skipper Jason Pearce filled in on 20 occasions but has not been offered a playing contract next term. Clare deputised capably when pressed into service, while Deji Elerewe will surely be in Jackson's first team thoughts when summer ends. As does this article - abruptly, based on the shock departure of Johnnie Jackson.
This review was nearing completion when news arrived that Johnnie Jackson had been sacked. There was obviously no longer any point in pressing on so consider it unfinished - like one of Schubert's symphonies.
I had hoped that Jackson would be allowed an unencumbered summer for preparation and a full season to make his mark. With a suitably pared squad and a few judicious signings, his prospects seemed promising. But clearly there's something rotten in the state of Colorado - not to mention Denmark.
The pros and cons of Jonnie Jackson's tenure are a matter for more qualified discussion elsewhere, except to observe that he took over from Nigel Adkins with the Addicks in 22nd position, having won nine points from thirteen games. Fifty more points were gained from thirty six games after he took over - a modest return but steady improvement nonetheless. A full season in charge seemed the least he could expect. More fool him - and me.
About Johnnie Jackson the player and the man, there appears to be little dispute. He will be remembered by Charlton fans long after Thomas Sandgaard has inevitably departed - and he WILL depart because all things must pass. My personal recollections include the delirium inside The Valley when his last minute header beat Harry Redknapp's QPR; the similar disorderly conduct which greeted his goals in the 5-4 recovery against Cardiff; and that magical week when his free kicks silenced Sheffield. But Charlton's still recent 1-0 midweek victory at Norwich stands supreme, not for the quality of Jackson's fluky matchwinner, but for the presence on the supporters' coach of my brother Tony (RIP), who was visiting us from San Francisco at the time. And, as an afterthought, didn't John contribute a goal to the record-busting 6-0 victory at Barnsley not all that long ago? See what I mean? -memories. And Sandgaard? Nothing, really, not even that feckin' record, which I trust will precede him out of the door.
I'm not here to praise Johnnie Jackson, an honourable Addick who needs endorsement from nobody. He is merely the latest victim of a club which smugly congratulates itself on its family values and family loyalties, then regularly stabs its more worthy members in the back. Our Director of Analytics (nah, me neither) should be stirring uncomfortably about now. Could be his turn next. Look what Michael Corleone did to Fredo.
I'm done now - said my piece or, at least a bit of my piece. Like you, no doubt, I'll haul myself back to The Valley in July. It's a hard habit to break. Unless, of course, I'm barred. Then it's back to bunking in.