Charlton 0 Burnley 3 (Vokes 20, Boyd 49, Gray 51).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Before departing the Championship in diametrically opposite directions, these sides paused long enough to provide reasonably diverting end-of-season entertainment. The reason was, of course, unpleasantly familiar to doomed Charlton, on the short end of their eighth 3-0 drubbing of this miserable season.
Having been officially relegated at Bolton on April 19th, the Addicks might have chosen to go through the motions in three games since their fate was sealed. To their credit, they gave play-offs bound Brighton a decent game, surprised Leeds United at Elland Road last week, then closed out their ill-fated campaign by matching worthy titlewinners Burnley in most of the footballing virtues except, significantly, the art of finishing. A two-minute, two-goal salvo bust by the buoyant visitors early in the second half put paid to their hopes of signing off with a flourish. But they tried. At least give them that.
Confirmed as champions by virtue of Middlesbrough's concurrent 1-1 draw with Brighton, the Clarets remained impressively focussed throughout an awkward, tempestuous afternoon. Their worst fear of a prematurely abandoned game hung over them but they stuck to their task. Even the occasional flare tossed on to the pitch failed to ruffle their concentration as they cruised into the Premier League.
The unstinting support of the visiting fans,who filled the Jimmy Seed Stand and spilled over into neighbouring East Stand, for the regular outbursts of protest against the disastrous Duchatelet regime did much to defuse an incendiary situation. It turns out that Burnley are owned by a local businessman, whose heart and soul are rooted in his beloved, local club. Likewise, a familiar-looking matchday squad, featuring 17 British-born players, supplied the venerable Lancashire club an appearance of stability and commitment. When the chips were down their togetherness pulled them through.
Not that such comments should be interpreted as a Little Englander rant. Nothing wrong with gifted imports strutting their stuff, infusing our domestic game with exotic nuances. They enrich the domestic scene. And when the balance is right, there's the basis of a successful side.
It's been a pleasure, for instance, to watch Johann Berg Gudmundsson in action over the last two seasons. Appreciating his technique as he receives a pass while gracefully pirouetting into space has been nothing short of an education. On the end of unfair criticism for "not trying", the gifted Icelandic stylist has answered his detractors with 11 assists and 6 goals in a team which has managed only 9 wins and 40 goals all season. In other words, he has been directly involved in almost half of Charlton's goals. Despite international commitments he has also made 39 league starts, only one short of Morgan Fox's leading total of 40. Imagine what he might have accomplished had he been persuaded to try.
Gudmundsson was at the heart of Charlton's bright start. His intuitive understanding with the precocious Ademola Lookman posed the no-nonsense visiting defence problems, their link-up play setting up Jordan Cousins to slice high over Tom Heaton's bar. Gudmundsson's perceptive pass then created a fleeting opportunity for Lookman, whose goalbound shot was deflected for a corner. At the other end, Matt Lowton's ball into Scott Arfield's feet was astutely flicked on to Sam Vokes but blasted wildly over the top. Prolific scorer Andre Gray should also have done better than shoot into the sidenet from Joey Barton's pass. But the champions were not kept waiting long to take the lead.
A more than useful player when his mind is on the job, Barton kept his side ticking over. He started the incisive move which saw Stephen Ward exchange lightning-quick passes with George Boyd before crossing low for Vokes to finish simply at the far post.
Before the interval, Gudmundsson and Lookman combined to fashion Charlton's best chance. Gudmundsson's pass sent Lookman away to cut back a perfect ball for Callum Harriott. From the penalty spot, Harriott's weak effort hardly troubled Heaton, whose best save of the first half turned Gudmundsson's powerful daisycutter away to safety.
Within six minutes of the second period, Burnley's league title was rubberstamped by two further goals. The first was laid on by Ward, whose hard cross from the left was missed by Gray but made its way to Boyd beyond the far post. A sure first touch made Boyd's close range finish simple. The Addicks were still reeling when Dean Marney's long ball over the top was chased down by Gray and squeezed home from a tight angle between Nick Pope's legs.
At which point, a discreet veil is drawn over Charlton's disastrous 2015-16 season, one which saw three different managers, the last of whom -Jose Riga- jumped before he was pushed in the immediate aftermath of defeat by Burnley. There's nothing more to be said about the ruin made by Duchatelet of a proud football club, except to grudgingly acknowledge that it was accomplished with all the ruthless efficiency once brought by Henry V111 to the dissolution of the monasteries. And with the same degree of contempt and lack of respect.
Charlton: Pope, Fanni, Teixeira, Diarra, Fox, Harriott (Suk-Young 83), Kashi (Ba 88), Cousins, Gudmundsson (Jackson 66), Vetokele, Lookman. Not used: Mitov, Sarr, Makienok, Motta.
Burnley: Heaton, Lowton, Keane (Duff 85), Mee, Gray, Marney, Barton, Boyd, Ward, Arfield (Dyer 71), Vokes (Barnes 64). Not used: Robinson, Jones, Taylor, Tarkowski.
Referee: Roger East.
N.B. God loves a trier. And nobody was more trying than some of the security zealots at The Valley yesterday. They also flirted with illegality in their violent Canute-like struggle to control a steady trickle of immigrants from the home stands. But the overall impression they left behind them was one of almost comical ineptitude...behind them being a particularly apposite phrase.
It was hardly a feat of staggering prescience to anticipate that the fans who sold out the Jimmy Seed Stand would have something to celebrate at the final whistle and that, in football's fine old tradition, they intended to invade the premises to do just that. So as our Orgreave-inspired zealots battled away with their backs turned, Burnley's happy wanderers amiably ambled on from the other end to join forces with their home brethren in saluting their triumphant heroes and joining in the local anti-Duchatelet protest. In no time at all the pitch was flooded with cavorting peacemakers. It was the 1915 Christmas Truce all over again and a shot in the arm to see authority reduced to figures of fun. The people united... will never be defeated!