a.k.a The Post Mortem
We always suspected that Charlton's turbulent season would come to a disastrous end in added time on the last day. And so it did. Not at Elland Road, where they were clobbered by Leeds but at Griffin Park where Barnsley saved themselves at Charlton's expense with a 93rd minute winner over Brentford. Having already beaten Nottingham Forest in similar style three days previously, the Tykes grabbed another overtime lifesaver to sink the Bees -and more painfully to the point, the Addicks.
Charlton suffered more than most over the last eleven months from goals scored during "the game within a game". They even, once or twice, managed to concede after the allotted overtime expired, an arbitrary period nutshelled as "added time added to added time". Last gasp defeats at Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday were particularly sickening but there were one or two other worthy candidates. Their vulnerability during a game's postscript became common knowledge through the league, while their own desperate equalisers at WBA and QPR failed to offset the late goals they consistently leaked.
Despite stiff competition, the two added time points squandered at Birmingham in their seventh post-lockdown game, might be regarded, in hindsight, as the culprits which sent Charlton down. Macauley Bonne prolonged the agony by similarly equalising against equally beleaguered Wigan three days later but Birmingham's scruffy goal had already done the damage.
Confident and composed, Bowyer's boys were leading a poor side at St. Andrews through a fine team goal by Bonne when Jude Bellingham joined the action midway through the second half. City's 17 year-old prodigy made an initially subdued impact and the visitors seemed to have seen off puny pressure until he picked up a loose ball and soloed purposefully into the penalty area. One low cross, blocked shot and prodded rebound later, it was 1-1. Two points which would have spared Charlton the drop had been cruelly snatched from their grasp.
Two games later, Bellingham had discharged his responsibility to his hometown club and was on his way to fame and fortune with Borussia Dortmund. He left through the front door with his honour and reputation intact. No doubt he also departed with a lifetime welcome at St. Andrews and a place in the club's history alongside Trevor Francis, another 17 year-old whizkid still revered on the blue side of Birmingham.
Bellingham's mature conduct throws into unflattering relief the self-absorbed behaviour of Lyle Taylor, who trashed his contract and refused to help his club out of the jam they were in. Last seen training with local Sunday side SE Dons, Taylor, so we hear, is on his way to Glasgow Rangers, where he will presumably replace Alfredo Morales, the toast of Ibrox Park (and, come to that, Celtic Park). A like-for-like swap of pantomime villains in many ways, Taylor's defenders -and there are, it's true, a fair few of them - insist that anybody would do exactly the same as he did in similar circumstances. It's a short career, we're reminded, with the nagging possibility of injury making it potentially shorter. Why shouldn't he cash in with one last, lucrative move to the bigger time? "What would you do?" they enquire and smugly rest their case as if the question is rhetorical.
But there is an alternative answer. Taylor, like Bellingham, should have been man enough to stick around, put his shoulder to the relegation wheel and help out his club, mates and supporters. Simple as that really, unless money really does mean everything. His selfishness destroyed the enormous goodwill he had earned by his efforts in cancer fundraising and the touching kindness he offered Betty Hutchins during her last days with us. Charismatic, personable and prolific, his on-field presence alongside the unfairly maligned Bonne, would almost certainly have made the important difference between survival and relegation.
It's all ifs and ands now anyway with Charlton failing, by one infuriating point, to avoid the cut. Eleven months of struggle, during which they endured a catastrophic injury list, the loss of Conor Gallagher's growing influence, not to mention the civil war between wrong'uns in the boardroom, eventually sapped them. They fought hard, never gave up and almost made it. But they were not quite good enough and Taylor's defection was one blow too many.
So we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again. On September 12th in League One. The prospect might make you shudder but, face it, what alternative is there?