As we prepare to tackle our first season since WW11 without Betty Hutchins at the helm, it devolves on me to step up and deliver a pep talk in her place. Think of it as my take on a new President's inauguration speech, a case of out with the old, in with the six months younger.
Betty was a cockeyed optimist when it came to life and Charlton. She'd decided long ago never to walk in anyone's shadow. Me too. We were scrupulous about not walking in each other's shadow, in case it caused Charlton to lose. We collided occasionally but it's funny how superstition takes over. For instance, a few weeks ago, I wore the same shoelaces I wore in 1998, the first time we played Sunderland at Wembley. And I used Colgate to clean my teeth both times. Daft I admit but you can't be too careful.
"You know something, Kev?" Betty mused earlier this year, "I've begun to think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs from the brim to the dregs". I didn't have a clue what she was on about because she rarely took a drink but I was sensitive to the mood and counter-mused. "Bet, I hear what you're saying, but the record shows I took the blows and did it my way." Then for some reason we broke into "My Old Man's a Dustman", which made far more sense to us. She was flat for once. But I digress.
Bet would probably agree that with less than three weeks until it all kicks off again at Blackburn, there is cause for concern about our prospects. You don't need me or her to tell you that any midfield which, in one fell swoop, loses the likes of Josh Cullen, Krystian Bielik and Joe Aribo, is in trouble. That sheer quality is all but impossible to replace. Patrick Bauer's departure is probably adequately covered by Tom Lockyer but midfield is where we'll be found out, unless Lee Bowyer and his staff's uncanny nose for disregarded talent comes into its own again. Bet trusted them. So do I but I wish they'd hurry up.
Our goalkeepers (Dillon Phillips and Ben Amos) are sound and the defence solid-looking. We boast two excellent right backs (Chris Solly and Anfernee Dijksteel), three experienced centre backs who possibly need an extra body (Lockyer, Naby Sarr and Jason Pearce), a couple of first-class left backs (Lewis Page and Ben Purrington). Lyle Taylor might find it tough up front without proven support (Tom Eaves fits the bill perfectly), which brings us back to the department where games are invariably decided.
Both George Lapslie and Albie Morgan are impressive graduates from the academy's peerless assembly line but have only recently discarded their L-plates. Jake Forster-Caskey's return is well-timed but we look threadbare in the middle of the park. We need a midfielder or two cast in the manager's mould.
Whatever state we're in, we'll be pulling out from Anchor and Hope Lane on August 3rd with the indomitable spirit of Betty Hutchins not so much fording every stream but still doggedly following her dream. Which was usually a bacon-and-egg fry-up at the motorway stop on the way there and a large Magnum to cool her down on the journey home. She sometimes bit off more than she could chew but she never spat it out. Which is more than that full-of-himself bloke in the song can claim.