Six or seven weeks ago I was firmly of the opinion that Welling United had a better chance of promotion this season than the Addicks. They were on a fine run which had taken them to the top of National League South and whilst there are clubs with bigger resources, I felt the Wings were a good bet. My view of Charlton's hopes, of course, is always tainted by the lack of Roland Duchatelet's ambition and my own conviction that he is happier with League One running costs than the expectations and expense of the Championship. Being promoted might increase the value of the club but Duchatelet will know that unless he can be confident of securing a timely sale, he could be left holding the tab for another season and the cachet of Championship status might be short-lived without strengthening of the squad, something I am certain he wouldn't be interested in.
Since then a couple of things have happened which has changed my view. First, Welling's driving force in midfield, ex-Arsenal starlet Jack Jebb, managed to injure himself for the rest of the season and Lee Bowyer has continued to collect unlikely looking victories, such as winning at league leaders Pompey.
The Wings have battled on since Jebb's injury and are hanging around the play-off places but they have lost six-pointers to both Torquay and Concord Rangers in recent weeks which has seen them leap-frogged and they now sit fourth, but crucially only two points from ninth place St. Albans, so there is a posse gathering. They face Dartford away tomorrow in the Boxing Day re-match and will do well to avoid a revenge defeat from a side who can also now draw level with them. It looks like it's going to be a battle for the Wings until the end of the season. Automatic promotion looks unlikely so they need to finish in contention for the play-offs but that is looking a harder ask.
Two defeats on the trot have dampened promotion fervour at The Valley but Lee Bowyer's side are still very much in play-off contention and the top seven to Doncaster Rovers have a bit of a gap on the rest. Injuries have limited Bow's options but his side have done well to stick at it and they should see off Walsall tomorrow at The Valley which would be some comfort for the Saddlers having dumped our second-string out of the F A Cup in early December (if the visitors come with more confidence in their step and can repeat the result, Lee Bowyer may well rue his decision to field a weakened side against them last time).
The elephant-in-the-room for Charlton supporters at this time of year is just how much damage Duchatelet might do to the club's squad in the January window. By now, the notion of him strengthening the squad should be something that even the most deluded apologist can't entertain.
It looks like Joe Aribo could well exercise his options and sign a pre-contract deal for a fresh start and better terms elsewhere in the Summer (how did the club's management fail to avoid this situation?). That would mean we might retain his services but there is an equal chance, given the number of sides reportedly interested, that one of them may see him as an urgent need now and be prepared to cut a deal to give Duchatelet a consolation fee to get him early. He is, of course, injured at the moment and that might mean he stays for now.
Our injury list also protects us a little from asset-sales but I do wonder if Duchatelet might be tempted by a cheeky offer for the likes of Bauer or Taylor? It wouldn't be popular or wise but Duchatelet has proven time and again that he doesn't care about the customers think or the ambitions of the football team. There is a view that, given his wealth, Duchatelet can afford to bide his time when selling players but he showed last year when Konsa was flogged to Brentford that he has one eye on the size of the operating loss and a bird in the hand is often worth two in the bush.
Our loan keeper, Jed Steer may be recalled to Aston Villa given injury to one of their current two, so Bowyer might have to find another loanee replacement before he might ask Mr Bumble for some more. I can't help thinking that Lee Bowyer may be less satisfied with his employer's support come the end of January than he has been hitherto.
Whatever happens, best wishes to all readers for the New Year!