Do We Dream Enough? A Charlton Fan Looks Skywards

Simon MartinSenior Writer IApril 7, 2008

Sometimes, I wonder whether it's all worth it.

Charlton Athletic spent eight years in a row in top flight football, and what did we get out of it?

Our highest ever position, seventh in the league, we won 4-2 at Highbury in 2001 and I was there!

We managed to knock multi-millionaires Chelsea out of the Carling Cup, and beat Liverpool on several occasions. (Note that I skipped over the fact we'd never beaten Manchester United, and lost 4-0 to them on no less than three occasions, but good things come to those who wait.)

That last bit, "good things come to those who wait," has been my personal motto for Charlton Athletic for a few years now. We've been patient, we've been passionate, and we've been ecstatic for our club—the little club that just couldn't be killed off in 1991! And I am sure many of the Championship clubs feel the same way of their teams.

The problem we face, and the other eleven hopefuls in the Championship, is whether or not we can actually stay up at all. So far as I reckon it, of the 20 Premier League teams, three get relegated automatically every year—and of those 20, I would say that 15 are at a level that means they won't get relegated for the foreseeable future.

Which means that next year, it's almost guaranteed that two clubs, previously in the Championship, will be relegated back to the Championship next year.

Looking at what's happened this year, Derby have already been relegated, Fulham may be next (but like Charlton last year, have been riding their luck a little over the last few years), and the next team: Bolton or Birmingham perhaps?

I have questioned several times before as to whether or not the gap between the top league and the rest is widening.

Now I am convinced of it.

If you were to look at the Championship table today, none of the clubs currently vying for Premier League status have the skills, motivation, or backing to stay more than one year in the Premier League now, compared to, say, Manchester United down to Newcastle United in the Premier League.

What I'm saying is that I predict a very predictable spat of promotions and relegations over the next ten years. Three teams go up, three go down, and the six teams in question are the borderline clubs of at least 15 teams that just can't seem to make the grade in the Premier League, but are too good for the Championship.

In other words, they compete to end up not competing at all. Just ask Derby County fans.

Is there a solution to this rather depressing problem?

I loath saying money, as it didn't take Barnsley millions of pounds to knock out both Chelsea and Liverpool from the FA cup this year, so it must be motivation.

On that note, perhaps I might offer my club Charlton, a realistic goal.

Go up, and don't play to stay up; play to win the league!

If we've given up on everythingthe FA Cup, the Premier League title, Champions League or UEFA cup footballbut staying up in the top division, how on earth did we stay in the top flight for so long? 

Without confidence and motivation, and a dream and determination to fulfil it, how can any team get to the top of the pile?

Yes, I know we don't have the quality, or the money, but perhaps if anything, Barnsley have shown us, through their sheer grit and desire to follow a dream that anything is possible, if you try!

So I have only one thing left to say.