I remember in 1999, at the start of the season, Alan Curbishley was very nervous. It seemed to me that he knew the expectations on the club even though we had only graced the premier league for 1 unsuccessful season.
His first few team meetings were to drill into the squad that it was vital we got off to a good start in that 1999/2000 season. In pre-season and the early games I felt Curbs was over-anxious that we get off to a good start.
Curbs knew that as one of the sides that had been relegated from the Premier League we were expected by the media and by our own fans to be one of the front runners to get promotion. Life then was different for the club as Curbs had not spent big in the summer, signing only myself on a free transfer from West Brom and a few others to strenghten his squad.
This year, the 2007/2008 season will be very different down at the Valley. Charlton have had a long stay in the premier league, subsequently building a squad of higher calibre players than we had in 1999, upon whom the expectations of the fans will be huge.
The bonus Curbs had then in 1999 was that his squad was a good Championship squad, full of experienced players from that division such as Richard Rufus, Clive Mendonca, John Robinson, Mark Kinsella, Steve Brown, Myself and many others who were competent playing at that level. This allowed us to put together a strong season of consistent play as we marched towards promotion and the championship title.
Many of Charltons players will not know life in the Championship and it could be a big surprise to them. With a squad of higher paid players, expectations from the fans will no doubt be very high and emotions will be tense in the early stages of the season as everyone wonders whether Alan Pardews inherited team have what it takes to scrap their way out of the Division.
Pardews side will need a strong start to ensure that they live up to their role as early season favourites and get the crowd on their side. What Pardew will be keen to avoid is a shaky start which will tough on his squad. We worked very hard in the 1999/2000 season and it showed as we dominated the league. Our players were very fit, well organized, played well together, but more than anything mentally very strong.
Pardew has proved himself to be a great manager in the Championship and he will definitely know what it takes to get the addicks back into the Premier League this season. Charlton deservedly are one of the favourites for promotion and lets hope the team hits the ground running on the opening day. I will be watching the season unfold from another continent and will not be nearly as nervous as the last time Charlton tried to climb out of the Championship League.