Lee Bowyer began to smile as the question was asked. He chuckled and raised an eyebrow before saying “It’s crazy, crazy, stupid.” He didn’t give it a second thought.
Charlton Athletic had just produced a warrior-like performance to beat London rivals Brentford 1-0 and record a third win in their first five games back in the Championship.
And Bowyer was asked at what point he would begin to entertain the notion of a top-six finish – with the idea quickly dismissed in a lighthearted but abrupt manner.
Instead Bowyer was full of praise for the Addicks’ gritty determination to hold out for a narrow win against an established Championship side.
Charlton had ground out the victory, the sort of performance you’d expect from a side clinging onto promotion hopes as they threw bodies in front of the ball in the last five minutes .
The players couldn’t have shown or given him any more.
For sure, the league table doesn’t have too much relevance until there are signs of consistency.
But five matches played is arguably a fair checkpoint to have a quick glance at who’s on top and the Addicks couldn’t have wished for a better start on their return to the Championship after three years away and currently sit third.
Yet Lee Bowyer isn’t getting ahead of himself. “We have 41 games still to play and our target will be to stay in the division. Once we have reached that target, we’ll look to see how far we are, that’s it.”
But are thoughts of a push for promotion quite so ‘stupid’? How likely is it for a newly-promoted side to achieve such dizzy heights?
Could Charlton rise up the football pyramid like AFC Bournemouth or even more recently Sheffield United?
However, neither of those jumps from League One to the Premier League were back-to-back promotions…
Only four sides have completed that feat since 1992 – Watford and Manchester City in the late 1990s before Norwich (2009-11) and Southampton (2010-12) in more recent times.
History suggests there is little chance Charlton will reach the Promised Land this term, but a top-six finish shouldn’t be dismissed so easily – as Millwall will tell you.
The Lions, much like Charlton, won the League One play-off final in 2016-17, and flirted with the top-six on their return to the Championship until the very end, finishing 8th and three points adrift.
On Saturday, Charlton were dominated by Brentford during the opening 45 minutes before catching their visitors cold as the Bees lost concentration.
Being clinical in front of goal is key to success, and with the exception of the Nottingham Forest game, the Addicks seem to be mastering the art of ruthlessness quickly.
Three shots on target against Blackburn Rovers, three goals; one shot on target against Brentford, one goal.
Of course, many are predicting Leeds United, fresh from last season’s Play-Off disappointment to be clear frontrunners with the best of the rest including the likes of Fulham, Bristol City and Swansea.
But there’s a real feeling this year’s promotion race is as wide open as ever.
Belief will go a long way but if Charlton can emulate their early form on a weekly basis, then the question of a top-six finish may not be so stupid after all….
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