Charlton Athletic boss Lee Bowyer said he would be ‘over the moon’ if his side managed to finish fourth bottom when he spoke to London Football Scene earlier in the year.
But in an unprecedented end to the season, it proved too much for an injury ridden Addicks who had also faced countless distractions off the pitch as well.
It was without doubt a rough season for the club and everyone connected with it – one that players, staff and fans endured with the utmost professionalism and dedication to the cause.
Based on squad talent there should have been enough to secure a mid-table finish at the very least with their early season form suggesting exactly that.
Six matches unbeaten saw the Addicks climb all the way up to second in the table and by the time October 12th rolled around, Charlton were sitting pretty in seventh place with only three defeats in 12 matches.
And while a mid-week defeat at Bristol City, courtesy of a stoppage time goal, may not have looked like a season defining loss back in October, it spelt trouble for Charlton in two major ways.
The Ashton Gate loss started a run of 11 games without a win in which Charlton picked up just four points.
And while they did manage to exact their revenge on Bristol City with a 3-2 win on Boxing Day, they then went on a five match winless run. Overall, in 17 matches the Addicks picked up just one win and nine points.
Conceding late goals also became synonymous with Charlton as they conceded four more goals in stoppage time during that run with late goals to Hull City, Millwall and Huddersfield Town costing Charlton vital points.
A 1-0 defeat at Swansea on January 2nd left Charlton five points from the drop zone but with renewed optimism as the fixture marked the start of a new era as East Street Investments (ESI) completed their takeover from Roland Duchatelet.
However, boardroom wranglings as to who at ESI actually owned the club soon developed, restricting any movements in the transfer market for Lee Bowyer to strengthen a side precariously close to the drop and continually ravaged by injuries.
By the time February arrived, Charlton had fallen down to 19th in the table, but still sat nine points above the drop zone.
After a decent run of three wins in five matches, Charlton once again conceded a late winner, this time to Sheffield Wednesday before suffering a 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Huddersfield.
With the gap down to just four points when the coronavirus pandemic shut football down, Charlton used the time to regroup but had to do so without top goalscorer Lyle Taylor who rejected a short-term deal to remain at the club to see out their relegation fight.
Nevertheless, the Addicks came out firing with huge 1-0 wins over Hull City and QPR as well as grabbing a point from Play-Off hopefuls Cardiff City.
But just when things appeared to be looking up for Charlton, the curse of the late goal returned – as both Millwall and Brentford grabbed late winners in games where the Addicks played incredibly well.
They also appeared to be on course for all three points away at Birmingham City, until a 93rd minute equaliser from Lukas Jutkiewicz further hindered their chances at survival.
Going into the final matchday, however, Charlton still held their fate in their own hands, sitting two points above the drop zone – the only obstacle being they faced newly-crowned champions Leeds United at Elland Road.
The match was effectively over after just 30 minutes, as Leeds stormed into a 2-0 lead and eventually won the game 4-0.
There was still a slight glimmer of hope for Lee Bowyer’s side though as Barnsley had to beat Brentford with Charlton on course to remain in the Championship with the game at Griffin Park poised at 1-1.
Football can be a very cruel sport though and like many things in this tumultuous season, things once again went against Charlton as Barnsley struck a 91st minute winner to ensure Championship survival at the Addicks’ expense.
Despite all the off field turmoil and injuries also blighting the opportunity for a settled side throughout the campaign, Lee Bowyer and his squad fought incredibly against all the odds.
There were breakout stars along the way – most notably youngsters Alfie Doughty and Albie Morgan while Dillon Phillips and Macauley Bonne also continued to impress.
They will only get better next season in League One and although it hasn’t been easy to be a Charlton fan this campaign, there is the hope that if the turmoil at the club can be put aside, they will return to the Championship with renewed hope and ambition next year.