Luzon’s no longer a south London loser
GUY Luzon had managed Charlton Athletic for exactly 61 minutes when the usually tolerant crowd at the Valley delivered their withering verdict. A substitution, an equaliser for Rotherham, frustration on the terraces. “You don’t know what you’re doing,” they bellowed.
On that icy January day, with the Addicks winless in months and seemingly devoid of direction, few expected the Israeli to reach the end of last season, let alone the start of this.
“These are early days,” wrote Charlton fan and Daily Mail columnist Patrick Collins. “But I fear Mr Luzon is unlikely to stay long enough to collect his testimonial.”
Nine months later, the scenes at a sun-baked Valley were very different indeed. Ludicrously sent to the stands for celebrating victory over Hull City, Luzon was engulfed by love as he made his way back pitch-side.
A red-shirted mass crushed to pat him on the back, yell well-wishes and proffer handshakes. Luzon himself simply beamed like a kid at Christmas, hands held jubilantly aloft.
And well he might. Because it is becoming increasingly clear that not only does Luzon know what he is doing, he is exceeding all expectations.
Johan Berg Gudmundsson’s 98th-minute winner against the Tigers means the Addicks have now taken eight points from their first four games.
Sure, early form counts for nowt. Just ask Millwall, who in February 1996 sat top of the Championship only to suffer relegation in May.
But is this mere form? I’m not so sure. Since Luzon took charge on January 13, the Addicks have played 26 times, winning 12 and losing just seven.
That’s 1.7 points per game, which, extrapolated over a 46-game season, would give Charlton 76 points – enough to make the play-offs in all but one of the last five campaigns.
Possession is up. Shots on target too. The squad is deeper. And while chairman Roland Duchatelet has been accused of using Charlton as a feeder club (or dumping ground) for his beloved Standard Liege, Luzon has clearly tried his utmost to give young Brits a fair crack.
Regan Charles-Cook is 18, Jordan Cousins, Callum Harriott and Morgan Fox 21. Karlan Ahearne-Grant, a sub against Hull, is just 17.
Yes, the Addicks have a glut of foreign players, some of them no better than filler. But how many other Championship sides can say they had five academy graduates on the pitch last weekend? Not too many, I’d bet.
Combined with shrewd, under-the-radar signings like Gudmundsson, Tony Watt, Igor Vetokele and 6ft 7ins striker Simon Makienok, Charlton suddenly gleam with a vibrancy and menace they have lacked for years.
And once sceptical south Londoners have warmed to Luzon’s commitment.
That testimonial remains a way off. The play-offs too. But whatever you think of Duchatelet, Luzon has proved he belongs in the Championship.