Luzon’s no longer a south Lon­don loser

The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

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.

Ju­bi­lant

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.

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