Rehab can be a painful process, but Charlton are making it appear simple. The south Londoners have been mired in turmoil for the last three seasons but they are piecing together their self-confidence in League One, and in some style. Phil Parkinson's side cemented their position at the top of the table yesterday after brushing aside Brentford with a performance that oozed authority. It was the club's sixth straight League win and, while the new campaign may be less than a month old, already their supporters are chattering excitedly of a return to the Championship at the first attempt.
"I'm enjoying Saturday nights again now," said Parkinson, whose position was also the subject of feverish speculation in the summer. "From the first day of pre-season, it was all about re-establishing a winning mentality, right from the first seven-a-side we played. It's difficult to bounce back from what happened to us last year but we've started very well. There will be a big feel-good factor at the training ground next week but nobody is getting carried away."
Parkinson's wariness is understandable. For all the optimism generated by their unblemished start to the season, Charlton remain a club in recovery. Just three years ago, they were contesting derbies against Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham in the Premier League; for kudos, a local squabble with Brentford simply cannot compare. They also remain dogged by financial concerns, with a proposed takeover by former chief executive Peter Varney apparently no nearer completion.
Even so, in comparison to the last three years – when managers have been hired and fired at a bewildering rate and the club has suffered two relegations – these are days to savour. In addition to bulwarking their position at the top of the table, the club also confirmed that Jonjo Shelvey, the highly-rated young striker, had signed a one-year extension to his current contract, tying him to The Valley until 2012.
The 17-year-old has been the subject of admiring glances from a clutch of Premier League sides, with Chelsea supposedly leading the chase. Shelvey's decision to pledge his future to the Addicks means that Frank Arnesen, Chelsea's sporting director, will have to wait to add him to the club's roster of talented teenagers, although given the headlines to have emerged from Stamford Bridge in recent days, that might be no bad thing.
"It's very important for the club," Parkinson added. "We don't want to develop players for other clubs, we want to keep them here so we're delighted he's staying. And Chelsea can't bid for him until January 2011, so that's a bonus."
Shelvey might yet find he can fulfil his ambitions at Charlton. He should certainly anticipate being able to dazzle against Championship defences on the basis of his team's polished display yesterday, when Brentford were blown away by half-time.
There was a large dollop of good fortune attached to the first goal, which owed everything to a horrible error from Brentford defender Sam Wood. His attempt to nod back to his own goalkeeper merely presented the ball to Charlton's Lloyd Sam and the winger's cut-back was lashed into the net by Burton, via James Wilson's shin.
But if that was lucky, their second goal was luminous. Brentford's defenders were left dizzy by an audacious 15-pass move which culminated in Deon Burton teeing up Sam with a cute reverse ball. The winger turned Wood with ease and swept nonchalantly into the bottom corner.
The visitors might have feared a rout but rallied after the interval and provoked flutters of concern in the home defence. Myles Weston blazed over when well placed, Robbie Elliott saved spectacularly from Carl Cort and David Hunt struck the crossbar with a free-kick but this was not their day. "I don't like losing but we gave away two poor goals and we don't usually do that," Andy Scott, their manager, said. "We kept battling away and we gave a good account of ourselves. The guys are disappointed that they have come here, to a good side, and lost. That is encouraging for me."