By Chris Harris

When Charlton last won the FA Cup, it was 1947 and the film adaptation of 'Great Expectations' was pulling in the crowds. Nearly 60 years on, Addicks fans have great expectations of their own.

Their club has not been beyond the last eight of the FA Cup since that distant triumph but victory over Middlesbrough next Thursday will end the long wait.

With the Quarter-Final tie in mind, manager Alan Curbishley could be forgiven for resting key players when he takes his team to Highbury this Saturday. It's unlikely though. As Raj Johal of the South London Press explains, the FA Cup is one of three possible routes into European football for Charlton.

"I don't think he'll rest players because he wants the team to keep its momentum," says Johal. "Curbishley's way of doing things is to keep a settled side and it has worked that way recently. Anyone carrying minor knocks may get a rest but generally it's not Curbishley's mentality.

"Charlton's best chance of qualifying for Europe is the FA Cup. They couldn't really have asked for a better draw and, if they get to the Final and play a top-six team, they could get into Europe even if they lose, like Millwall did two years ago.

"But it's not Charlton's only chance of Europe. They are seven points off the top six and, although a top-10 finish is a more realistic aim, they could still qualify for the UEFA Cup via the Premiership.

"Another way is to win the Fair Play League. Charlton were top at the end of February and there aren't many games left. The team immediately below them is Chelsea so Charlton could benefit even if they finish below them."

If Charlton are to clinch a UEFA Cup place, they will need the goals of Darren Bent. The former Ipswich striker has made a seamless transition from the Championship to the top flight this season and is on the brink of reaching 20 goals. As Johal says, that is a rare sight for regulars at The Valley.

"Andy Hunt reached that mark in the old Division One [now the Championship] in 1999/2000 but no Charlton striker has done that in the Premiership. Jason Euell reached double figures but they have never really had that '20 goals a season' man.

"Bent has got a good mixture of goals himself, he's gone along steadily all season. If he gets a chance you expect him to take it, and you don't think that of every striker. Charlton have always got a chance with him in the team because Bent can have a very quiet game but then pop up with a goal or two like he did against Middlesbrough last week."

It's been a see-saw season for Charlton. In the opening weeks they were untouchable on the road - winning their first five games - but struggled at The Valley. Now Charlton's home form is impressive - unbeaten since Arsenal visited on Boxing Day - but they haven't won away since October. Curbishley has had to tinker with his personnel and tactics.

"They started the season playing 4-5-1 and produced probably the best attacking football seen at Charlton for a long, long while. Then teams worked them out, a few injuries came along and Charlton had a mid-season slump. Now Curbishley has ditched the attacking style and there has been a major improvement.

"They have gone back to basics and got their defensive mentality back. The players are working hard for each other again, the back four has been a lot more solid with Luke Young and Chris Powell playing well and Hermann Hreidarsson probably the club's outstanding player in terms of consistency.

"Curbishley sacrificed some of the team's creativity when he sold Danny Murphy in January and now Charlton are harder to break down. They are throwing their bodies in the way and that showed when they got draws at St. James' Park and Anfield recently."

Charlton's new-found resilience could certainly make life difficult for Arsenal this weekend. And who knows? It could even end that 59-year wait for FA Cup glory.

16/1Arsenal v Charlton: Cesc Fabregas to score the first goal


Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source Chris Harris 16 Mar 2006