the exile is over, our dreams have come true......
Ah, I remember it as if it were 20 years ago ! What a day, what an atmosphere, what raw emotion !
Trying to explain how it was to my kids or anyone else for that matter is nigh on impossible. A day that most thought we'd never see, finally happened. What followed in the next few years was possibly even more remarkable.
All the effort, the struggle and the sacrifices that so many people made in order for this to happen were well worth it. Words will never be enough to thank those primarily involved in making it possible. It's to horrible to contemplate what we'd have all missed out on had it not come to pass.
For myself alone I'd have missed out on my two lads both being mascots, one being a ballboy once, aside from still going to games together and sharing the unique bond that is Charlton Athletic, a club that you can truly be proud of.
I recall trying to fight back the tears as they players ran out, what a moment and I just gave in in the end. There's only been a couple of times I've done that, the other one was when we were relegated in 1999. Occasionally I get a bit emotional when past games / clips are shown on the big screen but nothing approaching the 5th December 1992.
As it happens I missed " the last match at The Valley " as friends were getting married. My missus at the time was having none of me just turning up for the wedding reception after. They only went and up split up anyway within 10 years.........marriages eh ? Bloody hell !
My brother managed to secure me a ticket that I didn't think I was going to get. I had even rung Portsmouth a couple of weeks before claiming to be a lifelong fan and never missed a game, blah, blah, blah. When my ticket was confirmed I was ecstatic ! I wasn't a season ticket holder then, let's face there was no need to be and in any case, CAFC used to ring you and ask what time you could get there.
As you expect the return to The Valley received widespread media coverage, the most we'd had in years....about 7 years as I recall ! Nowadays there's no way it would be a 3pm on a Saturday kick off. It'd be a definite 1pm or 4pm on a Sunday job live on Sky or somesuch.
I think Pardew was left out to allow Stevie Gritt to play........well done Curbs, spot on ! What foresight ! Lee Power was on loan from Norwich. Paul Walsh was playing for Portsmouth but we had the more important Walsh playing for us ! Nice one Colin !
Unlike the majority of games now, I drove to the match which was good on reflection as I can do just that, reflect I mean, with great clarity. I celebrated later at home with a few beers as you can imagine.
With the whole of the East Stand closed save for a temporary commentary box containing the late and great Brian Moore. It still looked like a building site but it didn't matter a bit, we were home !
The Mail On Sunday, 6th December 1992. Blimey, more than a 4 sentence paragraph ! Have no fear normal service was resumed the following week ! ( you'd never know I put my hands on the back whilst that was scanning eh ? !! )
Saturday will be a proud occasion remembering all the old times including those before we left. Brighton are most apt opponents giving their similar departure from their ground, fights with local councils etc. etc. Not to mention Stevie Gritt and their shared dislike of two certain teams. Therefore, I think it ill beholds any of us to ruin the occasion with some of the proposed singing that I've read about elsewhere.
After some of the events of Saturday I think we need to try and make amends for some damage to our reputation ( and I don't mean in that part of London, I know they don't give a **** ) following certain events. I don't want to be associated with that and it's not what so many people fought so hard and for so long for.
Saturday will be good and I'm looking forward to immensely. Unlike that day 20 years ago, I'll be having a few sherberts before the game but unlike most Saturdays, I'll be tempted out of my watering hole early to catch whatever is going on before kick off to take it all in.
Wherever you are tomorrow, at some stage raise a glass of something to 20 years ago and moreover, to all those who made it happen ! Cheers !
Come On You Reds !