Monday 4 December 2017

Back To The Valley !


Here we are then, celebrating 25 years since we’ve been “ Back To The Valley “ ! I trust I wasn’t alone in endlessly singing that out loud for months before we actually got there !

I challenge anyone to say that they could have predicted how things would look today or even the great success we enjoyed under Curbs in those halcyon days.

Our present owners of course have no background or real understanding of what our ground and club means to us fans. Just to underline that they’re charging silly prices for Saturday and the celebration dinner the next day.

I’ve no wish to waste time and words on them in this piece so that’s the last mention of them. Hopefully they won’t be around in another 25 months let alone years !

It seems incredible that 25 years have passed since that fantastic day. For those that weren’t born it must be so hard to imagine what the day itself was like. In addition, imagine it against a background where you thought your team was never going to play there again or worse still go out of existence.

Watching the team play in Croydon or at West Ham just left you feeling cold and empty. Try and imagine the pleasure you’d have got in getting promotion to the First Division at the Valley or staying up when you were still there ?

We had to wait for Curbs to deliver that feeling. Away from home though with all that going on in the background and you realise what an unbelievable job Lennie Lawrence did. Not just in getting us up there but staying up in the meantime.

This was the best in terms for Charlton on the pitch it had been in my lifetime upto then.

Lennie of course went on to Middlesbrough which was a very unexpected and odd move. He wasn’t treated very well by them in my view and as soon as they sacked they gave his successor, Bryan Robson, funds that weren’t made available to our Lennie.

Every cloud and all that and we had the Gritt / Curbishley combination with them officially labelled as “ joint managers “. This term was a joy to the headline writers when a couple of our boys got caught smoking substances not befitting professional athletes !

Subsequently Richard Murray appointed Curbs as the sole manager. At the time I’m not aware that any supporter who thought this was a wise move with nearly all thinking that the honour should go to Gritt.

It was to prove one of Mr Murray’s better decisions !

Back to 25 years ago and all that effort to return to our spiritual home as it is so often described and you really can’t believe what the atmosphere was like. Nor indeed can you understand how it felt unless you were there. It will probably never be surpassed.

The game that day passed in something of a blur. Of course everyone went mad when Walshie scored and again at the final whistle. Given what we now know of Pardew and also his attempts to nobble Gritty how grateful we all are that that odious character wasn’t on the pitch to be a part of it.

Getting back home literally was a dream come true. May be more than that because over those 7 years you really didn’t think Charlton would survive. I can’t imagine how different my life would be if it hadn’t.

Numerous experiences simply wouldn’t have happened. I wonder if I would have retained any interest in football. If so, who would I be supporting ? It doesn’t bear thinking about but yet it could so easily have happened.

There’s an enormous debt owed to all those who made it possible. The Valley Party including Rick Everitt and many others. Rick of course started The Voice Of The Valley our famous fanzine. The cause was also greatly helped by the Mercury which gave a great deal of time and space covering every aspect of what was happening.

Both publications played a big part in publicising the campaign and keeping people informed about what was happening.

Roger Alwen was a key player in the return and I’ve been re-watching his interview where he announced the return. It’s very significant that as he said, getting back was just the start. There was so much more still to do. How right he was !!

Over the years all the scaffolding would disappear from the East terrace as would those bl**dy portacabins !!

The whole ground would eventually become The Valley as we know it today. What a marvellous tribute to all those who worked so hard to get us back there.

Saturday will be another emotional occasion albeit not celebrated as fully as it might have been given the current ownership. However, it should be celebrated as fully as possible.

In the meantime I hope that everyone attending the event at the museum on Tuesday has a great time. I wish I could be there but it’s not possible.

I will raise a glass tomorrow to all those who played their part in getting us back home, to all the players, staff, fellow fans and also my dad who took me to The Valley in the first place.

I know I won’t be alone in doing so and it’s that pride in supporting such a wonderful club with a rich, unique and diverse history that gives us all a bond and affection for such a great club.

Come On You Reds !

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