We’ve been there before and I was at The Valley 28 years ago on the evening they last won promotion out of it. Through good times and bad, they’ve had my support. I have been unable to watch a match in person since I set off on my worldly travels nigh on 23 years ago, but I have noted our performances, both euphoric and atrocious, through whatever media I’ve had access to.
In very recent years, thanks to ESPN and the internet, Charlton were everyone’s second favourite club as we took on the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea – and once in a while actually beat them. What’s more, these matches were viewed on TV here in Indonesia.
But a tiredness set in. It had taken a massive commitment from local fans to rebuild the club from the wilderness days of 1985-92 when financial mismanagement had seen us lose our ground. If I had still been living in the area, I’m sure I’d have been part of that effort, if only through readying The Valley for our return.
Just over two years ago, long time manager Alan Curbishley, who had been in charge from those days, decided to take a year off. This happened on a day we were to lose, once again, to Manchester United. Not that this was a catastrophe. After all, is there a team which hasn’t lost to them?
And so we have slipped. Three managers, such as Alan Pardew to the left, have been tried – and failed – to stop the lethargic rot. Committed players have got old or injured. Others brought in have seemingly lacked the willingness to be part of what made us lovable: big hearts willing to give 100% have long been valued above intemittent flair. We are family and it’s the Charlie Wrights, Chris Powells and Matt Hollands we love because they support(ed) the supporters – us.
As we contemplate visits to towns which are relatively unknown, there is hope. Charlton will be the only club outside the top two divisions with a youth academy. Not many have actually become members of the first team squad, but a cursory read of the weekend’s results shows that several have made the grade elsewhere.
But we do have Jonjo Shelvey who, at 17, is Charlton’s youngest ever scorer, including one yesterday when we almost beat Blackpool.
The club is relatively secure financially, owning The Valley, the purpose built 26,500-seater stadium, with manageable debts. Some of the highest earners will be released at the end of the season and all supporters look forward to a squad of players who show the commitment we do.
That commitment extends to the Charlton Community Trust which not only runs training sessions for local schools, but also in deprived townships in South Africa. Charlton has also initiated a Street Violence Ruins Lives campaign. (This is a sad syndrome in British cities. Son No.1 sent me this link to a local news article about a shooting round the corner from his home.)
This groundbreaking work has been recognised at the 2009 Football League Awards with the award of Community Club of the Year.
As I remain an unashamed idealist, I look forward to a speedy return to the higher echelons of the beautiful game.
If you want to know more about my Addickshun, click the links in my blogroll to the right, type Charlton in the search box or read this Guardian obit.