Almost two years ago to the day I sat high in the East Stand at the Valley and watched West Ham being demolished by a free flowing Charlton team who in a strange reversal of fortune were managed by Alan Pardew (and of course Hammers by the clueless ex-Charlton manager Curbishley). On that cold February day there seemed little hope of West Ham beating the drop, and a certainty that the Addicks would be prelonging their Premier League status for another season.
Two years down the line and on one of the coldest Saturdays in recent years West Ham travelled to Newcastle United on the back of three consecutive wins and a chance to climb to 8th in the table, whilst Charlton were due to entertain another fallen giant, Nottingham Forest in a game that pitched two of the favourites for relegation to the third tier of English football together. Much has been written about the reasons how and why West Ham kept their Premier League and that debate is not for today but it is only in the past few weeks that the dire consequences of that last Premier League season are coming to light from Charlton’s point of view.
Since the start of the 2006/07 season the club have welcomed four managers, and after Alan Pardew’s departure in November 2008, they gave the role to his assistant, Phil Parkinson on a temporary basis. Parkinson was to be judged on results, and it shows how bad the club’s predicament is that they could not find anyone who was willing to do the job and so in the weeks leading up to this game after 2 draws and 8 defeats in his 10 games in charge he was given the job on a full time basis. With a team full of lower league signings and loanees he faced a mammoth task of trying to end a run of 18 games withouth a win.
In the other dugout was Billy Davies who was taking charge for the first time in the league after replacing Colin Calderwood and coming off the back of a stunning 3-0 at Manchester City in the FA Cup last week and confidence was high. On first glance Forest had one thing going for them that Charlton didn’t – two goalscorers in Robert Earnshaw and Nathan Tyson. And how they would prove this point in the first half.
I had originally planned to venture down to Ebbsfleet for their defence of their FA Trophy crown, but the cold harsh frost put pay to this game early on Friday as well as my plans B to G (Lewes, Cambridge, Southend, Dagenham, Gillingham and Luton). (In)Active Matt had had his season tickets for years and as he had no friends for this one I took the opportunity to be Mrs S Lewis and accompany him. It was nice a change to be able to leave at 2pm for a game and park within a 5 minute walk of the stadium – another sign of the troubles the club were in.
I like Charlton. After Upton Park I have been to The Valley more than any other ground (Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium runs it close after I followed them in their legendary play off season in the mid Eighties after serving a parent enduced season ban from Upton Park after Big Nige was arrested for football related misbehaving) and actually watched my first ever live game here in April 1974 when Charlton Athletic v Burnley. I have seen games there laid out on the old East terrace, once the biggest single stand in English football with my Grandad who was a staunch Charlton fan. I walked out with him onto the pitch to present the matchball to Uriah Rennie in 1993 and couldn’t help laugh when Grandad asked him if he was paid to referee so bad last week on the game on Match of the Day. I was there on the night when Derek Hayles and Mike Flannigan started a fight over whos hair was the most ridiculous in a cup game versus Maidstone United and donned the Floyd outfit with Matt as Harvey to stand either side of Lennox Lewis in a game versus West Ham as the normal “actors” were too small.
So we took our seats ten minutes before kick off amongst rows of empty seats. The club had slashed the price of tickets for this game and offered kids for a £1 incentives but it was refreshing to see that they , like most other clubs higher in the leagues, neglected to offer this to Forest fans who had sold out their section paying full price of course. Although it could be justified in a way when you saw the depth of the financial issues at the club in the programme. Despite the parachute payment, despite the massive cash they received from the sale of Darren Bent and others since, the club had lost over £11m in the previous twelve months. With no more Premier League money now forthcoming the financial position looks bleak for the club.
Charlton Athletic 0 Nottingham Forest 2 – The Valley – Saturday 10th January 2009
Charlton lined up with 9 players who had not been in the starting eleven for the last game of the previous season and had two players making their home debuts. They also included the young midfielder Shelvey who showed why the club are desperate to hold onto him and within the first few minutes he had created two glorious chances for Deon Burton who failed to convert one on ones. Charlton were to pay for these early mistakes and Forest played on the back foot, breaking swiftly when they had a chance.
After dominating the game for the first 30 minutes, Charlton found themselves 2-0 down within two minutes as first Nathan Tyson and then Earnshaw took advantages of cock ups in the Charlton defence (OK let’s be specific Mark Hudson). The away fans could not believe their luck and made it known how good their team was…..Only problem here was that Forest’s adopted song these days is a rendition of Mull of Kintyre, which is the same as Charlton’s “Valley, Floyd Road” which was a tad consuing for all.
At half time the Charlton players appeared 10 minutes early and were put through some warm up paces by Assistant Mark Kinsella but surely they needed shooting practice, or at least they should have all gone and shouted at the empty net to take out some strange subconscious fear they appear to have of the net. The second half failed to live up to expectation and 25,000 fans, players, staff and management alike willed the game to end just to get some warmth in their frost bitten toes.
We were back in the car within a few minutes of the final whistle and home by 5.30pm…..I don’t think I will be back this season although with potential local derbies against Dagenham & Redbridge and Brentford next season I may come back then…shame real shame…
Full details of the Valley, how to get there and ticket prices can be found at Duncan Adam’s website – http://www.footballgroundguide.com/charlton_athletic/