Three weeks ago Charlton Athletic’s season was still completely wide open.  In one of the tightest divisions we have ever seen they could still be relegated, yet were only a few wins off the Play Offs.  The Addicks fans aren’t known for their optimistic outlook on life, yet even they were finding it hard to keep their emotions in check.  There was even a swear word used on one forum, and a suggestion that Chris Powell “may” be out of his depth.  But recent form saw them rocket up the table, and coming into the final game of the season a top eight finish was almost a certainty.

8706585543_acec13d592_bThe visitors, Bristol City, on the other hand had nothing but pride to play for having already been relegated.  In a day of twists and turns to decide everyone’s final fate, this was one of the very few games where nothing rode on the result.  So it wasn’t a surprise when I rang up Active Matt and asked if any of his six season tickets were going spare.  “Take your pick from 5…everyone seems to have better things to do today”.  On a day when football options in the South East were at a premium, this would fill the gap.

It is hard not to admire what Charlton have, and continue to achieve.  I know that Palace and Millwall fans would disagree, but it is a nicer club to visit, without the need to look over your shoulder, or constantly cover the ears of any children you bring.  And this is a family club.  Season tickets for youngsters are just £49 next season – just over £2 a game.  When I rule the world of football I will set maximum prices for all clubs, ranging from free admission at all non league ground, to a maximum of £5 in the Premier League.  Children are our future (or is it garlic bread?) but so many clubs have simply priced them out of the game already, meaning at some point a whole generation will be missing from our Premier League palaces.

My first experience of football was here at the Valley, back in April 1974.  It was a very different place in those days, with the biggest terrace in English football a crumbling, weed polluted backdrop to a game being played on a pitch of sand and dust.  I remember the programme shop in the corner, the crawl space under the main stand (where my brother told me the devil lived) and the noise when Charlton took the lead thanks to Derek Hales.  And here I was, taking my seat in the East Stand just as young Derek (now a sprightly 72 years old) was being introduced to the crowd on the pitch.  Derek was a legend in these parts, scoring goals for fun and even getting himself sent off for having a fight with team-mate Mike Flanagan in a FA Cup game once.

8706582855_4a163c452b_bToday it is all so civilised.  Parking in Makro, a short walk across the Woolwich Road, a quick burger at Come Dine With Me (alas no comedy voice over from Dave Lamb) and into the ground.  Because the ground is in a valley (wonder how they got the name of the ground?), views from the stands are excellent.  Our timing was perfect, arriving just as the heavy rain begun to fall.  The away fans seemed not to have got the message sent around by a few fans that it was “fancy dress away day” and apart from a Zippy, a rubbish looking superhero and what appeared to be a cross between a Smurf and David Hasselhoff, they looked a sorry bunch, already resigned to trips to Port Vale and Crawley Town next season.  The pitch certainly seemed to have seen better days but what the heck.  It was the last day of the season and this was sure to be a dramatic final ninety minutes, albeit not in Floyd Road, South East London. Continue reading

My first game – Steve Arnold

Gloucestershire Senior Professional Cup Final
Bristol City 1 Bristol Rovers 1 aet
Bristol Rovers win 4-2 on pens
May 9th 1972
Att 13,137

Of all the football trophies the Gloucestershire Senior Professional Cup doesn’t really rank along side the FA cup or even the JP Trophy, but on that night in May it seemed magical.

My father took me to the game as he was Rovers fan, but little did he know that I was hooked, with Ashton Gate and the team in red. He can’t complain as he didn’t follow his father either, he was welsh and supported Cardiff City, then following work on the railways ended up in Bristol. The game kicked off in front of just over 13,000, which at the time was, more people in the same place than I had ever seen before.

Like most small lads I watched the crowds reaction as much as the game for the first half. In the second half City went ahead with a goal from city great John Emanuel. Rovers equalised through a headed goal from prolific goal scorer Sandy Allan, despite both sides best efforts the score remained the same until the end. Extra Time it was then, which was not as exciting as I thought it would be. No further score brought us to a penalty shootout this was more like it, and at our end. City missed a early one and never caught up, eventually losing 4-2.

It might not have been Champions League, but how many first games do you get 90mins, Extra Time, Pens, see a trophy presented, & all on school night Fantastic.

Steve Arnold