When You Know Your History .....
5th December 1992, an historic day in the history of Charlton Athletic Football Club, the fans of whom consider it the greatest football Club in the World, and rightly so.
Exactly fourteen years on and possibly the most important game of the intervening years. Yes, we've had downs in between but mostly we've had ups. However, we are on the brink of a 'down' that could have catastrophic consequences for the football club. Do the players realise this ? Yes, of course they do. Do they care ? No they don't, with a few notable exceptions. Do we care ? Of course we bloody well do. Can we help ? Unfortunately we can't. The players have got us into this position and only they can get us out. Only they won't. Not enough of them have got the stomach for it. Not enough of them care. Unfortunately some of those that do care simply are not good enough. All in all we are in real trouble. I hate being pessimistic and I always try to put a positive spin on things. I could easily say that two wins on the spin and suddenly we are at least back in touch with those above us and in with a fighting chance. I could say that four of the next six games are at The Valley, win three of them and a couple of points on the road and hey presto come January we'll be 16th and pulling away. Problem is six weeks ago we looked at the fixture list and were saying that with games against the likes of Wigan, Reading, Sheffield Utd and Watford all upcoming we'd soon be out of the mire. We contrived to lose three of those games whilst picking up a solitary point against the team directly above us. So it's pessimism all the way for me.
There are a lot of contributory factors to our current plight. The loss of a long-serving successful, albeit boring, manager. The premature sacking of his replacement. The injuries to key players, especially new signings, a tough opening fixture list, more injuries, suspensions, poor decisions etc etc but in reality there is only one underlying factor. The players. Either not good enough or not committed enough. Or both.
I look back with fondness to our last Premier League relegation season. 1998-1999. Up from the play-off's, that epic Wembley encounter with Sunderland, Rufus's goal, Mendonca's hat-trick, real lemonade, jumpers for goalposts, you get the idea. Eight straight defeats (?) and then a last minute Pringle goal giving us a home draw with Newcastle that felt like winning the Cup all over again. Heroes all over the pitch. Robbo whinging, Brownie, Kins, The Ruf, Super Clive, Stevie Jones, Danny Mills. You get the drift. Players you could count on, players you were proud to support. If only the current squad showed half the passion those players possessed. And Villa away. Behind gawd knows how many times, all subs used, keeper sent off, Brownie in goal, last minute winner. Fecking brilliant. Ultimately not enough. But that didn't matter. We showed guts, we showed determination, we showed we cared. The players showed they cared. Enough said.
And so back to the present. The performance at Bramall Lane was in many respects worse than the result. We were not only outplayed but were outclassed and outfought. Being realistic we are going down. I obviously hope we don't and I'll be at the Lane on Saturday shouting myself hoarse and hopefully celebrating at the end of the game six points won in six glorious days. But in reality that isn't going to happen.
Tuesday 5th December 2006. We cannot lose. We have never lost on this date since the return to The Valley and we can't let it happen now. This is OUR day. It is written that this day now belongs to the fans of Charlton Athletic. We demand a win, this day more than any other. I will walk into The Valley tomorrow night and still stare in wonder at what a fantastic place The Valley is. I will look back, beyond those fourteen years, to the times when I stood on the dilapidated terracing, to the times when I peed up against a wall in the pitch black and the pouring rain, and I will look back at that glorious Sunday morning when my brothers and I and hundreds of others descended on The Valley with spades, shovels and forks to clear the pitch and terracing of weeds, bushes and trees, fans united together in a way that you could never imagine. That's why we're different, that's why we support Charlton Athletic. And then I'll look forward again to 5th December 1992 and Walsh's goal and remember exactly how euphoric I felt that day. And then I'll pray that the current team, for once this season at least, won't let me down and forever ruin the date of 5th December.