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Say Liverpool… I think European Cup glory, the Kop singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, and don’t forget the beachball. Or Stoke City…..I straight away think ex-Sunderland players, the mighty long throw-in, and Tony Pulis with his club shop jacket and cap. Say the name Charlton Athletic, and I just tut and think of unhappy memories and sad times.
You can look all the way back to the 1930s, before the war, when we actually had a very good team. The season after winning our last top-flight title, in 1936, we played Charlton away and lost…. okay, we got a win later in the season and went on to win the FA Cup, but in our first 10 matches against the men from The Valley, we lost seven.
Things got a little bit better over the years. Our record from the 1950s through to the 1980s was pretty decent. One or two might have been there to see an amazing 8-1 win in 1956. Johnny Hannigan and the ‘Clown Prince of Football’ Len Shackleton destroying the Addicks in one of Roker Park’s largest ever wins.
The electric atmospheres, fuelled by a cauldron of sound and Mexican waves at the Stadium of Light reached fever pitch when we turned around a 1-0 deficit against Sheffield United in the second leg of the Division One play-off semi final.
Such was the bond between team and supporters, the thought of a trip to Wembley felt like a magical day out for one big family.
Everyone wanted a ticket, and while my 15-year-old self was tucked up in bed, dad camped outside the SoL overnight to queue for our tickets, and somehow he managed to get seats in the upper gallery area, high above the corner flag to the left of the Wembley tunnel.