The long awaited season is almost upon us. Every Charlton supporter is hoping that the club and team have turned a corner that will bring prosperity and a togetherness not seen at the Valley for some time. These past few years have been very testing for all connected with this very established family club. We have witnessed upheaval on the pitch and around the club with some very unsavoury behaviour from supporters of all ages, having their say by disrupting games and demonstrating against the regime who they feel have failed them.
We live in a democracy which give every man, woman and child the right to vote if they feel a just need to express their displeasure. But, there is always the need for a bit of give and take. To dish it out, there is the need to take it when the going gets tough. So far everything has been on a one way footing. But there is an old saying: even the worm turns!
Can we really afford, or do we really have a wish for our club to disappear from the community it has been part of for close on 112 years? I don`t think so. I hear many voice this sentiment. The wilderness years when our club had to share with Crystal Palace and West Ham were in my mind the most unsettled years that any Charlton supporter had to endure. Unsettled because no one knew if or when we would return to our spiritual home. For years the Valley became a vacant rubbish dump. The once lush green of the pitch had the look of an unkempt meadow with bushes and shrubs growing freely on the playing surface that saw some great games in its high day.
The great East terrace closed long before we had to vacate the Valley because of safety issues. It stood as a reminder of the days when the Valley boasted a record of 75,000 against I believe The Arsenal. I remember in the dark days before our return setting foot into the deserted Valley and imagining how it must have felt for those players who witnessed the amount of supporters that cheered them on. Will we have this again? We could and why not? Not with this amount crammed into the Valley because the stadium has been vastly reduced and made all seating again because of safety fears, but nevertheless we can still entertain 24,500 who could pledge their support to the Addicks not including any away support.
Yes, the Valley is now a great stadium. Our return in 1992 was something to remember! When the gates next to the Valley store opened and we walked through them into the Valley, the feeling of achievement could not be measured. The first game back I walked down the makeshift walkway took a seat and felt proud. Witnessing our win against Portsmouth was the highlight of any Addick supporter. Has all this become meaningless? It appears so in many supporters` eyes!
Having suffered all this the Valley has now been equipped to stage top class football. It did towards the latter stages before the millennium. We did however suffer a little hiccup when we were relegated after only one season in the top flight but came back stronger and with the guidance of Curbishley we stayed with the elite of football for seven glorious seasons even managing to finish 7th place, which was a remarkable achievement.
What made this era so special was the support. The supporters could not get enough of our boys in red. They flocked in their thousands to see the team who pulled off against all the odds to become a force in the best League in the world. But again the real world came crashing down on the Addicks and the dream ended when they were relegated which now has run its course for the best part of ten years.
Worse was to come. We took one step forward and many back as the team catapulted into the third tear of football having enjoyed the lavishness and riches of the Premiership, and along with this came the nightmare that has haunted this club ever since. I could elaborate on all the pitfalls that surrounded the club and plunged it into an uncertain future. We all know what they are and it makes no sense in me repeating what has now become common knowledge.
What I will embroider on is quite simple. 25 years have passed since our return. We have good memories and that is why it is so important for Charlton to come back to SE7. Ground sharing might be seen as a short term solution, but there is no substitute in having a place that is called Home. A small word with a big meaning. And that is true in how the Valley should be represented this season. Home supporters are the king-pins that hold this great club together. A new season, a near new team. Let`s give them the support they deserve. The Valley used to be a fortress, make it so again.