A few Saturdays back I had the great pleasure of enjoying a splendid pub crawl with some old friends in the plentiful real ale establishments of Cambridge*. It was, as you might imagine, a long and heavy day. As I stumbled wearily off the train at the end of the evening in my home town of Bishop’s Stortford, I decided to pass by the taxi rank in favour of a ‘Shanks Pony’ route home. I don’t mind a walk - even when a tad tipsy - especially as I hate paying grumpy cab drivers large sums of money to take me less than 3 miles, whilst expecting a tip despite bragging about how wealthy they are.
As I passed through the town centre and up a side street, I see someone I recognise. It was the confident swagger of the man that caught my eye. He wouldn’t recognise me. I’d seen him about town before, but not for a while. At that point a little devil appears on my shoulder and mischievously encourages me to shout some abuse, or, at the very least, offer a witty comment. Thankfully, the respectful and sensible side of me ensures I do neither. I pass by, and he enters one of those fancy wine bars looking sharp and dapper with his missus (I assume) and some friends. I detest those places! I looked back; half expecting him to glance out of the wine bar checking the paparazzi isn’t following him. He doesn’t, of course, and why would he?
I joke with myself that I hope that’s the last I will see of him this season...
Unfortunately it wasn’t, because just a week later, there he was again, standing in the centre circle at the Valley, complete with that same over-confident swagger…Grant bloody Hegley!
Unnecessarily fussy and whistle-happy throughout, he was over enthusiastic towards the Addicks first half (which always unnerves me) and then predictably proceeded to balance the scales in the second with some awful decisions against Charlton. Having reviewed Semedo’s red card a few times since, I feel no different than I did first time around on Saturday; it’s a yellow at worst. Sadly, you could see that sort of decision coming.
None the less, despite the best...or worst efforts of Mr. Hegley, we rode the nervy end and held on for a very welcome win. A good start. It could, and perhaps should have been more convincing, but I will not complain. In my opinion, Parkinson has done brilliantly over the summer to attract decent players whilst retaining the likes of Daily and Semedo et al. Despite his knockers, few could surely doubt Parky’s commitment. The 16,000 plus gate was also encouraging, especially in holiday season. Furthermore, we appear to have a team that we might be able to trust in once again; a side who are under no illusions of what they face this season and how hard it will be. Take, for example, young Chris Solly, who played with the very spirit that the Addicks have lacked in any consistency for too long. He looked like he gave a shit; he looked proud to wear the shirt. How refreshing that is. At the final whistle he punched the air with the same euphoria I did on the slopes of the East Stand. That’s what I want to see; I ask for nothing else.
Yes there were still some sobering reminders of how far the Addicks have fallen, with the lack of the big screen the most notable. As the excellent Charlton Casual wrote in his blog…“I didn't realise how often I looked at it until it wasn't there”. Ditto! Back to the old trusty timepiece and the back of the programme then...for now at least!
It was nice to be back at the Valley though, wasn’t it?
* Recommendations available on request!