Wednesday, 22 September 2010

That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger

In every respect my own recollection of the loss of the Valley in ‘85 and indeed the return in December 1992 means nothing as I was at neither game. None the less, I remember both periods very well. It will forever be a regret of mine that I never stood in the ‘old Valley’ (I was 9 when we left, with no family history of following the Addicks). I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to watch Charlton ‘at home’ from inside the stadium of one of our greatest rivals.

One thing I can empathise with – and you will have to respect my perspective on this - was the loss of the stadium. Just as the Addicks were all set for a highly emotional return home, my local non-league side, Bishop’s Stortford, lost their ground to the determined developers who exploited the financial plight of the club at the time. It was an indescribable and monumental blow to me, not least of all as the heart-breaking demolition of the George Wilson Stadium was the last tangible link to the memory of my beloved and dearly-missed Granddad, who had introduced me to football in the first place and with whom I had spent countless games cheering on our local team. The day before the bulldozers turned up I stood on an empty terrace that would never see action again and cried my heart out until I was asked to leave (with a souvenir if I wished!). Bishop’s Stortford never had the opportunity to move ‘back home’. I miss it to this day.

I have wrote within my postings a few times previous that as a very young lad I had a deep-routed fascination with football stadia after my Mum & Dad gave me Simon Inglis’s book ‘The Football Grounds of England and Wales’ for Christmas in 1983. I was 9 years old at the time. From within these pages I first fell in love with the lumbering, suffering and neglected bulk that was The Valley. The name itself conjured up images in my young and impressionable head. Why that stadium in particular, especially given it’s desperate state, I will truly never understand. Destiny? Maybe it was. Simon Inglis was naturally and understandably far from complimentary, but even at such a young age I picked up on the melancholy in those words reflecting on the glorious past when The Valley regularly had gates amongst the biggest in England. I read The Valley enrty over and over and it may well be an unusual admission, but it is almost entirely down to this one book as to why I first began to follow Charlton’s results and later became a supporter.

Chicago Addick lamented in his blog today that “8,858 were left to mourn a 66-year old friend alone. No one else gave a shit”. Our Bermudan connection has earned the right to say such things and I urge you to read his post at ( CA also rightly points out the value of Rick Everitt’s book ‘Battle For The Valley’. I have a copy, and out of respect I intend to read it once again over the next few weeks.

But none the less, this unforgettable and unforgivable chapter in the history of our club is the reason why I’m a supporter today and perhaps in my son and daughter a new generation will follow. Furthermore, perhaps the solidarity and resolve that came from it has shaped the character of the club that I’m proud to support. For anyone involved in the return to the Valley, I extend my genuine heartfelt thanks. This football club has broken my heart far more times than it’s made me happy, but I wouldn’t change a single thing.

To quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”.

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