The floating faces flocked to SE7: a visual throw-back to the glorious Premiership days. How nice it was to jostle for a parking space on Anchor & Hope Lane and enjoy the company of fellow Addicks on the 10 minute stroll to The Valley. So often in recent years I’ve got to within a stone’s throw of Floyd Road before you’d even realise there was a game on. Inside the Valley the atmosphere was building well in advance of the kick-off with the excellent opera singer and Charlton fan, Victoria Stanyon, once again lifting the crowd with her rousing rendition of Valley Floyd Road. By kick-off, 25,000 Charlton fans filled the home areas and took up half of the Jimmy Seed in the process. An impressive turnout for a match in football’s third-tier. Well done to the club for a well executed initiative: all the players had to do was keep their side of the bargain.
Thankfully, as so often has proved the case in the past on these types of promotional days, Charlton avoided the banana skin and beat a determined if not toothless Stevenage. I had heard great reports about Stevenage (the written press seem to love them at the moment) and expected far more than I saw. They may well be full of spirit but their playing style is about as attractive as the concrete new town from where they come. If Charlton are to be promoted, it will be sides like this that I will not miss.
Charlton have built their success this season on the back four, which was once again outstanding on Saturday. It is to their credit that any one of Solly, Taylor, Morrison or Wiggins could take the Player of the Year award this season. As things stand, I will struggle to give my vote to anyone other than young Chris Solly. His return to the side was reassuring and gave us the balance we so desperately missed on Tuesday. I did enjoy the summary of one particular passage of play including the ‘terrier-like’ Solly as summed up by Deepest Darkest in his post-match blog on Saturday. Well worth a read and spot on. Solly simply doesn’t accept he can’t win the ball.
And so it was another 3 points. 3 massive points. Charlton extend their lead at the top and it really looks like all my prayers are coming true at last. BWP missed chance after chance and claimed a dubious looking goal for his own (don’t be surprised if that’s taken off him), but he deserves a break for his efforts and the Charlton faithful continue to stick with him. Morrison’s strike was up there with Stephens goal against Bury. A wonderful strike and a magic moment! With Wednesday beating their Steel City rivals yesterday, Charlton’s position took another favourable stride forward and those with a better handle of numbers (than me) will be working out the possible dates that promotion can be clinched if the current form continues. What a day that will be and how I hope it lives up to how I've played it out in my head time after time in recent years.
Wyn’s 'Addick's Third Division Diary' alerted us to an excellent interview with Chris Powell in the Mail on Sunday yesterday. It seems to me that Charlton are unlikely to ever find a manager who is more connected with the fans than Sir Chris. I cannot have more respect for the man and the way he carries himself. In particular, the last few sentences made my eyes glaze over somewhat. Powell said “Never forget that it’s a beautiful game. Never, ever, give less than everything you’ve got, and never let go of your dreams. Because there will be ups and downs, and it’ll be tough, but it will pay you back for the effort. And when it does, it’s fantastic.”
And when asked what he would do if a ‘big’ club came calling, he answered “They did. I manage them. And I want to take them back to where they used to be”.
I’ve always lived by the mantra that hope always dies last, and being an Addick, I have had to call on those words too often in the last few years. Better days ahead, for sure.