LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Charlton Athletic

Danish owner seeks to bridge divide at The Valley

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

In echoes of the grass-roots campaign of the 1980s that successfully took Charlton Athletic back to The Valley, mass protests by Addicks supporters forced out the club’s unpopular Belgian ownership. Members of CARD – the Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet – staged rallies, chucked beach balls in unison and even funeral-marched behind a coffin containing the club’s soul while their team consistently underperformed on the pitch.

The handover, though, was anything but smooth, a bitter tug-of-war involving Abu Dhabi, ex-Charlton defender Paul Elliott and celebrity sports lawyer Chris Farnell ended with guitar-playing Dane Thomas Sandgaard stepping in to acquire the club as the 2020-21 season kicked off.

Charlton Athletic Museum/Peterjon Cresswell

Millionaire Belgian Duchâtelet, notorious for his football dealings in Liège, had lacked any kind of credibility in south-east London, his provocative statements continuing to anger fans.

And Charlton had come so far after the return to The Valley in 1992.

One of London’s most successful teams either side of the war, communityfocused Charlton returned to their spiritual home after a seven-year campaign by fans, their efforts commemorated in the stadium bar.

Charlton Athletic Museum/Peterjon Cresswell

Honoured with a statue just outside, Sam Bartram was the one-club keeper whose near 600-match career was interrupted by the war. Bartram was between the sticks for two consecutive cup finals, 1947’s successful. Charlton had spent their first 30 years in the local, regional and lower leagues and at sundry locations in South London. All that changed when Jimmy Seed took over as manager in 1933. An attacking-minded ex-miner, Seed steered the club to a golden era of top-flight football (finishing league runners-up in 1937) and cup finals.

After the war, huge crowds packed The Valley – an average of 40,000-plus, as Charlton kept up with the big boys. But not for long. Relegation followed Seed’s departure in 1956 and Charlton spent three decades playing Second and even Third Division football.

Charlton Athletic Museum/Peterjon Cresswell

One-club stalwart Keith Peacock and goalgetter Derek ‘The Killer’ Hales were the key players as Charlton battled to regain top-flight status. Ironically, promotion came during a financial crisis partly caused by the improbable signing of Danish star Allan Simonsen.

The Addicks remained in the top flight for four years, while fans fought a worthy and ultimately successful crusade to lead the club back to the stadium the club were incapable of renovating in 1985. Even forming a political party that garnered nearly 15,000 votes in local elections, Valley campaigners witnessed their club’s return in December 1992.

Six years later, under ex-Addick Alan Curbishley, Charlton returned to the Premier League thanks to a shoot-out against Sunderland, a cliffhanger considered the best play-off final of all time. A 3-3 scoreline after 90 minutes went to 4-4, a hat-trick from Charlton’s Clive Mendonca helping take the tie to ten perfect penalties – and sudden death. A save from Serbian keeper Saša Ilić then sent half the 78,000 Wembley crowd into wild celebration. 

The other high point of Curbishley’s 15-year tenure was the campaign of 2003-04, when Charlton narrowly missed out on a European place. With the sale of Scott Parker and Curbishley’s departure, Charlton fell as far as the third flight, moving back upwards under popular coach, ex-Addick Chris Powell, in 2012.

Incoming Belgian owner Roland Duchâtelet was forced to sack Powell as relegation seemed unavoidable in 2014, compatriot José Riga managing to pull the club back from the abyss. Another Belgian, ex-Millwall striker Bob Peeters, replaced Riga for 2014-15, Guy Luzon stepping in to maintain a mid-table finish.

The Valley mural/Peterjon Cresswell

Relegation in 2016 came with a dismal 0-0 draw at long-doomed Bolton. The subsequent season in League One was hardly brighter, the promotion of local rivals Millwall rubbing salt into the wound. Supporters hardly needed less encouragement, given the now frequent anti-Duchâtelet protests.

Losing in the League One play-offs to Shrewsbury in 2018, Charlton again broke Sunderland hearts at Wembley a year later. A crowd of 76,000 witnessed the Addicks concede a bizarre early own goal then, with literally seconds to go before extra-time, gain promotion through ex-Germany U-20 international Patrick Bauer pushing the ball over the line. For manager Lee Bowyer, who had started his playing career at Charlton, the result was particularly sweet.

After a single Championship season in 2019-20, Charlton missed out on the League One play-offs on goal difference in 2021, Bowyer already have made way for Nigel Adkins.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

The Valley was once one of the largest grounds in England, where The Who famously played the loudest rock concert in 1976, It now holds a modest but suitable 27,000. The stadium was the subject of a long-term campaign by tens of thousands of fans – thanks to them, the club returned here in 1992.

The Valley was originally that, a chalk pit that fans (again!) helped convert into a football ground – or, rather, pitch, as the fruits of their labour was a modest roped-off affair with piles of earth around it. This was the early 1920s. By the 1940s, some 75,000 fans could be squeezed into four stands, giving the club a healthy average gate.

Charlton Athletic away/Peterjon Cresswell

By the 1980s, and the need for all-seater stadia, The Valley was deemed unsuitable, even unsafe. Without the funds to renovate it, the club groundshared with Crystal Palace. instigating a local campaign to reverse the move. People power (eventually) won the day and a new Valley was built on the same site. The formerly vast East Stand, completed not long after the return, is now only a single tier, an earmarked second one currently on hold.

Opposite, the main West Stand contains the club offices and stadium bar. Behind the goals, the home end is the North Stand while away fans are allocated a section of the South, or Jimmy Seed, Stand. A signpost on the junction of Floyd Road and Valley Grove clearly directs visitors to the away end.

GETTING THERE

Going to the ground – tips and timings

The nearest rail station is Charlton, 20mins direct from London Cannon Street (£4.40 single, £7.40 day return, £12.30 Travelcard), with services every 10-15mins on Saturday afternoons. Although not signposted at the station itself, the ground is a short walk: as you reach the rail bridge, veer right and cross at the Valley Café over to Floyd Road. Walk down to the end and the stadium is further along, slightly to the left along Valley Grove. Away fans should head right.

The 486 bus is seven stops (10mins) from North Greenwich Tube (Jubilee line) and passes close by the Antigallican pub.

The sat nav code for The Valley is SE7 8BL. The club offers match-day parking for £36 – email sales@cafc.co.uk. Street parking close to the ground or train station is for residents only. One other solution is to find a space near the Ades Cash & Carry ) and similar businesses on Eastmoor Street, under 10min walk to The Valley over the A206. Nearer retail parks have parking restrictions in operation.

There are also 34 free parking spaces at Charlton Village Car Park (SE7 8UD), at the junction of Charlton Park Road and Charlton Church Lane (leading to Floyd Road), about 10-15min from the ground.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Tickets go on sale about four weeks before each home game. The ticket offices (Mon-Fri 9.30am-5pm, match-day Sat from 10am, non-match Sat 10am-1pm) are behind the West Stand. Phone sales (Mon-Wed & Fri 9am-5pm, Thur 9am-1pm, Sat from 10am; UK only 03330 14 44 44) entail a £2.50 levy. The club also has an online print-at-home service.

On match days, tickets are sold from offices behind the West and North Stands 2hrs before kick-off, with £3 added to regular admission prices, with the exception of the flat-rate £5 for under-11s, £10 for under-18s and students. Adults otherwise pay £20-£28, the dearest seats in the West Stand C-F and M-N, and East Stand D-E. Over-65s and under-21s are charged £15-£20.

Away supporters in the South Stand pay £20-£23, £16-£18 for over-65s and under-21s, £10 for under-18s and students, £5 for under-11s.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The Charlton Superstore (Mon-Fri 9.30am-5pm, non-match Sat 10am-4pm, weekday match day 10am-kick off then for 30min after final whistle, match-day Sat 9.30am-kick off then for 30min after final whistle) is the first thing you come to as you walk down Valley Grove from Floyd Road.

You’ll find home and away kits for adults, juniors and infants, the second-choice strip for 2020-21 being differing shades of grey. Other merchandise includes old-school bar scarves and rosette-style pin badges, frilly pennants and Back To The Valley coffee mugs.

tours & Museum

Explore the club inside and out

Stadium tours take place on the last Friday of the month – phone 020 8333 4000 or email lisa.squires@cafc.co.uk for details. Opened by volunteers in 2014, the Charlton Athletic Museum (first Fri/month during season 11am-3pm, match-day Sat 11am-1pm) in the North Stand contains medals from the 1947 FA Cup Final and stacks of memorabilia surrounding the Back To The Valley campaign of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Contact 020 8333 4000 or CAFChistorian@gmail.com for further details.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

With the closure of the Antigallican, the Rose of Denmark is a handy find for visiting supporters, with plenty of TV sport and a beer garden – turn left out of Charlton station, then left again at the junction with Woolwich Road. If you’re parking at Charlton Village – in fact, ask the pub about its own parking – the Bugle Horn offers live sport, pool, decent food and a pleasant beer garden, a 15-minute walk from the ground along Charlton Church Lane.

Best option for home fans and neutrals is the Royal Oak, just north of the ground at 54 Charlton Lane, recently under new management and looking very decent, indeed.

For pre-match scran, there’s the Valley Café by Charlton station (corner Delafield Road, opposite Floyd Road) and the Seabay fish and chip shop at the bottom of Floyd Road.

At the ground, the match-day Fans’ Bar in the North Stand caters to home supporters before and after kick-off, and at half-time to those sitting in the North Upper. Sadly, Bartram’s, themed around Charlton history, is no longer with us, although the statue of the legendary namesake goalkeeper still stands outside.

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