Thursday, 18 October 2007

John Richards Ruined My Adolescence

Blessed relief. Back to football. The team for Saturday presumably hinges on whether Pards feels that Andy Reid is able to up to start after two games for the Irish. If not presumably Thomas and Ambrose will be the wide men, with a change in formation looking unlikely. Yassin is still waiting in the wings and Todorov for Varney is an option, but probably not a starting one away from home.

Wolves are still widely seen as likely to end up in the top six, so nobody is in any doubt that this is a ‘bad one to lose’ game. But it’s too early in the season to be going away in a mindset to settle for a draw, even if such an outcome would be deemed acceptable, especially given games coming up. Let’s turn them over and send out a clear message of intent to the rest of the league. They’re not exactly world-beaters and the reports that Jay Bothroyd is eager to show us what he can do fills me with indifference – unless we give away a free kick just outside the box.

Molineux. What happy memories are there of trips to that part of the Black Country? Well, of course there aren’t any. When we turned them over (3-2, no I wasn’t there) in the last promotion campaign it was the first time we had won there in donkey’s years (I’m just too lazy today to check the numbers).

Instead, as with so many grounds, Molineux played a part in forming my attitudes towards supporting Charlton – and as with so many others it was negative. Young/new supporters must wonder why miserable old gits like me are so pessimistic, worrying about giving the game away when coasting and being inclined towards predicting defeats. It’s because until 1985 there had been all but nothing to celebrate (two promotions back to the old Second Division) – and plenty of disappointments. These left their footprints.

Early 1976 and a fresh-faced (or maybe acne-covered) teenager takes the coach with his Dad to watch his beloved team embark on the next stage of what for the first time he could remember could be construed as a cup run. Yes, we were as pants in the cup then as we have tended to be ever since. Sheffield Wednesday and Portsmouth had been disposed of and, with no league distractions (we were headed for mid-table having regained out second-flight status the previous season), it was up the M1 (or whatever road takes you to Wolverhampton) to tweak the noses of the big boys.

I recall mixed early exchanges, then a Wolves player getting injured. On comes John Richards as a sub – and he scores a hat-trick in about 20 minutes. Game over. It would prove to be almost another 20 years (1994) before we actually made it past round five in the FA Cup (no, I’m not forgetting that in 1987 we made it to Wembley – for another miserable experience).

Let’s face it. Any long-standing Charlton supporter over 20 years old can point to virtually any part of the country and tell tales of games that remind them of failure. I was really struggling to think of a destination that brings pleasant memories – but then I remembered Carlisle. It is still the only place in the country where we can feel confident of returning triumphant. (Regularly beating Palace on their own patch doesn’t really count. The overwhelming emotion is still a strong desire to get away from Selhurst Park and not to have to go back there again.)

Who could forget Jim Tolmie? 1986 and, despite leaving The Valley, we need a point from our penultimate game to secure promotion to the top-flight for the first time in my life. Of course, before long we were 2-0 down. Then just as half-time was approaching Tolmie gets the ball and plays a back-pass from at least 30 yards out (or so I remember it). It was going out for a corner before a massive gust of wind changed the day. The ball nestled in the net, we come out for the second half rejuvenated, equalise, and then go on to score a totally unnecessary winner.

So it was the top flight for us – and Division Three for Carlisle, followed by near-extinction. I still feel a little guilty. But I will feel nothing but unadulterated joy if we leave Wolves with the three points.


Anonymous said...

I've been to Wolves twice. First time a local ran a red light and hit me head on and wrote off my car. Second time the traffic was bad, parkin was worse and we missed the first 20 minutes of the game and came back to discover that the car had been broken into.

Needless to say, I'm not going on Saturday. Or ever again.

Obviously we lost both games.

Anonymous said...

Carlisle was indeed a good day, despite their fans trying ambush us on the way back to the station and then the train breaking down. Got back to London just as the pubs closed.

I have a soft spot for St Andrews, despite their fans. First was the 1-0 win a couple of years back when I finally believed we had a team that could compete in the Prem.

Then there was the obvious Play-Off final against Leeds.

And finally there was the game at the end of the season a few years back when we lost, but heard on the coach up there that Ian Wright had scored against Palace to relegate them. (I may have misremembered this but I can definately recall the Brummies trying to work out why we were so happy).

Anonymous said...

Only been to Wolves once - from Grimsby for that cup game. Dreamt night before that we had lost 4-0 with Richards scoring all four. Was relieved to see him on the bench - until David Wagstaffe (I think) went off. The rest is history - dream wrong, only 3-0. Not going this Saturday...