It is more sad news that Maurice Setters has died, aged 83. Our condolences go to his family and friends. And while quite rightly the tributes will no doubt flow from those linked to clubs for which he made major contributions, and from the Irish FA given his role alongside Jack Charlton, I hope they will allow us a slightly irreverent comment on his time at our club.
When the definitive history of Charlton Athletic comes to be written it’s unlikely that Setters will get much of a mention. His career with us spanned all of eight games (he did score a goal, which gives him a strike rate better than some of our forwards, which if my records are accurate was an equaliser at Bolton in a 1-1 draw, although another report I have on the game marks ours down as an own goal, forced by Setters’ pressure). But I think he merits an entry for unparalleled contrast between the scale of the fanfare which marked his arrival and the brevity of his stay.
We signed Setters in February 1970, on a free transfer from Coventry (but with reports talking of a signing-on fee of £10,000), presumably at the request of manager Eddie Firmani. The 1969/70 season was a tough one for us, coming straight after the glorious near miss for promotion of 1968/69. In reality it merely made that season the exception to the norm as we were back struggling against relegation. In what looks now a real act of desperation Setters, then aged 33 and with a dodgy knee (a quote from one report at the time read “my knee will never be as good as it was, but it will see me through a couple more seasons and I don’t think Charlton are looking for more than that”). One article on the signing is headlined “Setters hoists the Jolly Roger at Charlton”, another “I saved Coventry and now for Charlton”.
Setters came into the side and we did seem to be grinding out some points here and there. But then came a home match against Leicester. We began with Mike Kenning switched to left-back and by half-time the score was 0-4. Reports say we improved after the break and we ended up losing only 0-5. The following Monday, Easter Monday, Firmani was sacked, with Theo Foley moved up from assistant manager to acting manager, presumably with the brief to avoid relegation or leave. And Foley’s first act was to drop Setters (along with Harry Gregory and Dennis Booth, with Brian Kinsey back in together with transfer-listed Peter Reeves) for his first game at home to QPR. We drew that one 1-1 and later, when it came to the final game of the season, beat Bristol City 2-1, with goals from Alan Campbell and Ray Treacy (we conceded with two minutes left, which might have been nail-biting but we were used to it at the time), to avoid the drop by two points.
Setters seems to have stayed on our books through the 1970/71 season – when we repeated and ended third from bottom (we were relegated the next season) - but never appeared for us again, departing on a free transfer at the end of that campaign (he went on to manage Doncaster).
So he will be remembered - no doubt with affection, at least among those who weren’t tackled by him - for his better times elsewhere, a Charlton career that was just a brief chapter before the boots were hung up for good as a player. But that doesn’t change the history books. He wore the shirt.