When I were a lad
I was an Addick when we were the Robins
and the Valiants, and I felt lucky to see John Hewie, Charlie Wright, Eddie Firmani, Keith Peacock, Len Glover (who remained one of the lads at heart according to recent crime reports) and Derek Hales play for Charlton, Rodney Marsh play for QPR and seemingly beat Charlton all by himself, and Stanley Mathews, then aged 97, surrounded by four of our lads, lose a boot and still lay off an inch perfect pass.
Yoof nowadays don't know how lucky they are. Danny Murphy
and Francis Jeffers
and Dennis Rommedahl
and ... and ...?
I cannot recall a more interesting break between seasons. Will he be signed? Will he be sold? Will he go out on loan? Will his knee go?
I may be an expat and it may be nigh on 20 years since I was last down the Valley but thanks to the WWW
(rather than the WWF
or the WWE
), I feel more in touch than ever.
My own playing career was strictly of the "Hey, we're short of a player and desperate. Can you play?
" variety. You see, Jakartass is physically handicapped. I can't see the players, let alone the ball, without my glasses. Still, although I could say that I was game for a laugh, something I learned down the Valley was that sheer guts and team spirit could overcome a bunch of prima donnas. That, and a ready spare pair.
Sure, as mentioned above, I have memories of sublime moments. Stanley, Rodnee and Georgie Best. Ah, Georgie. There's an expat league
here in Jakarta and I was a founder member of a founding team
(in 1988, not 1993 as stated here). I played for the experience. Now they play to win.
Inevitably there is a turnover of players. One I recall, Alan Somebody-or-other, had played professionally at Bournemouth alongside Georgie who was then on the last legs of his athletic career. Alan's knees had gone, as have those of Richard Rufus, Gary Rowett and Steve Brown (thanks guys), but he could still hold the centre of the midfield and distribute the ball beautifully. I felt honoured to receive a pass from someone who had passed to the best (pun intended) players in the world. It certainly raised my game, even though we continued to lose on a regular basis. No matter, we played because we felt we could. Knowing you couldn't have played any harder, yet the other team were a darn sight more skilful, fitter or had paid off the ref - this is Indonesia after all, was the main thing. Oh, and the beers in the bar afterwards.
I have a similar feeling towards Charlton. Fellow soccer fans here and everywhere respect the achievements of recent years. Maybe, like Paolo di Canio, they wish they could have shared the joys and frustrations that are part of a family growing old. My grandfather was a supporter of Woolwich Arsenal. It was in his old house that I were a lad. At age 8 he could have gone to Charlton's first game; he didn't. I could have gone to the Valley for Charlton's 50th season; I didn't - the 53rd was my first.
In just one season Paolo became a genuine Addick. His parting words
are for all of us, supporters and players, past and present.
"I have often said I wished I joined Charlton earlier in my career, and whatever has happened I will always believe this to be so.The supporters were always right behind me and I hope they will not be angry with me and will understand that, where your family is involved, you sometimes have to do things which are very painful.
Yep, family comes first, which is why you won't see me this season. It won't be too painful for me as I'll be able to watch a few games live on TV and be grateful that Sven's virility hasn't cost him his job so Curbs can continue, hopefully, to demonstrate his acumen for the delight of us all. I suppose I will be disappointed if we don't get in the UEFA Cup at least, but whatever happens, it's going to be another great season.