Saturday, 19 April 2008

One hundred years ago

One hundred years ago this week my father was born in North Woolwich which was then part of the Borough of Woolwich in spite of being on the north bank of the Thames. My father's initial allegiance was to West Ham United and he retained enough of an affiliation to them to go to the famous first ever cup final at Wembley.

Just after the end of the First World War, tragedy struck the family of five children. My grandmother, Elenor, died in the influenza outbreak when my father would have been about eleven. The family was subsequently allocated a house on the new Progress Estate at Eltham. His older sisters helped to bring my father up, but his older cousin, Ted, also took a hand.

'There's a new football club playing in a ground they have made out of a quarry over at Charlton. Why don't we go and see them?' By looking after horses and carts while their owners went about their business, my father put together enough pennies for the tram fare and admission.

My father was quite a decent midfielder himself. In fact the only time he went abroad in his life was to play for a representative London non-league side against Paris and Brussels. He played for the predecessor side of East Ham United in the London League, but also I believe he had some connection with the mysterious and ill fated Thames club which he would only refer to under the code name of 'South-East Ham'.

When I was six my father took me to The Valley for the first time and began my Addicktion. My mother would often come as well, but one of her main interests was to spot a 'dirty ref' and then advise him about where he should put his notebook. Such a vociferous tirade from a woman was enough to turn heads on the East Terrace in the 1950s.

When I was seven my father spent what was quite a lot of money for him on football boots for me, hinting that I might aspire to go one better than him and seek to play for Charlton. Unfortunately, I had two left feet, rather than one good one like him and the only sport I ever participated in competitively was orienteering.

When we moved to Essex, my father continue to follow Charlton's fortunes, but started to watch Southend United, in large part because a good friend supported them. After his retirement to Cornwall, he started to support Falmouth Town who were then dominating the Rothman's Western League, winning the title three seasons in a row. There was a great Cornish pasty available at half time. The last game I can recall watching with him was seeing Falmouth beat Mousehole 10-1 in the Cornwall Senior Cup.

A long way from The Valley. He did not live to see the humiliation of The Valley's abandonment, but my mother was greatly heartened by the return of the team and enjoyed hearing about the re-development of the ground. One of the last games she was able to follow on the radio was the quarter final defeat at Manchester United in 1994.

My father was a great fan of Billy Cotton and always enjoyed The Red, Red Robin and I always remember him when it is played before games. He would be amazed by the stadium we have today and the progress the team has made, despite recent setbacks.


charlton north-downs said...

Great Read Wyn

Anonymous said...

That was a great piece, Wyn. Really enjoyed it, as I do with all your regular postings.

ChicagoAddick said...

Lovely piece Wyn.