Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Playing Reading at Elm Park on a murky January day. Photo credit Tom Morris
I have a surprising number of Reading memories associated with Charlton and they are of defeat in particularly distressing circumstances. This is apt given our present situation with the Reading media describing us as 'the basement club' ahead of our visit tonight. The 4-2 home win against Reading was one of the few satisfying results of the season. Admittedly, we rode our luck to some extent, but you also make your own luck.
A defeat by a margin of two goals is probably what we can expect tonight. In the past Charlton sometimes pulled off victories in surprising circumstances. One of my good memories of the Premiership was having a weekend in Liverpool when we away to Everton. All the Toffees in the hotel were looking forward to an exhibition match and three easy points the next day and we won 3-0. But that was the 'old' Charlton and some of the spirit has left the club.
I have quite a lot of connections with Reading. One of our children lived there for some years when she was a manager at Reading Station with her house in earshot of the old Elm Park ground. A good friend grew up in Reading and didn't have too high an opinon of the place. She is now one of those rare phenomena: a Manchester United supporter who goes to Old Trafford and lives in Greater Manchester. I must admit that at times I have enjoyed winding up the dedicated Addicks who have the misfortune to live in Reading.
After a long period when I was bringing up children in the Midlands, my return to The Valley was followed by my first away match at Reading on 7th May 1995. It was the last match of the season and a blazing hot day. I walked the short distance from our daughter's house and we lost 2-1. The Charlton consolation was scored by Dean Chandler. What happened to him? Read about his patchwork career, including an appearance for the English learning disabilities team here: Chandler We finished 15th in the old first division that season.
My 50th birthday, 11th January 1997. Again I make the short walk to Elm Park. It was a murky, foggy day. I have reproduced above an atmospheric picture taken by Tom Morris of Andy Petterson in goal. For some reason I thought we had lost but in fact we drew 2-2 with goals by Lisbie and David Whyte, Whyte, Whyte. Once again we finished the season in lower mid-table, four places above Reading.
On 6th December 1997 we lost 2-0 at Reading. This time I was there as reporter for the club web site, Rick Everitt having taken a holiday in Australia. The fact that I was writing for the official web site shows how belt and braces things were in those days.
This had been a particularly distressing week for Charlton as Jamie Stuart had failed a drugs test, leading to all sorts of newspaper headlines about the Addicks that played on our nickname in the best traditions of British sporting journalism. I interviewed Curbs on the pitch afterwards and my respect for him grew that day. He was clearly shaken by Jamie Stuart's actions and also depressed by the defeat. I was so fed up myself that I drove off in a bad mood and got caught by a speeding camera. Little did I think that day that this would be a promotion season.
I was quite surprised by the strength of reaction to my last post. Perhaps I should have chosen more judicious wording after a 21 hour flight from Australia. What the response does show is the strength of the passion among the Addickted and the depth of our despair.