Friday, 29 March 2013

Easter memories

On holiday at Lerryn in 1954, picture has been tinted.

Going back fifty years or so, it was usual for teams to play three matches over the Easter weekend. The team played at home on Good Friday would be played away on Easter Monday or vice-versa. Although when Easter fell had an influence, these matches were usually very important in deciding questions of promotion and relegation. Incidentally, in my work on non-league football I have discovered that some local junior teams played two matches in a day at Easter and that involved getting on their bikes to travel from one location to another.

In the mid 1950s we started going on holiday to Cornwall at Easter (my mother's family came from Cornwall). In part this was possible because the only perk of my father's job as a carriage and wagon fitter on the railways was access to some free tickets to travel anywhere in the UK (or, indeed, to some extent abroad, although we never used that but some of his mates did). I would go down with my mother at the beginning of Easter week. One memory I have is sitting in the restaurant car of the Cornish Riveria Express for coffee and being surrounded by people who were clearly more exotic than one found in Plumstead Common. 'Oh, they're Chelsea types going to St.Ives', my mother said dismissively. My father would travel down on Good Friday. His arrival was eagerly awaited as then I could discuss promotion and relegation issues in the various divisions with him. We then returned as a family on Easter Monday.

The downside was that we missed any home Charlton games over the holiday. I would also note that the weather was often cool and wet and I have a picture of me somewhere looking miserable in a mackintosh on a Cornish beach. Easter 1954 saw us at Lerryn in Cornwall, staying in a very nice converted barn. Eric Portman who was a famous actor at the time dropped by to see the owners and we got to meet him. It was a late Easter and Charlton were comfortably placed in the top flight, eventually finishing 9th.

Good Friday was on April 16th, my father's birthday, and we lost 2-0 at Old Trafford with Firmani missing a penalty. Easter Saturday saw us at home at The Valley in front of a crowd of 22,226, Leary scoring for Charlton. The game against United on Easter Monday saw a crowd of just 19,111 compared with 49,742 for the first match of the season against Sunderland on a Wednesday. Probably interest had dropped off with the Addicks neither in contention for the title nor in any danger of relegation. No doubt many people had taken a day out on the Kent coast. Eddie Firmani scored the winning goal despite having been injured and switching to outside left.

The following year we went to Talland Bay in Cornwall, renting the annex of a big house occupied, as I recall, by two elderly sisters (I think it may be a posh hotel now). It was possible to walk along the cliffs to Polperro. We had to walk in the dark to meet my father from a bus at a remote crossroads, Charlton having lost 2-0 at Portsmouth. They then lost 5-0 at Bramall Lane the following day, although they had gone down to ten men after an injury to Ayre in the twentieth minute. 21,807 came to The Valley on Easter Monday to see a 2-2 draw with Pompey. Charlton finished 16th, heralding the end of the glory days of before and after the war.

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