David Lodge's novel about growing up in South-East London after the Second World War contains an atmospheric scene set at The Valley. When the publication of his autobiography was announced, I anticipated an account of his Addicktion and I was not disappointed.
Lodge grew up in Millmark Road, Brockley, a 1930s development shoe horned into the Victorian streets of the district. He writes, 'Dad took me to watch Charlton Athletic one Saturday afternoon after his return home [after the war] and I was hooked. Charlton was not, strictly speaking, our local league club - Millwall was nearer. But Millwall was in the lowly Third Division [shortly to return there] and its ground, appropriately called The Den, had (and still has) the reputation of attracting a rough crowd, whereas Charlton was one of the elite teams of the First Division, the equivalent of today's Premier League.'
'Attendances in those days were high. Charlton's ground, known as The Valley, was a vast bowl carved out of a former quarry which attracted crowds of up to 70,000 spectators, mostly standing on uncovered terraces, a mass of bodies that surged and swayed like the sea in moments of excitement. It has since, I believe, greatly shrunk in scale and improved its amenities.'
In a later instalment, I will look at Lodge's memories of the teams of that era.