Thursday, 7 May 2015

The team of the late 1940s and early 1950s

Here is a second extract from the autobiography of novelist and one time Charlton fan David Lodge, A Good Time To Be Born.

In 1946, Charlton got to the FA Cup Final at Wembley, only to lose ... I listened to the BBC radio commentary and was inconsolable at the end. Jimmy Seed, Charlton's brilliant manager, who had steered them from the Third to First Division in two seasons before the war, vowed they would be back at Wembley next year - and by golly they were, just like a story in one of the boys' magazines, Hotspur,Wizard and Champion.

This time they won! The FA Cup, now overshadowed by European competitions, was then the Holy Grail of English professional football, and I felt privileged to be a supporter of so successful a club.

After that peak a slow decline in Charlton's fortunes began, but I remained loyal. I no longer needed to be escorted to matches by Dad, but travelled to The Valley with a couple of friends in Millmark Grove [Brockley]. My heroes in the team were the goalkeeper Sam Bartram and the centre forward Charlie Vaughan. Bartram was a genial and virile figure, with a grin like Burt Lancaster's and dense auburn hair set off by the green woollen jerseys goalkeepers invariably wore in those days.

Jimmy Seed defined a good goalkeeper concisely as 'a gymnast with ball skills', and Sam Bartram was certainly that, but he also showed, in the instinct of his flying saves, an instinct for what transforms a game into a spectacle.

Charlie Vaughan had been a star of the amateur club Sutton United before he joined Charlton, and something of the gentlemanly amateur lingered in his deportment at The Valley. I don't remember him ever committing a violent foul or protesting against a referee's decision, and when caught offside in possession of the ball, he would place it for the opposition's free kick before retreating. His posture was straight-backed, his arms usually held close to his sides as if to emphasise that football was played with the feet, and he would have been appalled by the holding and shirt grabbing that is now tolerated in professional football. He was a good role model for a football mad boy.

After he moved to Birmingham, Lodge let his Addicktion slide. 'At some point in the 1970s, I went with a friend to watch a professional football match for the first time in at least twenty years, at the Birmingham City ground, and revived the experience of entering the unappealing back parts of a football stadium, squeezing through its stiff turnstiles, mounting a dark, dank concrete staircase, and the thrill of emerging at last into an arena packed with humming, expectant humanity, looking down on a vividly green rectangle of grass on which a contest would shortly be enacted by twenty-two brightly club athletes.'

Fortunately, he did not become a Blew and he sets out a very cogent case against egg chasing.

1 comment:

jonathan acworth said...

my uncle had attended both charlton finals he said both occasions the ball had burst ! years later at qpr i had pleasure sitting next to eddie fermani the one time charlton star