Charlton Athletic mark 100 years at The Valley

Valley pitch invasion
Going up: fans invade the pitch after the play-off semi-final win over Doncaster Rovers in May

Today marks 100 years since the first Charlton Athletic match at The Valley. The centenary will be marked at tomorrow’s match against Birmingham City, with Lee Bowyer’s side hoping to continue its excellent start to the Championship season. The first match in what was then known simply as the Charlton Enclosure, a 2-0 win for Charlton’s “A” team against Summerstown, took place in the South Suburban League – league football was still two years away.

The Addicks were founded as a boys’ team at Siemens Meadow, by the present-day Thames Barrier, in 1905. They became a senior team in 1913 – capitalising on Arsenal’s move to north London – and took over a ground at Horn Lane, east Greenwich, roughly where Ikea is now. But the club closed during the First World War, and the Angerstein Athletic Ground was requisitioned as a petrol dump. After the war, a reborn club played friendlies at Charlton Park and the Rectory Field while the club’s board prepared for its future.

The earliest evidence of Charlton at The Valley is a letter found in Greenwich Council’s archives, dated January 18, 1919, asking to borrow a steam roller from the local council as the club was “engaged in laying out a sports ground in Floyd Road, Charlton”. On May 13, 1919, the club’s newly-elected president, the Conservative MP for Greenwich, Sir Ion Hamilton Benn, told a meeting at the Mission Hall in Troughton Road (now Rathmore Youth Club) that Charlton had been invited to join the Kent League and would be playing at the new ground.

Volunteers did the work of converting the Charlton Sand Pits – known locally as The Swamp – into a usable football ground. Sir Ion, whose influence greatly helped the fledgling club, offered to act as guarantor for £700 of the £1,000 needed to do the work – but all the money was raised locally.

Facilities were basic, as Jimmy Seed, the club’s legendary FA Cup-winning manager, was to write in 1958:

“What a dump it was in those days without a stand or dressing rooms. The players changed in a nearby house and took their meals in a local pub. I recall how dreary The Valley was in 1920 when I played there for the first time for the Spurs reserve team against Charlton in a friendly game… After a cold, wet and thoroughly miserable day we were unable to take a bath or a shower, but had to stroll to a nearby hut so that we could change into our dry clothes.”

The club finished fifth in the Kent League in its first season at The Valley, and went professional in 1920, joining the Southern League. The year after that, Charlton became a Football League club, when it elected ten clubs into its new Third Division South.

But the switch to League football – and the punishing cost of getting The Valley up to scratch – proved costly. An FA Cup run in 1922/23 brought in the crowds, with 41,023 squeezing in for a fourth-round match against Bolton – but fencing collapsed, injuring spectators, and the cost of compensation is said to have wiped out the profit. Crowds shrank again, and in December 1923 the directors wrote off any chance of Charlton being able to draw a decent crowd in Charlton itself – and upped sticks to The Mount, in Catford. That move was even bigger disaster, with even smaller crowds of just a thousand, and the club’s directors moved back home for the following season, tails between their legs.

In the decades to come, Charlton would rise to the First Division under Seed, and attract a record 75,031 to a 1938 match against Aston Villa. The club entered a slow decline after relegation from the top flight in the 1950s, with crowds falling away and the stadium starting to crumble – despite occasional initiatives like bringing camels to the ground…

By the 1980s, and the aftermath of the Bradford City and Heysel stadium disasters, the Greater London Council moved to close the ground’s vast East Terrace. That, and a property row, led the club to repeat its mistake of 1924 and move out of Charlton in 1985, this time to Selhurst Park, leaving The Valley derelict and overgrown.

After a lengthy fans’ campaign – first against the club, then Greenwich Council – the Addicks returned in 1992, and the rest is history. Each side of The Valley tells a particular part of the club’s recent history – the Jimmy Seed Stand, the away end, dates from the late 1970s and is the only surviving structure from the pre-1992 ground. The East Stand, completed in 1994, was the first permanent stand to be finished at the rebuilt Valley, the west stand came at the time of Charlton’s first promotion to the Premier League. The huge Covered End, finished in 2001, which faces Floyd Road, is probably the biggest reminder of the club’s spell in the top flight.

Around 2000, the club flirted with the idea of a move to the Millennium Dome site, and in the early 2010s a move to Morden Wharf on the Greenwich Peninsula was mooted by the club’s then-owners. But despite the anniversary falling under the shadow of Belgian electronics tycoon Roland Duchatelet’s eccentric ownership, there are no plans for a third move away. 100 years after the first match, it is very hard to imagine Charlton without The Valley.

Come back on Monday morning for KEVIN NOLAN’s report from the Birmingham City match. Acknowledgements: The Jimmy Seed Story by Jimmy Seed (Sportsmans Book Club, 1958); The Story of Charlton Athletic, 1905-1990 by Richard Redden (Breedon, 1990); Home and Away with Charlton Athletic 1920-2004 by Colin Cameron (Voice of The Valley, 2003)


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 1-0 Brentford

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The transfer window may have closed, but The Charlton Champion is delighted to announce a brilliant new signing – football writer KEVIN NOLAN, who will be reporting on home matches at Charlton Athletic during this season. Kevin wrote about the Addicks for the Greenwich Mercury, where he also covered local boxing, and he continues to write for Voice of The Valley and the South London Press to this day. We’re delighted to have him on board.

Sent back down the Thames without so much as a point to show for their skilful efforts, Brentford at least accomplished something four Championship sides have failed to achieve this season. They prevented Lyle Taylor from scoring.

Having already relieved Charlton of Ezri Konsa, who used them as a stepping stone en route to the Premier League, the Bees made enquiries about Taylor this summer but were knocked back by his current employers to the player’s brief displeasure. It’s a clear sign of the topsy-turvy change in football’s pecking order that Brentford, an irreproachable 130-year old club with a spectacularly modest record of success, are in a position to prey on Charlton. Not so long ago, it was the other way around.

Starting the new season in irresistible form, Taylor becomes vulnerable again when the second transfer window opens in January. And nothing his manager Lee Bowyer said in a curious interview in the South London Press last Friday was apparently designed to discourage suitors.

In a lengthy back page article, Bowyer conceded that “if he carries on doing what he has been doing for me it will be impossible to keep him. That’s being honest. Lyle has come into the Championship … and fitted straight in. I look at other strikers in the Premier League and Lyle could do what they are doing … for sure he could go ino the Premier League.” Hardly a hands-off “no pasaran” clarion call of defiance – more like an invitation to meet Charlton’s asking price, with an o.n.o rider attached.

It seems inevitable that early next year, Taylor, still the right side of 30, “ain’t gonna work on Roland’s farm no more“.

Denied a scoring chance by a vigilant corps of watchdogs, Taylor did the next best thing. He began his colleagues’ spirited resistance to unarguably the smoother side with a tireless display of defending from the front. No run was too pointless, no tracking back too exhausting.

With all his obvious charisma, the coveted striker continues to play football like an insatiable kid in the street. It’s impossible for either teammates or crowd not to be carried along by his guileless will to win, which is after all the one essential point of the beautiful game.

Torrid afternoon

On a sizzling summer afternoon, Charlton were often given a torrid chasing by Thomas Frank’s patient, well-oiled West Londoners. But they resisted with a mixture of defiance and no little defensive skill of their own. Blocks were heroically made, last ditch tackles successfully launched, cover one for another taken for granted.

Behind his beleaguered, bloodyminded teamates, Dillon Phillips contributed three saves of varying excellence. It made for stirring stuff and if we can borrow for a second time from the Spanish Civil War, the atmosphere smacked of “no pasaran!” courage. Though they dominated possession and apparently enjoyed a 20-3 shot count, the Bees were impressive only up to a point.

Four minutes before the interval, they were handed a lesson in the only statistic which emerges as meaningful from a game of football. Caught dawdling in their own danger area, they carelessly conceded the only goal.

Mobile Spanish forward Sergi Canos had already been responsible for missing Brentford’s most clearcut chance by prodding over the bar the gift presented him by a ghastly mix-up between Phillips and an otherwise impeccable Ben Purrington. Preparing to start yet another attack from outside his own penalty area, Canos was surgically dispossessed by Jonny Williams and with the underworked visiting defence wrongfooted by the abrupt switch in momentum, the ball was deftly slipped through them to an alert Conor Gallagher.

Sensibly composing himself, the tousle-haired teenager gleefully finished into the roof of David Raya’s net. Against the run of play it may have been but Brentford had only themselves to blame for falling into arrears. They had an entire half to put things right.

Magnificently stubborn

Phillips duly came into his own, despite one hapless fumble of a speculative snapshot. His soaring fingertip effort to tip Ollie Watkins’ rocket over the bar was superb; the reaction save from Henrik Dalsgaard’s close range header relatively routine; a full length dive to turn aside an accurate drive from a Pontus Jansson spectacular.

As the second period wore on with the Bees swarming over their intended victims like.. well, bees, it seemed at times that Charlton’s magnificent stubbornness must falter. And before they and their unwavering supporters could relax, there were four added minutes of almost indescribable madness to negotiate. Pearce cleared Emiliano Marcones’ header off his goalline before, in a blur of wild action, no fewer than three point blank shots were charged down, with the ball conveniently caroming back to an attacker on each heart-stopping occasion.

A sequence of probably less than a minute seemed to stretch on indefintely before sanctuary was reached and a shattered Valley saluted their bloodied but unbowed heroes. As to a man, heroes they were.

Charlton: Phillips, Oshilaja (Lapslie 32), Lockyer, Pearce, Purrington, Pratley, Cullen, Williams (Field 81), Gallagher, Leko (Hemed 46), Taylor. Not used: Amos, Bonne, Sarr, Oztumer. Booked: Phillips.

Brentford: Raya, Henry, Pinnock, Norgaard (Mokotjo 60), Canos, Jensen, Watkins, Marcondes, Jansson, Dalsgaard, Racic (Benrahma 60). Not used: Daniels, DaSilva, Mbeumo, Clarke, Jeanvier. Booked: Henry, Canos, Dalsgaard.

Referee: Tim Robinson. Attendance: 16,771 (2,250 visiting).

Kevin will be alternating his match reports between The Charlton Champion and, and we’ll be aiming to publish on Monday mornings.

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The Boys from the Village: Charlton Athletic at War walk and seminar

Charlton Athletic museum
The event begins at the Charlton Athletic Museum

Thanks to Charlton Athletic fan and war historian Steve Hunnisett for letting us know about an interesting event on Tuesday 6 August exploring the history of the Addicks during both world wars. The Boys from the Village starts off at the Charlton Athletic Museum, and includes a walk up the hill led by Steve and the museum’s Clive Harris to the White Swan, where there will be talks about the club and its players during both wars, including the youths from some of the earliest Addicks sides who were conscripted into the First World War. The event is free, so you can dip in and out of it as you please, and it is also a chance to visit the fantastic volunteer-run museum inside The Valley, which has flourished despite the ownership problems surrounding the club.

Poster for Charlton Athletic at War event

The museum is open to visitors from 4pm, the walk starts at 6.15pm, and the talks at the Swan begin at 7.45pm.

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