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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Addicks fans get The Valley declared an Asset of Community Value again

The Valley
ACV status gives limited protection over The Valley

Charlton Athletic fans have succeeded in having The Valley declared an Asset of Community Value – meaning they can bid to buy the stadium if it is ever put up for sale.

The Valley was first made an ACV in 2013, and now Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust has successfully renewed the designation on the ground, which was first used for football 100 years ago. Charlton have played there ever since, apart from two near-disastrous spells away at The Mount in Catford (1923) and at Selhurst Park and Upton Park (1985-92).

With the club’s future up currently up in the air, the renewal of ACV status with Greenwich Council goes some way to asserting the importance of the Addicks to the wider community. Charlton’s absentee owner, eccentric Belgian electronic magnate Roland Duchatelet, oversaw the side’s relegation to League One in 2016 and a calamitous drop in attendances. His representatives have been in on-off talks about selling the club for well over a year.

Trust chair Richard Wiseman said: “Although ACV status might be viewed as largely symbolic it is nevertheless very important because it recognises the role of our historic ground and club in the community and offers some limited protection against worst case scenarios of asset stripping.

“I would like to thank the club, the Royal Borough of Greenwich and CAST volunteers who worked on this successful application. There is scope for strengthening the legislation to offer even more protection for historic football grounds, and we will continue to argue for this.”

Greenwich and Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook said: “I’m delighted that the council has re-listed The Valley as an Asset of Community Value. The ground and the club are an integral part of the local community and this decision reaffirms the right of the fans to be part of any discussion about their future.”

Charlton play Blackpool tomorrow in the annual Football For A Fiver match, with striker Lyle Taylor strongly criticising Duchatelet for authorising the signing of a new striker to add to the the team, who currently lie fifth in League One.

“I don’t know if he [Duchatelet] is even going to sell the club. He doesn’t seem to be that interested in anything Charlton, or anything helping Charlton at the moment,” he told the South London Press.


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Charlton Athletic fans to step up protests as club ponders flats inside The Valley

Ransom Walk

Fans of Charlton Athletic are planning to step up protests against absentee owner Roland Duchâtelet after revealing the first of series of billboard posters ridiculing his ownership of the club, which has fallen to the bottom of the Championship.

It’s also emerged that Duchâtelet’s management team at The Valley are exploring the possibility of building flats inside the football club’s stadium.

The billboard, which appeared on Anchor & Hope Lane at the weekend, features a photo of a young boy at The Valley, taken in 1992, while it was being rebuilt in anticipation of the club’s return from its seven-year exile away from the area. The slogan reads: “Here before you and long after you’ve gone”.

It echoes a similar poster used by the Valley Party, which fought the 1990 local elections after Greenwich Council refused a planning application from the club to return to The Valley. That featured a young fan with the slogan: “If you don’t support us, who will he suppprt?”

The fan in the new poster, now 28, says he is boycotting home matches in protest at Duchâtelet’s running of the club.

“We’re bottom of the league at the moment, but it’s not about results,” Phil Reeks, from Greenhithe, Kent, says.

“It’s about the mistreatment of staff, the abject player recruitment policy, the constant mistruths, the same mistakes being repeated again and again, the list goes on.

“Over the years, I’ve had roughly 12 season tickets in various places around the Covered End, but I don’t currently have a season ticket. Even the club has admitted that 3,000 of its season-ticket holders aren’t currently attending games at the moment, and it’s doing nothing to win those fans back.”

The poster was taken down earlier this week, but the Campaign Against Roland Duchâtelet (CARD) says more will appear in the coming weeks.

After 2,000 fans attended a protest following the match against Blackburn Rovers at the end of January, CARD says it is planning another protest, “with a twist” for this Saturday’s game against Cardiff City.

Meanwhile, the club is considering the possibility of building flats inside The Valley, fanzine Voice of The Valley has reported.

Duchâtelet is said to have ordered his management team to find ways of making more money out of the stadium site. His first club, Belgian side Sint-Truiden, has had its Stayen stadium redeveloped to include shops, bars and a hotel. With The Valley being in a residential area – a plan to include a bowling alley met fierce opposition in the 1990s – his options are likely to be restricted to a hotel or flats.

Rumoured plans to build flats on the site of the current club shop appear to have faded for now after the club went back on an earlier scheme to close the Valley Central community space on Floyd Road. It is believed the club wanted to move the shop into the space. This website understands staff at the Charlton Athletic Community Trust were told Valley Central – which hosts youth services on behalf of Greenwich Council – would close in May, but the club later announced it would stay open.

The 36-year-old Jimmy Seed Stand – the stand furthest away from Harvey Gardens – has been identified as a candidate for redevelopment. The stand, used to accommodate away supporters, is the only significant structure to survive from the days before the club temporarily switched to Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park in 1985.

The Jimmy Seed stand is named after the manager who won Charlton the FA Cup in 1947
The Jimmy Seed stand is named after the manager who won Charlton the FA Cup in 1947

Club executives are said to have visited Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road – which has flats built in each corner, with balconies overlooking the pitch – to see how it could be done.

However, such a move is unlikely to be popular with fans, who fear it will restrict the possibility of increasing The Valley’s 27,000 capacity should the club return to the Premier League. Greenwich Council gave outline approval – since lapsed – to a plan to expand to 40,000 a decade ago, a capacity that would be unlikely if there were flats in the stadium.

There are also some practical difficulties – while the current stand is rather old, it allows the police to segregate away supporters easily. There’s also the question of how residents of any flats inside The Valley would access their homes, as the south stand does not sit on public roads.

Charlton’s defeat to relegation rivals Bristol City on Saturday leaves them at the foot of the Championship table, and leaves recently-reinstated head coach José Riga with a far harder task than his last stint in charge two years ago.

The club faced further ridicule this week when a prankster faked chief executive Katrien Meire’s signature on a document sent to Companies House, apparently resigning her role at the club.

Instead of playing down the hoax, the club – which has recently appointed a new head of communications after months of bad publicity – responded with a terse statement saying it was “investigating the matter as it is something we take seriously”, leading to press coverage of the joke in both the UK and Belgium.

In a possible indication of the mood inside the club, a security guard was posted at the entrance to the stadium on Tuesday when Duchâtelet – who has not attended a match since October 2014 – arrived for meetings.

Local MPs Matt Pennycook and Clive Efford met Meire last month to discuss fans’ concerns about the running of the club. However, Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland told a council meeting two weeks ago that there would be no similar approach from the town hall, saying she was sure the club’s management were aware of fans’ views.