Book Review: Charlton Athletic: A Pictorial History
Charlton Athletic: A Pictorial History by David C. Ramzan
Published by Amberley Publishing
In a fourth review dealing with the suite of books Amberley Publishing have devoted to the nation’s football clubs, we are pleased to welcome back Al Gordon, deviser of the blogs, God, Charlton and Punk Rock and Arsene Wenger’s Coat, to provide his thoughts on David C. Ramzan’s volume. If you want to know more about Al, he has featured this week in The Football Attic’s Focus feature while he can be followed on twitter at @AlGordon_CAFC.
And if you know your history…
Any true football supporter, no matter which club they follow, knows more about the history of their club than they do about just about any other subject imaginable. Ask them a date of a fierce and famous local derby victory and they’ll reel it off without hesitation, ask them their wife’s birthday and they dither. Ask them to name an eleven that won their division twenty five years ago, the names just roll off the tongue, ask them to name a couple of work colleagues they saw day in day out up to a couple of years back and they can’t even picture a face.
So is there room, or demand even, on your bookcase for another volume of musings from the good old days before we were all against modern football and we travelled to away matches on trains not fit for taking livestock to the market in? I’ve everything Charlton book related from the leather bound omnibus detailing the minutes of boardroom meetings prior to the Great War, right through to pocket sized tracts offering 101 obscure and unusual trivia moments.
If there was a hole in the collection it was for a personal account, full of clear photographs, many of which I had never seen before, along with pictures of memorabilia I’d long since forgotten. Something written in a style suited more to a blog rather than a dissertation, something warming and somewhat comfortable rather than a public school text book.
Ramzan has succeeded on all counts. A local lad, he writes with clear memory of his first visit to The Valley, growing up in the sixties and painstakingly watching Charlton in the seventies while they languished in the third division and then finally culminating with the proudest of all his memories, watching his son play for one of the very first Charlton visual impairment teams.
The stories have all come from family and friends with the older history as intimate and in keeping with the more recent. All the important moments are included -1905 and a boys team forming the club before choosing to wear the famous red and white, wonderful photos of Charlton Village, the chalk pits that would later home the club, and the obligatory row of moustaches in the old black and white team photographs.
As we move on, Jimmy Seed is awarded a thoroughly deserved chapter to himself. In some inspirational photos, Seed is seen in 1914 proudly standing wearing his Sunderland kit, a dynamic action shot of him whilst playing for Sheffield Wednesday and then, the best of the lot, taken during a Charlton tour of North America in 1937, our manager grinning from ear to ear resplendent in full Native American headdress. Of course, as Charlton fans, we know everything there is to know about Jimmy Seed and the most successful time in the club’s history, but unlike the big guns, the neutrals may be oblivious to quite what the Addicks achieved under this long servant of the club.
It was during this time Sam Bartram became the greatest goalkeeper never to play for his country, Charlton won two successive promotions to rise from the third division to the first, finishing runners up in their first top flight campaign. They would also reach the twin towers of Wembley for the FA Cup Final two years running, coming home with the famous trophy on the second occasion. Needless to say this is all documented with newspaper cuttings, photos of the Wembley programmes and tickets, and a team line up before kick-off at the Bernabeu as the Addicks took on the might of Real Madrid in a friendly match neatly sandwiched between two league fixtures in four days. And this was before the days of substitutes, let alone large squads.
Things were to change for the worse and the club were to move backwards throughout the sixties and seventies, sinking down to the third tier which is where I first found them as a young lad. As a youth I remember the great Dane Allan Simonsen, a young Robert Lee and ultimately football moving away from SE7 and across South London to Croydon and Selhurst Park. Again we are treated to pictorial memories both fond and frosty. The East Terrace, a vast expanse of space, totally empty during a match after it was closed once the GLC deemed it unsafe – this on the same page as ‘that’ message to supporters handed out upon on arrival at The Valley before a game against Crystal Palace with directions how to get to the club’s new home – ironically of course that of the day in question’s opponents.
Strangely enough, living in the London borough of Sutton during my secondary school years, Selhurst was a much easier venue for me to get to, just a short bus journey away and achievable for free with my school bus pass if the driver wasn’t paying too much attention. It was here where Charlton finally returned to the top flight after the longest of absences, then famously beat Leeds over three matches in the crude early incarnation of the play-offs and gave me my second visit to Wembley as the club reached the final of the Full Members Cup – the first trip being an FA Trophy final featuring Sutton United for those wondering.
A man of great pride, the exile years don’t feature too greatly as the author was one of many that boycotted ‘home’ games at Selhurst and then later at West Ham’s Boleyn Ground. These actions were ground-breaking (sorry) in their day and how secure the likes of Coventry City felt back then. If it all happened again, or we found ourselves in the position of Cardiff, Hull or even Wimbledon I‘d like to think I’d have the resolve of Ramzan and stand by my principles.
From then on our history is far better known – the Curbishley/Gritt and then Curbishley era, a stint in the Premier League after possibly the greatest play off final ever witnessed (my third and final Wembley date) and then two years later a league championship, the disaster that was Dowie/Reed/Pardew then the rise under new owners and Charlton legend Chris Powell returning as manager. Complemented this time with far more joyous pictures, a full Valley, Powell proudly lining up amidst the likes of Beckham, Scholes and Sheringham with three lions upon his white shirt, and a host of other internationally capped stars swelling our ranks.
Up to date as much as any printed material can be, it climaxes with the finale of last season and contented supporters leaving The Valley after finishing ninth in their first campaign back in the Championship.
It’s brief but concise, one hundred and nine years of history in only a hundred pages and around one hundred and forty photographs both black and white and colour. Like all books these days it’s quite pricey at £14.99, or ten pence a photo if you prefer, although the picture of John Robinson elegant in a red seventies shirt whilst playing a charity match for the Charlton veterans team is probably worth the cover price alone. So good a picture, it features again on the back cover – not surprising really when reading that the author is heavily involved Charlton Athletic’s Former Players Association!