Sunday, 26 January 2014

25 Years since Selhurst

Every FA Cup 4th Round Saturday brings a pang of remembrance for two great occasions in our history, but yesterday of course was a special anniversary – 25 years since the first and arguably most memorable – the trip to Selhurst Park. A quarter of a century already?  Scary. But in many ways, this was a match from another time. A top division club so poorly supported that their fans were outnumbered by non League visitors.  Those travelling fans, over 8,000 of them, turning up without tickets and paying at the gate. The ticket prices, about a fiver to stand and not much more to sit. Charlton, despite the opposition, putting out their strongest team – because that’s what the Cup meant to everyone in those days.  Not a single foreign player on the pitch – the Charlton side being as reliably meat and two veg as most of the top division. No big names either, unless you count bug-eyed future FS sofa dweller Garth Crooks.  A huge open terrace.  A mudheap of a pitch. No post match phone ins. No Poppynet commentary – the very first website was still a couple of years in the future. And no Patgod – oh what primitive times!

This was also before digital recording, smartphones and Youtube clips, so the only film of the game is on ageing VHS cassettes that, if anything like my ancient MOTD highlights tape, plays like a twice bootlegged version of a home movie.  The last time I saw picture quality that bad, it was accompanied by badly dubbed moans. However the memories are still pretty vivid, if a little patchy at this distance. Charlton skating to an early two goal lead then us rallying to close them out until half time. Party atmosphere on the Holmesdale terrace, balls bouncing around and everyone in good cheer despite being completely drenched and sod all to shout about so far.  Straight after the break, Ernie nods down to Robbie, who's deadly from that distance. Half second of eyes registering ball in net then bedlam – our longest goal celebration ever?

Amazing noise from then on. Chance after chance at the other end, but still only 2-1. Home fans whistling for the final whistle. Last minute, THAT CHANCE - Ernie puts it a foot wide (no, let’s not spoil the myth, “shaved the post”). Epic run over after 9 games.  Now for the Conference title, we all said. 

Another time.

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