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Spurs Odyssey Preview - Charlton v Spurs, 20.04.99

This preview was written by Brian Judson

Full Record of Spurs -v- Charlton Athletic

Premier         Pl   W   D   L   For-Ag  Pts
Home             1   0   1   0     2-2    1
Away             0   0   0   0     0-0    0
Total (Prem)     1   0   1   0     2-2    1
Lge Div 1 
Home            11   6   1   4    22-15  15
Away            11   6   4   1    20-11  18
Total (Div 1)   22  12   5   5    42-26  33
Lge Div 2
Home             6   5   1   0    20-5   11
Away             6   1   0   5     5-9    2
Total (Div 2)   12   6   1   5    25-14  13
Total (Prem)     1   0   1   0     2-2    1
Total (Div 1)   22  12   5   5    42-26  33
Total (Div 2)   12   6   1   5    25-14  13
Grand Total     35  18   7  10    69-42  48

Tomorrow night (Tuesday), we will visit the Valley for one of our very rare matches against Charlton Athletic. Since they were relegated from the old First Division at the end of season 1956-57, we have only played Charlton in the League in seasons 1977-78 (in the old Second Division), 1986-87 to 1989-90 (in the old First Division), and this season in the Premier Division. Charlton's longest period in the old First Division ran from 1936-37 to 1956-57 (when we were in the old Second Division up to the end of season 1949-50). Like many clubs, Charlton's hopes of making any progress were hit by Hitler plunging the world into war in September 1939. The years immediately before the war were Charlton's best years in the old First Division. Indeed in their very first season in the old First Division, Charlton were runners-up to Manchester City.

One of my earliest matches was a game against Charlton on Easter Monday in April 1957. Charlton were already doomed to relegation. Their manager, Jimmy Seed, a former Spurs player, who had been their manager since 1933 [when they were still in the old Third Division (South)] had resigned in September 1956 because he had been taken ill with the worry of it all. He had been succeeded as manager by Jimmy Trotter, who had previously been the club trainer. I do not remember much of the game as I was only 12 at the time and still struggling to identify the players. (Remember that in those days, football ignored TV and was still suspicious of the radio even though they allowed radio to broadcast the second half of one of the matches of the day. The press was treated as a necessary evil to be tolerated because of the publicity they provided.) I remember Charlton were a very poor team that day. We won 6-2, the fourth of which was our 100th goal of the season. But, very significantly, Charlton highlighted the perennial problem of a poor Spurs defence in somehow managing to score two goals despite a very poor performance.

Like many clubs in the unglamorous South London, Charlton have struggled to persuade supporters to visit and support them. They have a loyal following in the immediate area of Charlton and the Valley but have rarely persuaded the floating supporter to make the long, awkward journey to watch a game at The Valley. Indeed, in the 1930s, they came close to going out of business before the Gliksten family rescued them from financial poverty. They have always been fortunate to find a white knight riding to their rescue when they have had financial problems.

In the mid 1980s, Charlton again had problems and temporarily quit The Valley, which fell into serious decay. But whilst they shared grounds with West Ham (a journey that tested their supporters' loyalty) and Crystal Palace, they never gave up hope of returning to The Valley. Eventually, after much fund raising and voluntary work by their supporters, Charlton returned to the Valley after some years of nomadic exile. The Valley was drastically scaled back from its previously over-ambitious scale to a more modest stadium that cannot really support a club that hopes to cling to Premiership status by a wing and a prayer.

Indeed between 1986 and 1990, Charlton were always one of the favourites for relegation at a time Lenny Lawrence was their manager. Lawrence succeeded in steering Charlton back to the old First Division after four years as their manager, succeeding where a number of managers (who included Bob Stokoe, Theo Foley [yes, the very same Theo Foley who is now on the Tottenham backroom staff!], and a certain Alan Mullery, who lasted only six months before being sacked) had failed to lead Charlton back to the promised land in the shape of the old First Division. Charlton repeatedly threatened to be relegated but somehow managed to sail through the choppy waters of the relegation battle to survival. At the end of season 1987-88, for example, they had to play Chelsea in their final game of the season. Somehow, Charlton survived an incredible battering to draw 1-1, which ensured their survival and condemned Chelsea to the lottery of a play-off against Middlesbrough which they lost, thereby being relegated. But at the end of season 1989-90, Charlton went to the well once too often and joined Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday as the unfortunate trio to be relegated.

In my time as a supporter of Tottenham, I have noticed that Charlton are one of the very few clubs in the Greater London area where Tottenham supporters have genuinely welcomed them as visitors to the ground. Our great rivalry with Arsenal and Chelsea has too much enmity between the fans as a result of past events in the history of the Football League. Millwall and West Ham fans are also not welcomed because of their lunatic fringe. QPR are usually regarded as a joke or a freak outfit as they have rarely visited Tottenham. Brentford are regarded as a curiosity to be enjoyed. But Charlton fans are genuinely welcomed by most Tottenham fans. The reason for that may well be sympathy for their plight but probably due more to the fact Charlton are usually regarded as easy pickings for the points at stake.

But it will be wrong for Tottenham fans planning to travel to The Valley tomorrow night to think that all Tottenham have to do is to turn up to collect the points. Charlton have been playing well at times this season but they have not enjoyed the breaks. Many of their games have seen them lose 1-0 because of momentary lapses in concentration. But in recent weeks, Charlton have bought players to strengthen the side. John Barnes may no longer be the force he once was but he has brought some quality to the Charlton side. Pringle has been brought from Benfica and Graham Stuart has returned to London after spells at Everton and Sheffield United. It has been Stuart and Pringle who have snatched vital goals in Charlton's quest to avoid relegation. Spurs will indeed be influencing the destiny of clubs at both ends of the table in their remaining games.

I think tomorrow night's match will be a tense affair. It will again highlight the shortcomings of our strikers. But I suspect that Spurs will still have far too much quality for Charlton and that we will win 2-0 at least. We are now safe from relegation although, in theory, Blackburn and Charlton can still catch us, although Nottingham Forest cannot. It would be nice if we could blood one or two youngsters to test them to see if we have any more promising prospects like Luke Young.

For those going to The Valley, enjoy your visit there. I suspect that if Charlton are relegated, it will be a very long time before we pay them another visit.

Cheers, Brian

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