Something old, something new
I see the issue of our new found supporters has been a matter for debate again on message boards and blogs. This thought has been with me ever since half time of the Villa game when Steve Gritt and an older player (his name escapes me) were introduced to the crowd to not a lot of interest from those around me in the Covered End. Now, Steve Gritt is a modern day legend at our club and deserved a bit more than a small ripple of applause in my book. Whether the majority of the crowd were shocked at being 2-0 up at half time or more concerned with their balti pie's I don't know, but there has definitely been a shift away from the very passionate support we had home and away in the days leading up to the return to the Valley.
This of course comes with the territory of being a growing and successful club, both of which we have been. The game appeals to the new modern day fan because of the cosy and safe 'atmosphere's' that can be found inside football stadiums and we live in a world where Sky has stolen football from my generation who were told by their Dad's that the only way to see a game was to wrap up warm, and come and stand on the terraces with them. Kids and adults have more lifestyle decisions now and a 100 quid a pop Saturday afternoon (if you're lucky) is not always top of the list.
The expectation that success brings has unquestionably muted the atmosphere at The Valley as well as at other stadiums, not helped of course by bigger new all seated stands and complete stadia. At Charlton we have become particularly good at clapping. Now this is a start but when the drummer starts the Red Army chant the folk in the East and West stands clap, but don't sing. It cannot be because they don't know the words, maybe it's because they're embarrassed or they don't want to upset the family in the next row. Well fuck them, singing has not yet become a crime in football stadiums - although I did get warned once at Loftus Road for being too noisy!
I can see why the 30 and 40 somethings are pining for the 'old days' a little and god, no I don't want us to get relegated before you ask, but when I'm out in the pub with my brother and our mates, why is it the talk is always of Grimsby away, or that trip to Hereford in the League Cup on a Tuesday night or getting chased down the road at Stoke eh?
As I commented to New York Addick after his excellent posting
today, our away support has not grown in line with our away support (see this thread
on Net Addicks too) because of the reason's above combined with costs and that we are missing a generation of supporters because of our enforced absence from the Valley - the 18-25 year old's who do have more disposable income and time. I do however disagree with NYA when he says it doesn't matter. It does, it is measure of how a clubs size and support is judged, and football fans will always point a finger at a teams away support, good or bad. This goes some way to explain why I have always had a smidgen of respect for teams like Brighton and Bristol Rovers whose away support belies their home.
What we need is to bring back some of what made being a fan, a Charlton fan, incomparable and it hasn't got to mean the swearing and the trouble, it just needs some organisation and communication and perhaps for the newer fans (and you are very welcome honestly) to realise that there was a Charlton pre 1998.
Look out for a little series I will be running on What was the score?
entitled "It's not like the 'good' old days."