Chicago Addick living in Bermuda
Sunday 12 September 2004
  It's not like the good old days - Carlisle '86 Memories are wonderful things. Some of my best ever memories have been sitting or standing in the rain cheering a win or a draw or a goal or a last ditch goal line clearance (Minto at Leeds in the Cup). Then there was the time when the sun shone on all Addicks at Wembley, one of the greatest days of my life. You can't change the past and despite some of the things that have happened to our club, we probably wouldn't want too but I have noticed how we have all become a little bit nostalgic recently perhaps pining (maybe only a little) for the good old days....

Carlisle United, Brunton Park, 3rd May, 1986
It was a very early start for me and my bro'. Four* of us were going and we were on the first train out of Hither Green to Euston in readiness for the long journey to Cumbria. We only needed a point from our two remaining games (we had fellow promotion candidates Wimbledon at Selhurst still to play), but like a couple of thousand other Addicks we wanted to see us win promotion in style at Bob Stokoe's Carlisle, who themselves needed to win to avoid relegation.

The 1985/86 season will of course go down in history, not because of our promotion but because of the badly photocopied piece of paper stuffed into our hands outside The Valley before a game on September 7th, 1985. Amazingly we only lost 2 of our subsequent 'home' games that season after our enforced tenure away from our real home, where fittingly we had left with a 100% home record.

Our form at Selhurst was combined with some excellent away victories at places like Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Brighton, where we won 5-3 and a superb away performance on April 23rd against Fulham when even the most pessimistic fans started believing in promotion.

Lennie Lawrence had put together probably the best Charlton team in decades and after losing to Portsmouth in mid March we never lost another game that season, winning 8 and losing 5 of the remaining 13 games and it was Portsmouth who were snapping on our heels for one of the two remaining promotion spots as Norwich had already been crowned Champions.

The fans on the train were in good spirits, cards were played, newspapers read and stories swapped. I had never been on such a long train journey in my life and it seemed to take ages. We finally arrived at Carlisle Station and I remember it being a nice little town, my brother was an old looking 15 so we had a couple of shandy's in the pub but the nerves were starting to appear despite talk of the 2-1 victory at Brunton Park that secured our promotion (from old 3rd to old 2nd) in the 1980/81 season.

At the turnstile we were searched by police and as I turned round my brother was being shoved away by a local bobby because they had confiscated a bus ticker roll from him and he had given them loads of backchat! It took me a good 10 minutes to convince the spotty young PC to let him into the ground. We, or should I say my brother did not travel 300 miles to sit on a park bench for 2 hours to wait for the train home.

The Charlton boys were in good voice and it was the locals who were more nervous as kick off arrived. We were standing under cover in the north east corner of the ground and as always the late red contingent from the pub enforced the opening of the Petterill End too as fans spilled around behind the goal.

What followed can only be described as a typical Charlton performance. We were 2 goals down after 20 odd minutes. A centre half called Saunders scored twice. We had a lot better goal difference than Pompey but if I remember rightly they rushed into an early 3 goal lead at home to Bradford (they eventually won 4-0) and Wimbledon had 2 games left including one against us. There was a look of increduality around us as good old Charlton contrived to throw the whole thing away and with the Carlisle fans in full voice, no one could have expected what was to come with 5 minutes of the first half remaining.

A man called Jim Tolmie not only changed the game but probably Carlisle's history because they have never recovered from that season's relegation. From fully 25 yards (tell me if I'm exaggerating) he swerved with the help of a gust of Cumbrian wind a marvellous effort past his own goalkeeper and into the net to bring us back into the game at the half.

The 2nd period was all Charlton and we took control of the match. Mark Stuart (where is he now?) weaved his way past a couple of defenders to equalise and then with us singing promotion songs in between looking at our watches, Mark Aizlewood (where is he now?) collected the ball in the middle of the pitch and I can see to this day the determination in his eyes as he moved forward and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the back of the net. 3-2, we were back in the top division for the first time in almost 30 years and dreaming of trips to Old Trafford and Anfield as Lennie Lawrence (where is he now?) was carried aloft by fans on the pitch.

It was a lot shorter journey home, although the real journey started when we got back to Euston and all public transport had stopped. It didn't matter we walked, sang and hugged getting home to waiting parents at 4 in the morning.

Team: Johns; Humphrey, Reid, Thompson, Pender; Lee, Shipley, Aizlewood (capt), Stuart; Melrose, Pearson; Sub: Gritt
Attendance: 6,526
Final Div 2 table.

* One of my mates that came with us that day was Carl Prosser. Carl considered himself a bit of a neutral football fan. He was born in Bradford and therefore had a soft spot for the Bantams. He was also a bit of a closet Millwall fan but followed CAFC on a lot of away games, however in those days his one ambition was to visit the 92 league grounds and what better way to see Brunton Park.

A month or so back Carl died very suddenly aged 37. He was an absolute diamond of a person and this posting is tributed to him. He ended up running his own business with another old school friend which included numerous football related local media as well as the production of the Millwall fanzine The Lion Roars.

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After living in Chicago for four and a half years, I moved to the beautiful if bewildering island of Bermuda in July 2008. This blog is about being an exiled and depressed Charlton Athletic fan and whatever else the day brings.
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