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Will he stay or will he go?

Monday 22 January 2024

A good win for the Charlton Women yesterday, 3-2 v Blackburn. Mel Johnson missed an early penalty but had an assist when her header was tipped onto the bar before being finished by Beth Roe for the opening goal. With the Birmingham City game called off Charlton Women go top of the Championship table with that win and so tight at the top is it that Birmingham drop to fifth place.

The cost of following top football teams just now is a lot more than many supporters can afford. It is not a big surprise that when a team is not winning games fans vote with their feet and find something better to do on a Saturday afternoon.
I’ve always followed teams I support through ‘thick and thin’. Far too much of the thin over the years as far as Charlton are concerned!
I paid £5 for my season tickets (ground) for the Valley in 1970/71 and 1971/72 (early bird offer saved 50p!) That was a big chunk of my paper round money that I was earning at the time!
Of course when money is tight there is plenty of football to be watched at little or no cost. For Charlton there are the under 21 games and there are very good women’s games available to watch. There used to be a lot more under 18s games that could be watched for free but I now understand a lot of these are played ‘behind closed doors’. Not sure if that is to keep out scouts from other clubs or just the practicalities of managing the numbers along the touch lines?
My personal journey into watching youth team football certainly took off in the 1972/73 season. At that time there were very few live games broadcast on TV. I think we may have had our first colour TV at home by then but ‘Match of the Day’ and the ‘Big Match’ were the only two regular programmes I recall during the season. I was watching two or three live games a week by then to fuel my football fanaticism.
On a cold Tuesday night at the end of November Charlton took on First Division Tottenham’s youths in the FA Youth Cup 2nd Round at the Valley. A hard fought contest in which Charlton squeezed out a 3-0 victory. I have a very clear memory of them scoring through a breakaway and clinical finish by Keith Bristow, a forward who never made it at Charlton but certainly shined in that season’s youth team. The team went in a very good run in that season’s FA Youth Cup. I watched them beat Plymouth Argyle 4-0 (3rd Round), West Ham (away at Upton Park) 1-0 (4th Round) and in February 1973 I made the long train journey to Sheffield to see them lose narrowly 1-2 to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. Many of the players involved went on another run in the FA Youth Cup the following season with wins over Viking Sports (4-0), Stevenage (6-1), Luton Town (2-1) before drawing 2-2 with Huddersfield Town and losing out 0-1 in a replay. Apart from the replay (I was probably studying for exams at the time!) I got to see all those games. Ben Odeje was playing and scoring for the side by then.
I saw only occasional youth team games in the three seasons following this as I spent a large part of the years 1974-77 in Swansea at University.
After moving to the South-West of England to start my career in NHS Finance I had only occasional opportunities to watch live football at the Valley. Only in 1988 when I was living in Dunfermline did I see my next youth team game (Dunfermline 1 Aberdeen 2 in the BP Scottish Youth Cup 2nd Round). Some will remember the famous/infamous under 16 World Cup that was held in Scotland in 1989. I went to Tynecastle in June to see Scotland win their semi-final 1-0 against Portugal. Lasting memory of that tournament was how the Scotland team looked like a team of under 16s whereas a few other teams were filled with players sporting full beards! Saudi Arabia who beat Scotland after extra time in the final were one of those teams!
Youth football went on the back burner for me for several years after that until my son Corin started his football career for his Primary School around 2002. He was to be the main focus of my live football games watching for the next ten years.