March 4, 2008

Charlton Athletic FC.

Filed under: Engl. Promotion Candidates — admin @ 6:07 am

Charlton Athletic FC were formed in 1905, when a number of youth groups in south-east London combined, including East Street Mission and Blundell Street Mission.  This area is near to where the Thames Barrier is today.  The nearby presence of Woolwich Arsenal FC kept Charlton Athletic from expanding their base, so when that club moved to north London, and became Arsenal FC (in 1913), Charlton Athletic began to attract more supporters.  The club turned professional after World War I, in 1919, and joined the Kent League.  In 1921, the were voted into the English Football League, joining the Third Division (South).

In 1923, Charlton almost merged with Catford Southend.  They played their games in Lewisham (just south and west of the Valley) for the 1923-’24 season.  They played in the light blue and dark blue-gray vertically striped jerseys of Catford (this uniform has been revived for Charlton’s 2007-’08 away kit).  But the hoped-for expansion in fan base did not occur, and Charlton abandoned the plans for the merger, and moved back to the Valley the next season. 

Charlton spent 8 seasons (1921-’29) in the 3rd Level, before gaining promotion to the Second Division, in 1929.  But four years later (1933), they were relegated back.  The club appointed Jimmy Seed {see this} manager, and two seasons later (1935), the club returned to the Second Division.  They achieved back-to-back promotions the following year.  So in the spring of 1936, 3 seasons into Jimmy Seed’s tenure , Charlton Athletic had risen two levels, and had finally reached the First Division.

Charlton continued their fine form, finishing in 2nd place in their first season in the top flight (1936-’37).  Finishes of 4th place (’38), and 3rd place (’39) followed, and Charlton’s future seemed bright.  World War II interrupted play, from 1940 to 1946.  In the 1946-’47 season, the club’s League form plummeted (to 19th place), but their FA Cup run took them all the way to the Final, where they lost to Derby County, 1-4, after (incredibly) extra-time.  Charlton returned to the FA Cup Final the following year, and this time they won it, beating Burnley 1-0, on a spectacular volley by Chris Duffy in the 114th minute. 

During this post-War era, Charlton were also very successful at the turnstile,  with a peak average attendance of 40,216 in the 1948-’49 season. 

But the board refused to give Seed the money to invest in new signings, and the club’s league form took a nosedive.  In the 1949-’50 season, they finished in 20th place.  The club improved, and were 5th place finishers in 1953.  However, Charlton began another slide, and a disasterous start to the 1956-’57 season prompted the board to ask for Seed’s resignation.  He left, and Charlton were relegated in the spring of ’57.

Charlton remained out of the First Division for 29 seasons (1957 to 1986), spending 25 seasons in the Second Division, and 4 seasons in the Third Division.  Their low point on the field was in in 1974, when they finished in 14th place, in the Third Division.  Their low point financially was in 1984, when the club went bankrupt.  Charlton Athletic was put into administration, and reformed as Charlton Athletic (1984) Ltd.  But their troubles continued, as the League declared the club’s ground, the Valley, unsafe.  Charlton was forced to become tenants at Crystal Palace FC’s Selhurst Park.

Ironically, it was within this homeless context that Charlton finally returned to the top flight.  Under manager Lennie Lawrence, the club were promoted in 1986, as runners up of Division Two.  They stayed in the top tier for 4 seasons, pretty much battling relegation the whole time.  Lawrence departed for Middlesbrough after Charlton was sent down, in 1990.  He was replaced by joint-managers Steve Gitt, and a 34-year old Alan Curbishley.  The pair had initial success, but cash constraints forced the club to sell off players.  Curbishley was appointed sole manager in June, 1995.

Meanwhile, in 1992, Charlton returned to the refurbished Valley.  At this point, the club’s fan base had shrunk dramatically from it’s glory days of the late 1940′s.  Charlton were averaging just 6,780 in 1991-’92, their last season in exile, at Selhurst Park.   But by the end of the decade (1999), the club was drawing an average crowd of  19,825 to the Valley.

Alan Curbishley got Charlton back to the top flight (now called the Premiership) within 3 years of taking charge (in 1998), following a thrilling 4-4 match versus Sunderland, that Charlton won 7-6 on penalties.  It was widely hailed as one of the finest games ever seen at Wembley.  **{See this article, from the BBC website (ca. 1998).  {also, see this follow-up article, which tells you how much more lucrative a trip to the Premier League is these days (the jackpot has more than quadrupled, from ~7 million Pounds, in 1998, to ~30 million Pounds in 2007.  Anyways, if you don’t feel like reading them, the two articles have good photos.} 


But Charlton went right back down in 1999.  Undeterred, Curbishley guided them back up the following season.  In the next 6 seasons, Charlton Athletic began to look like Premier League mainstays.  They even flirted with a Champions League spot during the 2003-’04 season, but finished in 7th place, after a late slump (and late slumps became this cash-strapped club’s trademark).   It was the club’s best finish in 31 years.  

Ultimately, though, Alan Curbishley left, in the spring of 2006, with the position that he had taken the club as far as he could.  Charlton were relegated the following season (2006-’07).

Now under former Reading and West Ham manager Alan Pardew {see this}, Charlton are aiming to buck the odds, and return to the Premier League on the first try.  Mainstay Matt Holland (a former Ireland international), has stuck with the club.  Ex-Colchester striker Chris Iwulemo {see this} leads with 10 league goals.  Chinese international Zheng Zhi {see this} has 7 league goals (9 overall);  midfielder Darren Ambrose (who also has stayed on from last season) has 6 league goals (8 overall);  and striker Luke Varney, a recent purchase from Crewe, also has 7 league goals.

Last Saturday, Charlton went to Yorkshire, and beat Sheffield United 0-2, with goals by Chris Iwulemo and Sam Sodje.  They currently are in the playoff places, at 5th place,  in the League Championship.  The club has been in the playoff places pretty much the whole season. 

**Charlton FAQ: Why are Charlton Athletic called “the Addicks” ?

Note: in 1963, a contest was established to find a crest for Charlton Athletic.  The winning entry was the upraised arm with sword motif that is still in use today, but with the accompanying new nickname of “the Valiants”  (this emblem can be seen on the far left-hand side of the chart).   The Valiants name never stuck, and CAFC are only referred to these days as the Addicks. 

For the League Championship Tableclick here.   On Tuesday, March 4,  Charlton Athletic hosts Bristol City (5th place versus 1st place).
Thanks to (historicalkits[dot]co[dot]uk): the 6 older kits on the chart are copyright Historical Football Kits, and reproduced by permission; (colours-of-football[dot]com);  (stadiumguide[dot]com);  (footballgroundguide[dot]co[dot]uk);  BBC.

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