When I was 17 I passed my driving test and my Dad agreed to buy my sister's car from her for me to drive. It was a V Reg (8 years old at the time) Ford Escort (Mk II) 1100 Popular Plus. It was white. It was basically what would be called an 'Old Banger'. Especially after my sister had driven it around for a couple of years. My sister does not drive like Miss Daisy.
I drove that car everywhere. To the local shops; to the cinema; to shopping centres; to college; to friends houses; to pick girls up to take them out on dates. I loved that car, and the new freedom that it gave me. I haven't even mentioned the massive rise in interest from girls when you have your own car. Oh yes, I loved that car.
Now some twenty years later and I am now on my sixth car. I now have a convertible sports car which I bought from new. It is obviously faster than the Escort, although I clearly don't break the speed limit (much). It is much more reliable, it is much more luxurious and it has gadgets (that are common these days) that the Escort could only dream about. I rarely use the car for non-essential trips these days. At seventeen I would go out for a drive just because I could, not any more. Clearly now that I am married I don't use my car to pick up girls (even though I suspect that they would be much more impressed with this car than the Escort) and as I am a Dad I rarely drive over to friends houses for the evening during the week. As I work from home I don't even have to drive to work.
Do I love my current car any more than I loved the Escort? Of course I don't! Do I approach the sports car and have that flutter in my chest that I used to get with my Escort? No I don't. However, would I trade my convertible sports car for a Ford Escort (Mk II) 1100 Popular Plus? No chance! I wouldn't even swap it for the actual car I drove in 1988.
Why am I telling you this?
Well, I suddenly find myself looking at our great football club and even though I was there in the 1980s, at Selhurst and Upton Parks, and even though I sat up until late waiting for my Dad to come home from the winding up order in 1984 I feel as though I just don't want to go back those days. I appreciate that even with the debts we currently have the club is much bigger and stronger than it was when I last missed a home game in 1987. We lost 3-0 to Liverpool that day in the First Division. However, due to our current circumstances we are a bigger club than we were then with no ground, few fans and much less TV money for all league clubs.
I grew up with Charlton being a Second (sometimes Third) Division club with just four seasons fighting relegation in the top flight. We never looked like making it back then and with what Lennie Lawrence described as 'Third Division crowds' there was no shame.
I'm not being a 'snob' I'm not saying that I've out grown Charlton Athletic, but I think I might have got a bit too used to the Premier League. Last season was always going to be a victory year. We were only on loan to the Championship and we were going to privilege it with our presence. One year down there to regroup and we would be back in the Premier League looking nothing like relegation fodder and making inroads into being a stable mid table team again.
Failing to earn relegation last season was disappointing and the manner of our fall from fourth place to finish eleventh was nothing short of disastrous. But the events of this summer have been really hard to take.
I don't have a problem with the board making changes that make us more financially stable, and I would rather sell half the squad now than have to sell them all next summer along with the family silver. I don't even have a problem with Pardew and the board telling us that we were going to make a real effort to win promotion this season while they were trying to sell season tickets, and then waiting until the deadline went before announcing that we were going to sell much of the team, and possibly not have enough money left to replace them with players as good. What else were they supposed to say?
My issue, and I'm not looking to apportion blame (not at this stage), is that I just don't want to go back to the days of selling any player that is any good at all.
No disrespect to West Brom, but three years ago they couldn't wrestle away from us any player that had a sniff of the first team. Here we are, they have signed Carson (who we would have loved to have back) and they are rumoured to have signed Bougherra for less than we paid for him eighteen months ago. I can't help thinking that with a season or two in the Premier League Bougherra will be worth twice what we are selling him for. I understand the reasoning behind the decisions, and I'm sure that they what is best for the club right now, I just don't like it.
Maybe we've all been spoiled for the last ten years. Maybe we should have all enjoyed it while it lasted and been prepared for what we now face. I just find it really difficult to prepare myself for what could be a very difficult season. Maybe Pardew will demonstrate that he is a really good coach/manager and the 'forgotten' men of last season will come in and show us what they were bought for, but I just fear that we will have insufficient quality to break down enough teams to be anywhere the top two, and the play-offs are nothing more than a lottery, and also look out of our reach this season.
Don't misunderstand me I'm not blaming anyone, and I'm not angry with anyone, I'm just disappointed that we have gone from being a relatively secure Premier League Club to a tier two selling club. I mean West Brom? Who are they?
On the happy bright note, I'm going to get back to work as I intend to take Friday off to attend out training session. At least I'll be driving there in a car that has speakers that don't slide off the back seat when I go 'round the corner.
Up the Addicks!