I specifically remember my first game at The Valley was a 1-1 draw. I remember little about the match itself, but I do remember the final score. This is a statistic that will stay with me for life. It's a bit like when you lost your virginity (just after my wedding Mum - honestly) it doesn't matter what it's like, but you always remember the girl and the circumstances.
So my son's first game at The Valley was a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. That is, however, only a small part of the story. As the football was a bit rubbish (the result in particular) I will give you a run down of our day - one that I suspect will be remembered better by me than KH Jnr.
As I feared that a four year old would struggle to concentrate on 22 men running around a big field I brought along his Mum so that if he got bored she could take him home or buy him some sweets or something. We left a little early as I called the club on the Saturday morning and was advised that I couldn't book a ticket over the phone on a match day. This was a little inconvenient as it meant having a restless child hanging around, but it was necessary to get a ticket close to our seats, or be moved all together.
To my surprise, and great satisfaction, the seat next to mine was available - fantastic! With time to spare we walked round to the Fish and Chip shot on Floyd Road for a bite to eat. After eating the chips we went for a walk around the club shop. This was enjoyable enough, but the lack of Ben 10 or Power Rangers toys meant that it was a short visit. The chap had given us the new catalogue on the way in which included a small football. This, it was decided, was what he would have. Great I though as this meant that he would have a nice Charlton memento from his first ever match, Something to show his children (OK I'm getting a bit excited I know). Alas, despite having a lovely new catalogue many of the items in it are not available yet. No worries, as soon as Mummy said that we would stop off on the way home to get a Ben 10 toy we were all happy again.
We then wandered over to the East Stand turnstiles. This is, itself, an exercise that needs to be considered. It's a good job there were three of us as once you go though you cannot get back. As silly as it seems, fears of being caught the wrong side of the turnstile to a four year old were quite real.
So we were in the ground. I started pointing out the stands etc. but he seemed rather less overwhelmed that I would have thought. I just imagined that he would have been impressed by the huge buildings, but he was not in the least bit interested in them.
After a quick 'wee' - little boys (and mine in particular) seem to be able to wee all day long - we made our way to our seats. I had been a little concerned that the sheer number of people present would have caused some nervousness, but not at all.
The players came out and I explained (as if I needed to) that we were the players in red and those in blue and white were the other team. I explained the home and away ends and why they seemed to be wearing the same colours as their respective players. The first fifteen minutes seemed to captivate him. He initially decided to stand, but as you can see from the picture my seat was just in front of the barrier. He also had a little spell sitting on my knee. This is quite possibly one of the high points for a Dad. We were still at 0-0 at this point, but everything in the world felt good.
Then the Percy Pigs ran out, and his interest in the football started to wane. He started asking if it was time to go home. Mummy (in a way that Dads, especially me, cannot) encouraged him to sit on his seat (my normal seat) and just wait a while. Then we had a free kick, so I suggested to him that we might score a goal here, and he became interested again. The goal was a bit of a tap in so not very exciting, but I jumped up and shouted; he burst into tears. I think the crowd seems very nonthreatening until they all jumped up and shouted very loudly. He was soon calmed down and now that he understood (although clearly not everything) he joined in with a little shout and a jump of his own when Wednesday scored, twice. He was just trying to be like Daddy, but all in all I think he came through his first half very well.
Sadly, his interest in watching anymore football had all gone, so Mummy took him over to Charlton Park for the second half. As I'd expected as much and as Mrs KH is about as interested in watching Charlton as I am in watching Songs of Praise she was not bitter at missing the second half. As all children are different I would suggest that other four year olds would have been enthralled with the whole game, but I would have taken one half before I got there, and he says that he wants to go again, so all is not lost.
So I am now the very proud Daddy of a fully fledged Charlton Fan, even if he is so sporting that he cheers the other teams goals too.
As for the match, I have to confess as to not being as attentive in the first half as I normally am, and the second half was just like a re-run of all those games last season where teams came and put ten men behind the ball. Not being able to break them down is a flaw but not a terrible one. Giving away a lead (something we have already done four times this season - all be it we still went on to win against Reading) is a very worrying sign.
In the absence of my dad I decided to go to Palace on my own. I am now beginning to wish I hadn't bought a ticket. I fear that we could well lose that game now, and the fall out for Pardew, who is becoming more and more unpopular with the fans could be significant.
Still we have a new fan in the family, and even if it made him cry his first ever goal at a football mach was scored by a Charlton player. Suddenly Luke Varney has been immortalised.
Up the Addicks!