Sadly this is not a post about our current predicament, as frankly the truth is that they can actually get much worse
No. This is an historical post. It is an account of a special day in our history. Those of you that were there will all ready know which day I'm talking about, but if not all will be revealed.
As you all know I live on Kings Hill in the middle of Kent. My son, however, goes to school in Rochester. It's only about half an hour in the car, and not an unpleasant drive. Normally we eat our breakfast in the car - those of you that have a four year old will know what it's like to get them up in the morning and eating toast or hot cross buns in the car provides another fifteen minutes in bed.
Normally we don't have the radio on as KHA Junior likes to shut his eyes and add to the aforementioned fifteen minutes with another sneaky sleep. However today I was listening to KM-FM (The music you want, The news you need) and suddenly heard the following:
"You can walk my path."
"You can wear my shoes."
And suddenly all the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I felt a tingling in my arms and legs. Within ten seconds I was at Old Trafford, and even though I know what happened that day, and that season, I was irrationally so excited about what was to come.
For those of you that are still not sure what I'm talking about let me take you back to January 1994 and the 3rd Round of the FA Cup. A certain Alan Pardew opened our scoring as we beat Burnley (who were 4th in the the third tier at the time). We were riding high in in 3rd place in the second tier, just one point behind the then leaders (Palace). We went on to win 3-0 with goals from Leaburn and Grant adding to Pardew's opener.
The 4th round saw us face Blackburn at home. We were now second in the division, one point behind Palace and one point above Millwall in third. Blackburn were, however, second in the Premier League (where they finished that season). We drew 0-0, and at that point I think we had all seen the highlight of our Cup season.
The replay was a memorable game with a 1-0 win from a Darren Pitcher goal. I went to that game, along with a friend from University and a few of his friends. It was my first visit to a Premier League (top flight) ground for a long time and despite there being a whole stand missing it was a reminder of what we aspired to. The game was fantastic, we out sang the home fans for the whole game. It reminds me now of some of the lower division teams that came and won at The Valley during our Premier league years.
Next up were Bristol City away. I went to that game too. It was becoming an FA Cup tour (and it was to get much better although I didn't know that at the time). That game finished 1-1 with a Scott Minto clearance on the line in the dying minutes. That meant that they would have to come back to The Valley, where we'd been strong all season. We'd drawn with Bristol City at home earlier in the season in the league, and I thought we looked good enough in the first game to win the replay.
To add to the excitement the winners of that game would play Man Utd away in the quarter final. The game finished 2-0, and from what I remember we never looked like losing. After the game my University friend (who'd been very active in the Back to The Valley campaign) pointed out that this game provided all that could ever have been hoped when we were at Selhurst and Upton Park. A midweek game under floodlights with a place at Old Trafford in the quarter finan of the FA Cup waiting for the victors. It was hard to disagree with him.
So, a quarter final at the Premier League Champions, and leaders with a 7 point advantage over the team we'd beaten away in the 4th round. By this point we had fallen down to 5th in the second division following a defeat at Millwall, and were 5 points behind second place, all be it with a game in hand.
The club were awarded 10,000 tickets, 25% of the capacity, not something that happens today, sadly. As we had so many tickets and a capacity of just over 8,000 it was thought that there would be no need to limit purchases. Thus when the box office opened they were selling as many tickets as you'd like. After a while, though, they realised that wouldn't work and reduced it to 4 per season ticket. Anyway, needless to say, I got one. Well a few actually as I was going with my Dad and some friends - all long term Charlton fans by the way.
The first half had little of note, save for an incident just before half time where Kim Grant was put away and just had Schmeichel to beat (the ball having already gone past the keeper) and was brought down. The ref showed a red card.
At half time the song by D:Ream (that was in the charts at the time) "Things can only get better" was sung by just about all of the 10,000 Charlton fans. We had held out for the first half, and they had had their keeper sent off (all be it they had brought another one for an outfield player). Things could only get better.
Sadly that was not to be the case. Andrei Kanchelskis literally ripped us apart in the second half making a goal for Mark Hughes and scoring two himself. Carl Leaburn scored a consolation goal for us, but that was the end of our FA Cup run. It also started the end of the season for us.
Following on from our FA Cup exit we went on to lose eight of our next nine games. The one win being a 4-3 home victory over Southend on the day the East Stand opened. That was one of my all time great games. Alan Pardew scored two goals, one of which made it into my all time top ten goals.
So from 12th March, where we were fifth with 55 points from 33 games we ended up finishing 11th with 65 points from 46 games. That's 10 points in 13 games. Something we have become used to in recent seasons, but in 1993 I can understand the deflation that the players must have felt.
However, at 4:50pm on 12th March 1994 it really did seem like "Things can only get better!"
Up the Addicks!