In September 1988 (at the age of 17) I decided to go to an away game on my own. My Dad was away or busy (I don't remember now) and I went on the 'Football Special' to Coventry. I didn't, actually, talk to any other Charlton fans, but I did walk with them and the Police escort to the ground. It was a great day out. Bob Bolder went off injured with a dislocated finger (I think) and Steve Gritt went in goal. We lost 3-0 but Gritty made a couple of great saves. One in particular was a full length dive across the goal and diverted the ball from the top corner with an outstretch hand. the ref blew for a foul or offside so it wouldn't have counted, but we gave a great cheer all the same.
the result was, obviously, terrible, but the day out had been so enjoyable I decided to do the same again for the next away game - Norwich on 1st October. This was the game that Paul Mortimer scored the goal that is top of my personal Top Ten Goals. This was probably one of the most memorable games I've been to, that was not a significant game before kick off.
Strangely enough I didn't go to another away match that season until 21st March when we drew 2-2 at Highbury, but it was a special time in my life with regard to developing what has become an obsession with Charlton (well it is isn't it?) and turning 18.
Anyway, the reason for the brief trip down memory lane is because yesterday I decided, well applied for a whole day pass anyway, to go to Sheffield this weekend. I had been thinking about it for a week or so, and had my Dad been around I'm sure we would have gone, but with him just a few days into a six and a half week holiday in Tenerife, I was going to have to go on my own, and that is a very different decision. I'm not 17 any more and I have to seek (if not beg for) permission to spend all day at a football match these days. The situation was compounded y the fact that my wife started a new job on Monday and for the first time in years she is back in the City, with the long journey, early starts and late finishes.
I did ask in such a way as to make it seem less of a big deal until I had some acceptance, but to be fair to her I did make it clear that I would be out all day on her first day off with our son since she'd started her new (and more demanding) working schedule.
Anyway with a day pass in my proverbial hand I bought a ticket online and subsequently bought a seat on the coach that goes from down here. It leaves earlier that I normally get up, but I suspect I can always sleep on the coach? I'm not sure I've spent a whole day on a coach since I was at school, but I'll be prepared with a good book, and iPad with some games and films on it and an iPhone with some songs to listen to. I'm sure the journey will just fly by, or not!
Anyway the purpose of all this is, of course, not research into cross country coach journeys but to see the top of the table clash. It's interesting that when we played Huddersfield, due to the Sky cameras it failed to be 1st vs 2nd as Wednesday had climbed above Huddersfield on the Saturday.
Wednesday's home form has been outstanding this season, but to be fair they have only beaten MK Dons of the top five. They drew with Huddersfield, when they were, themselves, having a bit of a sticky patch - two wins in six and back to back defeats. It is clear that they are good at home, in fact, they are good, full stop, but we are good away. In fact we are good full stop, but I don't want to sound arrogant.
The defeat to Orient was, obviously, in part (I think large part) due to having to play most of the game with ten men. Stevenage was one of those games that we could have drawn, or won, if we'd had a lucky break, so I can't see us being played off the park. I can't see us struggling in any of our league games this season but if we are going to it is as likely to be this one as any other. This makes it a bog game for lots of reasons.
One of those reasons is the interest that there seems to be on Charlton Life this season with the Owls Forum - specifically how many of their fans believe that they will, at some point, catch and overtake us as we are just not as big a club as they are. I have to confess that having had a quick look at this forum I am, also, a little bit intrigued as to keep reading what this delusional fans come out with. To be fair to them their form (after the first three games) is better than ours during the same period*, so they could claim that they are doing well. We are the top two based on form during that period, as well as from the start of the season based on average points per game - Sheffield united have played one more game than both of us.
Thus we should expect, probably, that this game will be a little tense, and will be won by the odd goal (if it isn't a draw). I think Wednesday will have to come at us, and I'm not sure that will be the best approach. After all we are not top of the division by luck alone, and as our away form shows we are clearly able to soak up pressure. I think we should (and will) keep it tight at the start and hope that as they become more and more tense at not breaking us down they will allow us chances to grab a goal, or two.
I have to confess that I would take a draw right now. Not because I think we are not worthy of a win, but because it is enough away from home when you are five points ahead of the team in third with the second placed team to come to you in the next fixture. I'm not sure I'd gamble for a win at home to Sheffield United if I was offered the draw either, but that is a decision for another day.
This game will not settle the season, nor will it have that much impact on the confidence of either side as we are all, really, playing for one of the top two places - first is a bonus. However, if we do win the next two games then it will give the fans a lot more confidence as the gap to all of them will be that bit bigger.
As I've suggested in the past, I sometimes take games on a match by match basis and look for a good game, and a result irrespective of the impact on the league table. I'm trying to do that right now, but however much I try this is a massive game for us (and them) and the result is important for the league, the day out and to show some of those delusional Wednesday fans that we are genuinely worth our place at the top of the table.
Up the Addicks!
* Sheff Wed have managed 46 points from 21 games compared to our 45 points from 21 games. However their goal difference if +15 and ours is +24.