In 1992, it was my 32nd season following Charlton and in all those years I turned up on a match day and took my seat with not a prawn sandwich in sight. We had a regular parking spot in the Cawood’s front car park on the Woolwich Road.
In the 60s, I had stood on the east terrace with my dad and later moved to the covered end before progressing to the west stand lower when I was employed by the club. My dad would have hated the west stand (although not as much as Selhurst and Upton Park) as the fans there were too quiet for him! I have always bought my own season tickets and never took up my seats in the directors’ box apart from season 2011-12, for operational reasons.
I never really felt a connection with any manager until Lennie Lawrence came along, and it was for that reason I approached his testimonial committee in 1992 offering to organise a testimonial dinner for him. In my letter to the committee, I told them I believed a minimum of 500 people could be achieved. The feedback I got at the time was that the committee wondered if I was a total fruit cake, although Steve Sutherland vouched for me.
It didn’t matter too much because Lennie left to move to Middlesbrough and so that was the end of the discussion. Or was it? I thought about it and decided that I would go ahead with the event but re-classify it as the Back to the Valley Celebration Dinner. I approached the club and was asked to a meeting at The Valley where I sat for an hour beyond the agreed meeting time. I was told that my target of a minimum of 500 people was not achievable, so they declined to support it. I approached the Supporters Club and finally found a group of people who believed in me. The best response I could give all the doubters was that the dinner was attended by 700 Charlton fans and was the biggest Charlton fan dinner ever.
It became an annual event and I remained involved up to the 10th dinner, as well as the Centenary Dinner in 2005. Every single dinner sold out with a minimum of 500 guests. George Best, Denis Law and Jack Charlton were amongst the many guest speakers. Steve Sutherland was the host of every event and never charged a penny, not that I would have paid him anyway!!
Because I was the event organiser for all those years, I have a lot of video and DVD content that has never been seen before and I owe a great debt to my close friend David Moss for all his great production and editing work over many years. We had some great fun making the videos with the brilliant Brian Moore, Jim Rosenthal and Gabriel Clarke adding their unique commentary skills to the content.
Now that we are celebrating 30 years since our return to The Valley, I plan to share it in small doses throughout this season and am discussing how that is done with Steve Sutherland in his role as Chair of the 30th Anniversary Committee. I hope Charlton fans everywhere will enjoy
what they see and that it brings back some fond memories.