A look at The Valley

August 2, 2017

Rovers fans will be heading up the M4 on Saturday on their way to the opening game of the season at Charlton Athletic. What will they find when they get there?

Charlton’s The Valley stadium is a modern, plush all-seated arena with a capacity of 27,111. It is probably the best (league) stadium Rovers will play at this season. It was originally constructed in 1919 and at one time it boasted a capacity of 75,000. It was reconstructed in 1991 after a period of upheaval which saw Charlton ground-share with both Crystal Palace and West Ham.

Rovers fans will be seated in the Jimmy Seed stand.

 

If you are thinking of driving to the game this is what the Football Ground Guide has to say about parking: Parking at the ground is for permit holders only. There is street parking, but due to a local residents parking scheme, not in close vicinity to the ground or Charlton railway station. However as you come off the A2 onto the A206, there is some street parking to be had on your right, in a couple of streets, before you reach the Rose of Denmark pub.

Colin Gilham informs me; ‘There is some street parking to be had around the industrial estates in the area, in Westmoor Street, Eastmoor Street (the very road where the club was apparently formed 100 years ago!), Warspite Road and Ruston Road.  If you are coming up the Woolwich Road from the the Blackwall Tunnel, then as you go past the ground, the industrial estates are on the left hand side.

The Post Code for your SAT NAVs: SE7 8BL

The ground is a short walk from Charlton Railway Station, which is served by trains from Charing Cross, London Bridge and Waterloo East stations. On Saturdays there are also services from Cannon Street station.

The Jimmy Seed (or South) Stand is the oldest part of the ground, and dates from the early 1980s. This stand is named after Charlton’s manager, Jimmy Seed with whom Charlton won the FA Cup in 1947. This stand has a capacity of around 3,000 and hosts the away supporters at games. It is also the only part of the Valley with a supporting pillar.

What is it like for away fans? This is what the Football Ground Guide has to say: Away fans are housed in the Jimmy Seed (South) Stand at one end of the ground, which is slightly raised above pitch level, making for a generally good view. Up to 3,000 away fans can be accommodated in this end. Peter Inwood a visiting Leeds fan adds; ‘There is one solitary supporting column in the entire ground and guess where it is? Right in the middle, behind the goal, in the away supporters end. Very annoying it is as well. However, I would commend the stewards, who took a relaxed attitude to the away supporters who stood throughout the match, although expect to be searched on the way in’. Otherwise the height between rows is good and the stand quite steep, keeping you fairly close to the playing action. It is worth noting that there are refreshment areas on either side of the stand. As to be expected those located by the entrance turnstiles, tend to be busiest, whilst those on the other side of the stand are normally less congested. Food on offer includes a range of Pies; Peppered Steak (£4), Chicken Balti (£4) and Cheese & Onion Pies (£4),  These outlets are supplemented by separate hot dog stalls (£4 per Hot Dog). There is also a Ladbrokes betting kiosk inside the ground. Adam Hodson a visiting Stockport County fan adds; ‘There is a decent fish and chip shop at the top of Floyd Road, which you pass on the way to the away fans entrance.’

I was quite impressed with the atmosphere at the Valley and I can see why many away fans see it as one of their favourite away days to the capital. The Charlton fans are clearly passionate about their team, but in a non-intimidating way. I had pleasant day out and would go again. I was particularly impressed with the loud P.A. system that played some great music before the game commenced which rocked around the stadium. It is worth noting that you can only gain entrance to the ground by ticket, which you have to buy from a ticket booth beforehand.

Directly opposite the Rovers faithful is the North Stand.

The North Stand was built as a replacement for the ‘covered end’, and is sometimes still called by this name. It was built during the 2001–02 season as part of the developments to bring the Valley’s capacity to 26,500 after promotion to the Premier League in 2000. The North Stand houses what is considered the most vocal supporters in the ground, along with restaurants and executive suites. It is also the home of the club’s band, which includes drummers and trumpeters (you have been warned !)

The 9,000 capacity West Stand runs down one side of the pitch.

The West Stand was built in 1998 after Charlton’s first promotion to the Premier League and is also two tiered. This is the main stand at the Valley with the largest capacity, and also houses the club’s offices, as well as the director’s box, board room dug-outs, changing rooms and the commercial centre (ticket office). There are also many conferencing rooms in this stand which are used for official and community events. There is a large statue of  Sam Bartram (considered to be Charlton’s finest player) at the entrance of the West Stand.

Opposite this is the 6,000 capacity East Stand.

The East Stand was constructed during the 1993–94 season and fully completed in 1994. As part of the first development to the ground since the return in 1992, it replaced the massive east terrace, which had been prohibited from use since the mid-1980s after the Bradford City fire. It is a single tier stand and houses the television gantry, and also has numerous executive boxes. Occasionally in cup games part of the East Stand is used to house away supporters if demand for tickets is high.

Charlton’s average attendance last season was 11,162, the lowest since the 1996-97 season, a far cry from the 40,216 who regularly attended games in the 1948-49 season. Their record attendance is 75,031 who came to watch the FA Cup tie against Aston Villa in 1938.

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