Charlton Athletic: a history

August 3, 2017

Charlton Athletic F.C. were formed on 9 June 1905 by a group of 15- to 17-year-olds in Charlton. . They spent most of the years before the First World War playing in youth leagues, becoming a senior side in 1913 the same year that nearby Woolwich Arsenal relocated to North London.

After the war, they joined the Kent League for one season (1919–20) before turning professional, appointing Walter Rayner as the first full-time manager. They were accepted by the Southern League and played just a single season there (1920–21) before being voted into the Football League. Charlton’s first Football League match was a 1-0 victory over Exeter City in August 1921,  In 1923 The Addicks became “giant killers” in the FA Cup beating top flight sides Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion & Preston North End before losing to eventual winners Bolton Wanderers in the Quarter-Finals.

Charlton finished second from bottom in the Football League in 1926 and had to apply for re-election, successfully. Three years later the Addicks won the Division Three Championship  and they remained in Division Two for the next four years. After relegation back to Third Division South at the end of the 1932-33 season the club appointed Jimmy Seed as manager and he oversaw the most successful period in Charlton’s history either side of the Second World War.. Seed, an ex-miner who had made a career as a footballer despite suffering the effects of poison gas in the First World War, remains the most successful manager in Charlton’s history. He is commemorated in the name of a stand at the Valley. Seed was an innovative thinker about the game at a time when tactical formations were still relatively unsophisticated. He later recalled “a simple scheme that enabled us to pull several matches out of the fire” during the 1934–35 season: when the team was in trouble “the centre-half was to forsake his defensive role and go up into the attack to add weight to the five forwards. The organisation Seed brought to the team proved effective and the Addicks gained successive promotions from the Third Division South to the First Division between 1934 and 1936, becoming the first club to ever do so.

Charlton soon settled down to life in the top flight finishing as runners-up In 1937, and finishing fourth and third respectively in 1938 and 1939. This success continued during the war years and they won the “War” Cup.

After the War Charlton reached the FA Cup Final in 1946, losing 4–1 to Derby County at Wembley.  Charlton’s Bert Turner scored an own goal in the eightieth minute before equalising for the Addicks a minute later to take them into extra time, but they conceded three further goals in the extra period. When the full league programme resumed in 1946–47 Charlton could finish only 19th in the First Division, just above the relegation spots, but they made amends with their performance in the FA Cup, reaching their second successive FA cup Final, this time triumphing as they defeated Burnley 1–0, with Chris Duffy scoring the only goal of the day.

In this period of renewed football attendances, Charlton became one of only thirteen English football teams to average over 40,000 as their attendance during a full season. The Valley was the largest football ground in the League, drawing crowds in excess of 70,000. However, in the 1950s little investment was made either for players or to The Valley, hampering the club’s growth. In 1956, the board undermined Jimmy Seed and asked for his resignation; Charlton were relegated the following year.

From the late 1950s until the early 1970s, Charlton remained a mainstay of the Second Division  before relegation to the Third Division in 1972 caused the team’s support to drop, and even a promotion in 1975 back to the second division did little to re-invigorate the team’s support and finances. In 1979–80 Charlton were relegated again to the Third Division,] but won immediate promotion back to the Second Division in 1980–81. Even though it did not feel like it, this was a turning point in the club’s history leading to a period of turbulence and change including further promotion and exile. A change in management and shortly after a change in club ownership[17]led to severe problems, such as the reckless signing of former European Footballer of the Year Allan Simonsen, and the club looked like it would go out of business.

In 1984 financial matters came to a head and the club went into administration, to be reformed as Charlton Athletic. (1984) Ltd although the club’s finances were still far from secure. They were forced to leave the Valley just after the start of the 1985–86 season, after its safety was criticised by Football League officials in the wake of the Bradford City fire. The club began to groundshare with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park  and this arrangement looked to be for the long-term, as Charlton did not have enough funds to revamp the Valley to meet safety requirements.

Despite the move away from the Valley, Charlton were promoted to the First Division as Second Division runners-up at the end of 1985–86, and remained at this level for four years (achieving a highest league finish of 14th) often with late escapes, most notably against Leeds in 1987, where the Addicks triumphed in extra-time of the play-off final replay to secure their top flight place. In 1987 Charlton also returned to Wembley for the first time since the 1947 FA Cup final for the Full Members Cup Final against Blackburn Rovers. Eventually, Charlton were relegated in 1990 along with Sheffield Wednesday and bottom club Millwall. Manager Lennie Lawrence remained in charge for one more season before he accepted an offer to take charge of Middlesbrough. He was replaced by joint player-managers Alan Curbishley and Steve Gritt and the pair had unexpected success in their first season finishing just outside the play-offs, and the following season  began promisingly and Charlton looked good bets for promotion in the new Division One but  the club was forced to sell players to help pay for a return to The Valley, which eventually happened in December 1992.

Charlton’s first Premier League campaign began promisingly (they went top after two games) but they were unable to keep up their good form and were soon battling relegation. The battle was lost on the final day of the season but the club’s board kept faith in Curbishley, confident that they could bounce back. Curbishley rewarded the chairman’s loyalty with the Division One title in 2000 which signalled a return to the Premier League.

After the club’s return, Curbishley proved an astute spender and by 2003 he had succeeded in establishing Charlton in the top flight. Charlton spent much of the 2003-04 season challenging for a Champions League place, but a late-season slump in form and the sale of Scott Parker to Chelsea, left Charlton in 7th place which was still the club’s highest finish since the 1950s. Charlton failed to build on this level of achievement and Curbishley departed in 2006, with the club still established as a solid mid-table side.

In May 2006, Iain Dowie was named as Curbishley’s successor, but was sacked after twelve league matches in November 2006 after just two wins. Les Reed replaced Dowie as manager but  he too failed to improve Charlton’s position in the league table and on Christmas Eve 2006, Reed was replaced by former player Alan Pardew.  Although results did improve, Pardew was unable to keep Charlton up and relegation was confirmed in the penultimate match of the season.

Charlton’s return to the second tier of English football was a disappointment, with their promotion campaign tailing off to an 11th-place finish. Early in the following season the Addicks were linked with a foreign takeover, but this was swiftly denied by the club. On 10 October 2008 Charlton received an indicative offer for the club from a Dubai-based diversified investment company but  the deal fell through. The full significance of this soon became apparent as the club recorded net losses of over £13 million for that financial year. Pardew left on 22 November after a 2–5 home loss to Sheffield United that saw the team fall into the relegation places. Matters did not improve under caretaker manager Phil Parkinson , and the team went a club record 18 games without a win, a new club record, before finally achieving a 1–0 away victory over Norwich City in an FA Cup Third Round replay; Parkinson was hired on a permanent basis. The team were relegated to League One after a 2–2 draw against Blackpool on 18 April 2009.

After spending almost the entire 2009–10 season in the top six of League One, Charlton were defeated in the Football League One play-offs  semi-final second leg on penalties against Swindon Town.

Charlton’s first Premier League campaign began promisingly (they went top after two games) but they were unable to keep up their good form and were soon battling relegation. The battle was lost on the final day of the season but the club’s board kept faith in Curbishley, confident that they could bounce back. Curbishley rewarded the chairman’s loyalty with the Division One title in 2000 which signalled a return to the Premier League.

After the club’s return, Curbishley proved an astute spender and by 2003 he had succeeded in establishing Charlton in the top flight. Charlton spent much of the 2003-04 season challenging for a Champions League place, but a late-season slump in form and the sale of Scott Parker to Chelsea, left Charlton in 7th place which was still the club’s highest finish since the 1950s. Charlton failed to build on this level of achievement and Curbishley departed in 2006, with the club still established as a solid mid-table side.

In May 2006, Iain Dowie was named as Curbishley’s successor, but was sacked after twelve league matches in November 2006 after just two wins. Les Reed replaced Dowie as manager but  he too failed to improve Charlton’s position in the league table and on Christmas Eve 2006, Reed was replaced by former player Alan Pardew.  Although results did improve, Pardew was unable to keep Charlton up and relegation was confirmed in the penultimate match of the season.

Charlton’s return to the second tier of English football was a disappointment, with their promotion campaign tailing off to an 11th-place finish. Early in the following season the Addicks were linked with a foreign takeover, but this was swiftly denied by the club. On 10 October 2008 Charlton received an indicative offer for the club from a Dubai-based diversified investment company but  the deal fell through. The full significance of this soon became apparent as the club recorded net losses of over £13 million for that financial year. Pardew left on 22 November after a 2–5 home loss to Sheffield United that saw the team fall into the relegation places. Matters did not improve under caretaker manager Phil Parkinson , and the team went a club record 18 games without a win, a new club record, before finally achieving a 1–0 away victory over Norwich City in an FA Cup Third Round replay; Parkinson was hired on a permanent basis. The team were relegated to League One after a 2–2 draw against Blackpool on 18 April 2009.

After spending almost the entire 2009–10 season in the top six of League One, Charlton were defeated in the Football League One play-offs  semi-final second leg on penalties against Swindon Town.

After a change in ownership Chris Powell  was appointed manager of the club in January 2011, winning his first game in charge 2–0 over Plymouth at the Valley, Charlton’s first league win since November. Powell’s bright start continued with a further three victories, before running into a downturn which saw the club go 11 games in succession without a win. Yet the fans’ respect for Powell saw him come under remarkably little criticism. The club’s fortunes picked up towards the end of the season, but leaving them far short of the playoffs. In a busy summer, Powell brought in 19 new players and after a successful season, on 14 April 2012, Charlton Athletic won promotion back to the Championship with a 1–0 away win at Carlisle United. A week later, on 21 April 2012, they were confirmed as champions after a 2–1 home win over Wycombe Wanderers  ever league points score of 101, the highest in any professional European league that year.

In the first season back in the Championship, the 2012–13 season saw Charlton finish ninth place with 65 points, just three points short of the play-off places to the Premier League.

In early January 2014 Belgian businessman Roland Duchatelet took over Charlton as owner. He immediately brought in several new players from Belgian side Standard Liege, another club he owned. On 11 March 2014, two days after a disappointing FA Cup quarter-final loss to Sheffield United, and with Charlton sitting bottom of the table, Powell was sacked. New manager Jose Riga  despite having to join Charlton late into the season and long after the transfer window had closed, was able to improve Charlton’s form and eventually guide them to 18th place, successfully avoiding relegation with a 3–1 win over Watford  and then further distancing Charlton from the relegation zone after beating Blackpool 3–0 to gain Charlton’s first successive league wins of the season.

The 2014–15 season meant more upheaval at the club, with significant changes to the playing squad and two different managers. After Riga’s departure before the new season, former Millwall player Bob Peeters  was appointed as manager in May 2014 on a 12-month contract. Charlton started strongly, challenging for a playoff place for much of the early season, but being the League’s ‘draw specialists’ limited their growth through the table. In January 2015 after only 25 games in charge Peeters was dismissed. At the time Charlton had won once in the previous 12 games and had slipped to 14th, drawing doubt on any playoff hopes. Israeli Guy Luzon  was able to ensure there was no danger of a relegation battle by winning the majority of the remaining matches and finishing in 12th place.

The 2015–16 season began promisingly but results under Luzon deteriorated and on 24 October 2015 after a 3–0 defeat at home to Brentford he was sacked. Two days later Karel Fraeye was announced as “Interim Head Coach”. His tenure lasted for just 14 games, only two of which were won, and he was sacked on 13 January 2016 with the club now second from bottom in the Championship.  On 14 January, Jose Riga was re-appointed Head Coach for a second spell.

On 19 April following a 0–0 away draw with already relegated Bolton Wanderers, Charlton were relegated to League One for the 2016–17 season. Following a final day defeat against Burnley, Jose Riga announced his resignation from the club.

To many fans, the managerial changes and subsequent relegation to League One were symptomatic of the mismanagement of the club under Duchâtelet’s ownership and a number of protests began. In January 2016, a number of supporter groups who had organised protests (including Anti Roland Demos, Spell It Out, and Voice of The Valley) were joined by representatives of the Charlton Life message board, the Charlton Fans Protest Fund and others to form CARD (Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet),with the aim of forcing Roland Duchâtelet and Katrien Meire out of the club.

Generally the football club responded with hostility to fan protests, however this often resulted in further reactions from Charlton fans, as well as garnering wider negative attention against the ownership. For example, on 15 March 2016 the club issued a statement on its website, understood to have been penned by owner Roland Duchatelet, reprimanding fans following demonstrations at the club’s previous home game, live on Sky Sports, against Middlesbrough on 13 March 2016. The statement was met with wide-scale ridicule from fans and former professionals, and gained nationwide media attention.

Throughout 2016 CARD organised a variety of protests, including a large billboard near to The Valley] a free alternative to the club’s programme, a boycott of club catering and merchandise, a funeral march mourning the loss of the club’s heart and soul, the forming of a band, and the picketing of a sponsors’ event. A number of matches were disrupted by the throwing of beach balls, stress balls, balloons and flares onto the pitch and a protest march of over 5,000 Charlton supporters was joined by supporters of Brighton and Blackpool, both of whom encountered problems with club owners. The demonstrations were praised as forming one of the most creative, well-run, and politically charged protest movements in English football.

In September 2016, Jon McCaffrey, the Charlton fan responsible for the recording of the song “Valley Floyd Road” banned the club from playing it before matches claiming “it feels like it currently has no place at Roland Duchâtelet’s Charlton”. That same month, it was also announced CARD would resume their protests, coinciding with a lack of improvement in results under new manager Russell Slade  who had been offered a three-year contract as manager on 6 June 2016 .

On 14 November 2016, with the club in 15th place of League One, the club announced that it had “parted company” with Slade, with Charlton having won 4 of the 16 games of the season. Assistant manager Kevin Nugent was named caretaker manager on 17 November, and he won his first match in charge two days later, a 2–0 victory at home to Port Vale.  Nugent’s stint in caretaker charge concluded on 28 November, during which Charlton won twice and drew once, with Karl Robinson taking over as full-time manager.

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