Monday, 7 May 2007
I COULD HAVE BEEN A TOTTENHAM SUPPORTER
My Dad was born in Bermondsey on July 4th 1923. His family traditionally worked in the Borough Market near London Bridge and lived in Hackney. Life became very tough, when at the age of seven, his mother died of a heart problem, that today would require a simple procedure to save her life. He lived with his father and two brothers in a two bedroom flat, which would have been cramped to say the least. My grandfather was a Tottenham man who would take the eldest son(my father) to see Tottenham on a Saturday afternoon, after working in the market in the morning. Alf Ramsey was one of their favourite players and they described him as calm and cultured on the ball and a tough tackler, characteristics that would serve him so well in 1966, when he became a national hero.
During the war, my Dad at the age of 17, was posted to the Isle of Dogs as a radar engineer, trying to pinpoint the German Bombers that flew over the Channel and caused so much death and destruction to the East End of London . We would listen to many war time stories, which were frightening, but also fascinating and exciting . One terrifying experience, told many times, one morning whilst he was having a shave in the army washroom, a Doodle Bug exploded nearby destroying the surrounding buildings, the washroom was left mostly intact and his only injury was a cut to his cheek, probably caused by the shave. After the war he was recruited by the Civil Service as an engineer in Radar, this meant after his marriage and four children later, we finally settled in Sidcup Kent as he was transferred to Woolwich Arsenal.
At the age of nine, my Dad started taking me to Borough Market to see his brothers and my cousin. To me the market was very exciting, with all the hustle and bustle and smells that go with a thriving market. Unfortunately I had started to support Manchester United(I was saved later) much to the annoyance of my Dad who was hoping I would support Tottenham. After many times asking my Dad to take me to a match, he suddenly announced that we were going to see Tottenham play Manchester United, which was like music to my ears. We went with my uncle and cousin and watched Charlton, Law, Best, Greaves, Jennings and Gilzean strut their stuff in front of a capacity crowd of 57,000. Tottenham won 2-1, with Best scoring United's goal, but there was something missing. The next couple of weeks, a friend at school kept on talking
to me about Charlton, our local club and I gradually got enthralled by it and asked my Dad to take me. My first game at the Valley was Charlton v Preston North End. We arrived about 2.50pm and as we walked up the grassy slope and viewed this vast stadium, (then, it really was like looking down into the Grand Canyon) the players looked like ants as they warmed up. The Valley at that time was the largest stadium in England with a capacity of 76,000, and the East terrace was as large as Wembley's. The 11,000 crowd, seemed to make more noise than the 57,000 attendance at the Tottenham match I had seen, and as Matt Tees, surely the skinniest football ever to play professional football, scored his second goal in a 2-0 win and Charlie Wright made some great saves, we could not explain it, but we were both hooked and only missed two games at the Valley over the next eight seasons . Four seasons ago, one of my proudest moments, was taking my son and dad to the Valley, to watch us lose 1-0 against Fulham (Euell missed a penalty ). My Dad had moved away when he retired and found the travelling too much to get to Valley very often, so this was his first visit to the New Valley. When we sat him down to watch the match, his face was a picture of delight and my son who is not a football fan, said to me recently " I'd never seen him so excited as he talked all day about matches we had seen at the Valley". He died six months later, but its a good memory of three generations having a great time .
If Charlton do lose tonight, which I expect , it will not be the end of the world and we will bounce back, as we have in the past.
Come on you Reds