When football was football there was no more glorious club to support than Charlton Athletic. Before Super Sunday was invented, Charlton could scrap out a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park, board a plane to Spain unwashed, and almost embarrass Di Stefano's Real Madrid in front of 40,000 fans the next afternoon. Charlton scaled the leagues from Div 3 South to the top flight in successive seasons and challenged the legendary Arsenal of the '30s as London top dogs. FA Cup final heartbreak in 1946 was followed by Wembley joy in 1947, and Charlton went on blaze a trail with a foreign legion of stars like Eddie Firmani, Stuart Leary and Hans Jeppson. But by the time European footballer of the Year Allan Simonsen briefly touched down in SE7 like a being from another planet in 1982 extinction loomed. Exile at Selhurst Park was the bitterest of times, but if there is a blitz spirit, then Addicks supporters have it in spades - even fighting an election to help win the right to return to the Valley. With wonderful photos, this book captures that momentous homecoming on December 5, 1992 - and so many other episodes in Charlton Athletic's 108-year soap opera. Not forgetting the finest beard in football history, belonging to the one and only Derek Hales.
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Michael Walsh is not quite a lifelong Addicks fan. His Irish father tried to make him support Manchester United, but '60s Saturdays watching Law, Best and another famous Charlton around London's first division bastions failed to do the trick, just as being dragged to mass on '60s Sundays failed to make him a good catholic. His first game at the Valley, then a mouldering SE7 Circus Maximus, was a 5-2 defeat to Southampton. And it wasn't him who threw the stone that Saints Terry Paine complained had whacked him on the head. Michael is associate sports editor of the Sunday People and author of Brothers In War, the true story of one English family's Great War sacrifice.
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