It was absolutely superb to join Charlton fans in their very valid protests at The Valley on Saturday. I was honoured to play a very small part in their good natured demonstration against their evil dictators. Sure, I may not be sat here writing this had the home team picked up three points*. But it was nice to remember that football doesn’t always begin and end with trying to win promotion.
No matter how far we escape from the memories of our own ownership battle of the 1990s, they will always resurface in another team’s hard luck. Other unscrupulous ‘owners’ will take other teams to the brink, and it always reminds me of how hard we had to fight. It doesn’t matter whether you dislike the team** going to the wall, we should always swallow our pride because, ultimately, we - the fans - must face these fools together.
We spend so much of our football supporting lives learning to hate - and actively hating - others. At the moment, I hate Burnley, and Derby. And I’m sure most of you do too. So, on the odd occasion we get to unite, it is something special. And we almost always unite with Charlton fans. They hate P****e, so do we. We both played ‘home’ games away from home. We both won fan-led battles against horrible people.
It was great to see so many Albionites involved in Saturday’s protest, and it always leaves me with such pride to see us join in and show solidarity to football supporters who need us. It happened to us so it should not have to happen to them. Let’s face it, beyond Mr Bloom, it could happen to us again. Whilst queuing for the train home, I spotted someone with an ‘Oyston out’ scarf. Solidarity: this is what we’re good at.
And we owe Charlton especially. The Addicks had their own laborious ownership battle that led them having to ground share with C*****l P****e (the horror, the horror) during the 1980s. When a consortium of supporters bought the club in 1984, the previous owners kept the Valley. When they finally got their home ground back, Greenwich Council refused planning permission for the renovations needed.
So, what did the Charltonites do? They created a political party, won support and seats in the 1990 council elections and put pressure on the council to get what they wanted. A model, successfully reimagined by a whole plethora of devastated Albion fans a decade later and beyond. They proved we could succeed, and we did. And look at us now.
Charlton back then proved fan-power could win. Albion did too. Charlton can do it again. And many other clubs will have to do it in future. That’s why we MUST support these protests. Yes, they may have been momentarily frustrating for the players in our promotion push. But these players won't be with us forever, they can cope (and cope well they did). It doesn't matter whether Charlton fans turned up on Fan’s United at the Goldstone or whether they signed petitions supporting us - we have to support them all** because we know what it feels like. And it's heartbreaking.
Credit to all Albionites who joined in the chanting, the marching, the protesting, the blowing up beach balls and balloons. Credit to all Charlton fans who planned the protests, gave us balloons, beach balls, marched, applauded the Albion fans. Credit to all at CARD (Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet) who will keep fighting for the heart of their club. That club is lucky to have you.
And a special mention for the stewards who tried to confiscate balloons that had not EVEN been blown up as I entered The Valley. Well done, you did a sterling job. I’m sure Duchatelet will give you more than the national minimum wage for your efforts. And you should have checked my pants!
Football is far bigger than making the top flight this season. Sometimes it’s really rather easy to forget that. On Saturday in south east London, it was all I could think of.
*Or had the home team won thanks to a goal that deflected off a beach ball
**As an Albion fan, you have permission to refuse to support the supporters of P****e or MK Don’ts