There are seldom times when a football club gives up much needed revenue for the greater good. In all honesty, this probably isn’t one of those times – but it’s as close as you’ll get. Charlton have opened the Valley to anyone who wishes to watch a game, for the low price of £5. In the name of community spirit, and a credit-crunching not so budget-busting deal, it really is too good a price to turn down!
There is another side to this. All seats in the ground are at their lowest price of the season, the club will achieve a near sell out – some 10,000 more than those supporters who usually turn up to see League One football at The Valley. So, what does this mean? There will be of course a near capacity crowd, and the club will reap the benefits of additional sales in the stands, the club shop, and perhaps even a few ticket sales after the game for the next few weeks (if they win).
The bigger (and obvious) secondary benefit to the football-for-a-fiver deal is more interesting. It is the ideal opportunity for fathers, uncles, brothers (and of course the occasional female fan) to bring their younger family members and friends into the light, to follow their soon to be beloved Charlton Athletic. It is this aspect of the deal that the board and most loyal season ticket holding fans will be praying works.
Some will agree with me here, others will not. For me, Charlton is a medium sized club. They punched above their weight in the Premiership – and showed they could do so for an extended period of time and potentially solidify a fan base big enough to sustain a Premiership club. Now, languishing in the third division for a third season, it would have been hard to see where the Addicks could go from here. Based on the size of the club, not many in League One will say they belong there. Conversely, not many Charlton fans will say, based on the quality of football over the last five years, does the club deserve to be anywhere else.
Step forwards Michael Slater, Tony Jimenez, a mystery backer, and the resident Charlton hero Mr (Sir) Chris Powell. Between them, they have breathed new life into the club and, so far, they look as if they can really push on and recover former glories.
Funded by the new owners of the club and the decision to let Carl Jenkinson move to Arsenal for an alleged £1million fee, supporters have seen an overhaul of the playing staff like no other club throughout the football leagues this season. In fact, from the ‘guaranteed starters’ of last season, only Johnnie Jackson, Scott Wagstaff and Bradley Wright-Phillips are in the first eleven.
Powell got the majority of his signings in early and it is a testament to his work in pre-season that the same eleven have started every league game so far where possible, with the enviable record of six wins and two draws (plus being top of the league with a game in hand).
For all the signings, the most impressive player has been our own academy graduate, Chris Solly. At five foot and a bit, the right back has slotted seamlessly into the new defence. His pace, surprising power, quality on the ball and vision at the back has been a welcome addition to a new look defence this season – helping his side to the lofty position they find themselves in.
It is academy players like Solly, and Scott Wagstaff, who make days like this Saturday’s ‘Football for a fiver’ so important. Not only does the club need new players coming through the ranks into that prized first team spot at Charlton, the new fans need to see what live football is all about in order to understand the passion, commitment and love we all share for our local club. There aren’t many clubs like Charlton – we like to think we’re a one of a kind. There aren’t many clubs where the fans pitch in to clear the ground, or even clean the seats every season, just to feel that bit closer to the heartbeat of the team they have supported for so long.
If you’re in London – or nearby – this Saturday, and you’ve got a spare fiver in your wallet and a bit of time on your hands, why not come down to the Valley. If the sun shines and the team performs, you’ll see why it really is as fantastic a place as we already know it is.
Written by Sunny Seabrooke, We Are Going Up’s Charlton Athletic blogger
Sunny tweets at @sunnyseabrooke