Who Are These Jobbers?
At least three times a week I wake up in the middle of the night screaming and covered in a cold sweat. It is the same scene that keeps repeating over and over in my sleep-deprived mind.
It is a hot spring day, I’m stood on the pitch of the old Wembley Stadium. I’m wearing an inexplicably heavy gold shirt, which only seems to gain more weight with every drop of sweat I perspire. I’m defending the front post in the last minute of a finely poised play-off final between Sunderland and Charlton Athletic.
This corner only needs to be headed away and we’ll more than likely cling on to our 3-2 lead. And as the ball sails over my head, I watch helplessly as Lionel Perez inexcusably rushes out to claim the cross despite being four foot tall. I scream, I try in vain to reach the goal line as Richard Rufus nods in his first ever career goal.
I scream again as Michael Gray’s hopeless penalty rolls into the arms of Sasa Ilic. I scream again as Clive Mendonca’s sh*t-eating grin flashes across my mind. I scream again as Alan Curbishley runs towards his victorious goalkeeper while dressed as the father of the bride. I scream endlessly.
Charlton always seem to find Sunderland in their worst moments. From crushing our souls in the Wembley heat of 1998 to being the recipients of The Lads walloping in three own goals in the space of 25 minutes, the Addicks have been there looking at us like a disappointed parent. A resigned expression plastered across their face as if to say “oh Sunderland, when will you ever get it right”.
It is somewhat apt then that Charlton were the opponent in the most cathartic moment of our current campaign. As Lynden Gooch’s bullet header flew past Dillon Phillips, it lifted the weight that had been bolted to the shoulders of everyone on Wearside. The pain of the past few years began to be washed away and set the tone for our campaign so far.
The Addicks themselves are making positive strides to returning to their own former glory under the guidance of human firecracker Lee Bowyer. Like Blackpool, Charlton supporters are continuing their boycott in order to hound owner *very Jim White voice* Roland Duchâtelet out of the club.
Again, similar to Blackpool, I would urge all Sunderland fans visiting The Valley to refrain from buying food or drink from the stadium to support the ongoing protests.
As both Portsmouth and Luton Town are not playing this weekend, it provides the perfect opportunity for Sunderland to leap into second place.
It would be another poignant point in our existence alongside Charlton Athletic and would maybe keep those nightmares at bay.
What’s The Ground Like?
After spending much of the late-1980s homeless, Charlton returned to The Valley in 1992. In very much the same vein of Bradford City’s Valley Parade, this is one bloody big stadium. Both the North and West Stand are a legacy of the club’s time in the Premier League with the two-tiered connected stand looming over the rest of the ground.
Sunderland fans are housed in the Jimmy Seed Stand directly opposite the North Stand. It has a capacity of around 3,000 and thanks to the low roof, you can make a bloody good racket.
How Do I Get There?
Christ, it’s a bloody long way to Charlton, isn’t it? Anyway, if we’ve all sobered up from Blackpool then let’s hit the road.
Take the A1 (M) down to junction 14 at Alconbury for the A14 heading towards Cambridge before hitting the M11 to London. Join the North Circular Road momentarily before exiting for the A12 passing Stratford and using the Blackwall Tunnel where you’ll re-emerge near the O2 Arena. Turn left at Greenwich Shopping Park onto the A206 and follow the signs for The Valley and the ground is just off Charlton Lane.
Street parking is available in the immediate vicinity and should you get lost just plop SE7 8BL into your sat nav.
If you’re arriving by train then you can catch direct services from London from St Pancras International, London Bridge, Charing Cross and Waterloo East to Charlton. The station is around a 10-minute walk from the ground.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at 7am with return fares priced at £42. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
Thanks to the Rose of Denmark on Woolwich Road helpfully not allowing in away fans, you could be in somewhat of a pickle for a slurp of suds around The Valley. However, take a walk towards the River Thames and you will find the Anchor & Hope so you can enjoy a refreshing a pint with a view of that river from the Eastenders opening credits.
Should you thirsty cats have a little extra time on your hands then you hop off the train at Blackheath where your choice of hostelries is vastly improved. Swing by Zerodegrees Microbrewery on Montpelier Vale for some fancy craft beer and a pizza or settle in for a quiet pint at The Railway on Blackheath Village.
You can even enjoy a drink with a view of Greenwich Park from The Princess of Wales on Montpelier Row.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
You have all of London to play with, surely you don’t need me to point out the wealth of activities you could be doing? Alright, alright...
Erm... go and see Big Ben? Come on, you know your way around London, I’m really here to point out funny things to do in backwater towns.
Honestly, go to a museum or a gallery or a show or just get really drunk in a Wetherspoons, it’s London, you will find something to do.