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Charlton & Sunderland - Two clubs with an eventful history when it comes to chasing promotion

Naturally, we think back to the last time we were embroiled in a promotion race with Charlton in the Football League ahead of tomorrow’s huge game in London.

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - Play-Off Final - Charlton Athletic v Sunderland Photo by Michael Steele/EMPICS via Getty Images

1998. The names Clinton and Lewinsky were hot news. Europeans agreed to a single currency. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was all the rage and Frank Sinatra said goodbye to the world. But for Sunderland and Charlton fans alike, the year 1998 holds significance for a completely different reason - a mammoth promotion chase that ended in the most heart-stopping Play Off Final Wembley has ever seen.

When The Addicks faced Peter Reid’s Sunderland on Monday 25th May of that year, the teams played out a breathtaking showcase for the Sky cameras. Eight goals were shared between the sides after 120 draining minutes of football in the blistering sun, with the score 3-3 after 90 minutes, 4-4 after extra time - promotion was decided on penalties.

Many of us have never watched it back, but none of us can ever really erase the memory of a day defined by two born and bred Mackems - one of them in the red of Charlton a hat-trick hero, the other, in the unforgettable gold kit of SAFC, suffering the heartbreak of missing the vital spot kick.

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - Play-Off Final - Charlton Athletic v Sunderland
Many of us are still unable to watch the Play-Off Final of 1998 - and with good reason.
Photo by Michael Steele/EMPICS via Getty Images

Almost 21 years on and both clubs are unrecognisable from what they were in the late nineties.

Both are now in the third tier having suffered from numerous relegations, promotions and board room turmoil, but this season rather ominously - just as they did in 1998 - Sunderland sit in third position, with Lee Bowyer’s Charlton just behind us level on points with fourth placed Barnsley. Could history repeat itself come May?

Strangely, our matches against Charlton during the 1997/98 season, unlike the game at Wembley, had been largely uneventful. A 0-0 draw was played out in the cold Wearside winter, whereas we ground out a hard fought 1-1 draw at The Valley with ten men. The league was so tight - only four points separated fourth and first. We ended the season on 90 points and somehow still didn’t get promoted, a league record that still stands by the way. Promotion really can be that tight, and this season looks like it could be eerily similar.

Whilst things are not quite as tight this time around (eleven points separate league leaders Portsmouth from Charlton) the importance of coming back from London with the full three points could allow us to plot a course for comfortably achieving our aim of automatic promotion.

Michael Gray of Sunderland
Let’s make sure there’s less chance of this type of scene come May by winning the next couple of games.

With Sunderland, lighting could strike twice - football, after all, is a funny old game.

I just hope that Jack Ross and co do us a favour this weekend and put our promotions rivals to the sword. We can only hope that we start to really dominate the league in the way we know we can, putting some distance between ourselves and the chasing pack by taking away the fear of promotion heartbreak.

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