Tuesday, May 11, 2010

If You Know Your History...

Charlton have played games against Swindon on and off ever since I first started to support the club, way back in the late 60’s. In the lead up to our weekend play-off matches against them, I recollect some of Charlton’s previous games against them.

My first recollection of Swindon came when they won the League Cup in 1969. That was the team of Don Rogers, Peter Noble, and Roger Smart. Rogers was the broad shouldered winger, who tore the slow Arsenal defence to ribbons on a bumpy Wembley pitch that day, while Smart danced through the static defence to score the last goal. All three of those west country heroes would move on soon after Swindon won promotion to Division Two, with Rogers moving to one part of south east London, while Smart (above) made it to SE7 a year or two later. Before they moved on, Swindon did hand out a thorough thrashing to Charlton (5-0) at the County Ground in 1970. The bald Noble was a fantastic header of the ball, and he went on to play for many years at Burnley, completely dominating their midfield and on several occasions games at The Valley. Smart’s time in SE7 was not very happy, and he simply could not repeat the glory he had previously and did little to enamour himself to the Addickted with some very poor displays.

My next memory of Swindon was the team that Glenn Hoddle built there in the early nineties. Prevented from gaining promotion to the top tier due to financial irregularities, Hoddle eventually took them up via the play-offs, where they had one glory season amongst the big boys. That season ended in relegation, but they did put up a fight toward the end with Jan-Age Fjortoft (left) scoring many goals. The next season saw Charlton and Swindon drawn together in the League Cup early in the season, and following a 3-1 away win, hopes were high at The Valley for the return leg. Sadly, Fjortoft scored a hat-trick and the tie was lost 5-4 on aggregate after extra time. Fjortoft’s goal celebration was to run out toward the corner flag with his arms out, simulating an aeroplane, and he made the most of it that night.

My next memory of Swindon was in the 97-98 season, when it rained hard on us away fans in Wiltshire in a tier two campaign. It mattered little though, as Charlton’s fantastic end of season run continued and Steve Jones slotted home ten minutes from time to send Charlton fans home delirious; that season would end in play-off glory for the Addicks.

Two years later, and Charlton met bottom of the table Swindon at The Valley after thirteen consecutive victories had taken them well clear at the pinnacle of the league, during a season that would end in the League Championship Trophy coming to SE7. Five minutes in, the usually reliable Dean Kiely spilt a regulation low cross and somehow the ball squirmed from his grasp and into the net without a Swindon player anywhere near. After that, Charlton piled on the pressure but simply could not find a way through the packed Swindon rearguard, and the record winning streak came to an end in the most unexpected circumstances.

This season’s two games have both been drawn, but both had plenty of excitement. I missed the Boxing Day home game due to my wife’s broken elbow, and listened to the commentary as first Sam Sodje and then Deon Burton were sent off in the first half. Annoyingly, Charlton had led through a Jonjo Shelvey strike between the red cards, before second half strikes from Paynter and Austin showed up Charlton’s lack of numbers. The game was not up though, and Miguel Llera became the first Charlton player to score for the Addicks while the team played with just nine men when he chipped in late in the game. A couple of months later, and it was Nicky Bailey’s turn to repeat the late equaliser, this time in Wiltshire, as Charlton trailed 1-0 going into injury time.

Swindon started the season with a 5-0 thrashing at Gillingham that showed how poor their defence can be. Since then, the Gills have been relegated and Swindon have found a goal-scorer (Austin) to play alongside Paynter and shored up their defence a little. They do concede plenty though, so there is still a lot of hope for Charlton. Friday’s fist leg will go some way to deciding who plays at Wembley, but history (1994/5) shows us that ties between these two clubs can turn massively between the first match and the second, and this season's games have also indicated that nobody should leave before the final whistle is blown.

Come on you Reds!

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