MILLWALL OR CHARLTON?

Who do you support, Millwall or Charlton? Being brought up in East Greenwich this was a difficult question for a young boy in the 1950’s. It’s important to say that I have been a football fan from the get go, unlike my dad. He was a musician and his sole interest in life was the study of chord sequences on keyboards of various kinds. We never watched a match together, live or on tv.  We had a very early nine inch black and white television with a large magnifier screen on the front of it back in 1953 and I used to secretly watch  night time football matches on it when my mum and dad were out playing gigs in Croydon venues including The Star in Broadgreen and The Bridge Hotel on Spurgeon’s Bridge, where I was born in 1947. This illicit night time TV watching was not easy as I will explain. I was a resourceful seven year old and would stop at nothing to see late night television, especially if it was football. My grandfather on my Dads side owned a large four story semi detached house, 75 Wellesly Road. My mum and dad, my brother Bruce and I occupied the top two floors, my uncle Phil and Auntie Hazel the first floor and my great grandparents lived on the ground floor. An extended family. Bruce and me were not allowed out of our bedroom at night. There was a hook and eye on the outside of our bedroom door put there to keep us effectively locked in to stop us from creeping downstairs to the front room where the telly stood. I soon sussed out that if I slid the cardboard cover of a Marvelman annual through the gap in the door and frame I could knock the hook out of the eye and we were free. My parents must have known because eventually they took the doorknob off the inside of our bedroom door and that pretty much ended our escapades. Anyway, I remember very clearly one time watching a BBC outside broadcast of a night game from Molyneux featuring Wolverhampton Wanderers in a floodlit European cup match. I think Kenneth Wolstenholme was the commentator. Tremendous. Watching a match with large crowds cheering their team on was exotic, Bruce and me were hooked. The black and white image was not very good on this early tv. When ITV was launched as the second channel loads of TV engineers travelled the land converting old sets to be able to receive the new signal. Our tv was not able to be converted. When the engineer came to our place he tried but we ended up with BBC pictures and ITV sound or vice versa. Watching BBC News with the Murraymints advert sound was surreal. Bruce and me were devastated, we never did get to see Popeye in our house, we had to go round to our friends houses and watch there. Anyway the engineer left our house defeated, and we didn’t get ITV. My aunt and uncle downstairs did and my brother and I were allowed to go down to their flat on Sunday afternoons to watch Robin Hood. That was it. Still, despite the poor tech, football had us enthralled. When we moved to Greenwich we both went to Meridian primary school where every playtime the boys went football crackers. two teams of twenty a side rushed frantically back and forth across the playground. It was joyous. Some of these boys had tremendous ball control of a tennis ball. Once in while we would use a full sized plastic practice football, it was mayhem, totally anarchic but just about the best fun. These kids were either Millwall or Charlton Athletic supporters, and most of them used to go to watch one or other of these teams every home game. Quite a lot of them used to go and watch both teams. It was cheap entertainment in those days, especially for youngsters. The first time I went to a live match in 1957 I was taken to Coldblow Lane to see Millwall. Not by my dad but by my mum’s boyfriend Cyril who worked part time behind the bar at the pub and lived two streets away from the Den. Standing on the cop was thrilling, Millwall supporters are very vocal. I loved it. The very next week, Saturday 21st December, aged ten, I went to the Valley with my brother and a crowd of other boys from school. Charlton Athletic were playing Huddersfield Town in a second division match. Both teams were relegated from the First Division at the end of the previous season so this looked like being a big game. Bruce and I stood on the open terrace opposite the grandstand and watched as the Charlton players ran out onto the pitch to the sound of ” When The Red Red Robins Come Bob Bob Bobbing Along.”. Johnny Summers stood on the sideline smoking a cigarette. The twelve and a half thousand fans all cheered, the referee blew the whistle, Summers stubbed out his fag and stepped onto the pitch, and the match kicked off. After 17 minutes Derek Ufton, a Charlton player, was carried off with a dislocated shoulder. Charlton were down to ten men, there were no substitutes in those days. By half time Huddersfield were leading two nil. Charlton pulled a goal back just after the start of the second half but Huddersfield town were rampant and with twenty seven minutes left they were leading 5-1. Many supporters left the ground but me and Bruce stayed on. What happened next remains vivid to this day, Charlton scored five goals and led six five, with nine minutes to go. Five minutes later Huddersfield equalised, six all. In the last minute Charlton scored again, the referee blew the final whistle. The Addicks had won 7-6. Johnny Summers, the legendary Charlton forward, had scored five goals. The loyal Charlton fans invaded the pitch and carried the Charlton players back to their dressing room. A short time later the players came back out into the main stand to celebrate with their fans. After that amazing match I became a confimed Charlton fan, still am. Sixty three years later I am still bob bob bobbing along. Millwall or Charlton? Come On You Reds.

Harry Rogers, In the Yellow Room, October 15th, 2020