Saturday, 16 June 2007
Now that the first phase of the Dowie v Jordan case has been concluded there has been much written about the present relationship between the premier South London Clubs and the animosity that has been held between them. Two excellent blogs on the result of the legal case have been written by New York Addick and Addicks Premiership Diary .
Animosity has existed from Charlton fans towards Palace fans for some 22 years now, going back to the ground share. Prior to that Charlton fans reserved their local rivalry to Millwall. When I first started to go to the Valley, there was hardly a thought for Palace, who played in an awful maroon and blue stripped kit and had just pipped us to the top tier of English football, it was all about the Lions and the Den. In fact I quite liked the team managed by Bert Head. If it had not been that my dad pretended to support Palace I may well have ended up following my local team.
Most Palace fans who express an opinion don't understand why the Valley faithful so despise their club and probably there are only a small percentage of the current Charlton season ticket holders that really understand the reasons.
Simon Jordan and many fans do not understand how a group of fans whose club they saved are the opposite of grateful, hence the over use of the term moron towards Charlton fans, when we put Palace down.
Twenty two years on what Jordan and co do not understand or acknowledge is that Palace never had any intention of saving our club. Ron Noades and John Fryer, the Palace and Charlton Chairmen had a desire to amalgamate the two clubs, at Selhurst, and see the demise of Charlton in any form, whilst Palace would continue, albeit under a contrived name at their original home. Ron Noades set the rental at Selhurst at an exorbitant level, we were pauper tennants, with little or no money to develop our newly promoted team. What was expressed as a friendly partnership was no such thing, on the field of play, on the terraces or in the board room. At best Fryer had been manipulated by Noades to aid the destruction of the one club who offered real competition for the footballing voice of South London, at worst he was complicit.
Historically Palace are a club whose catchment area, whilst dipping into Kentish Bromley, spread south into Surrey and Charlton spread into Kent. It may have been easy for Dowie to make the journey from Norwood to Charlton but for the majority of fans in the mid 80's it was a public or private transport nightmare. Maybe if the ground share had been with say Gillingham, the relative ease for Kentish fans may have made the whole thing if not more acceptable, at least less painful. But it was not to be and season after season the few fans willing to make the journey had to slog from Kent and Charlton over to Norwood.
Palaces treatment of fans from their tennants was hardly likely to engender joy and harmony. I went to the first ever ground sharing match Charlton away to Palace, we were seated behind Palace standing fans in the Arthur Wait enclosure and were pelted with coins throughout the match, a few Charlton fans were able to avoid this by complaing to Croydons finest and being forcibly removed for their troubles. All this occurring to the chorus of "You're the shit of Selhurst Park" - very welcoming.
At a Full Members Cup game, again away at Selhurst, a match where there could not have been more than 5,000 fans between us, we were stuck in a pokey corner of the ground behind a floodlight pylon, with limited vision of the pitch (fortunate in some ways seeing as we lost). Whlist the remaining 3-4,000 palace fans had the luxury of the rest of the ground, presumably no aggrophobics attended the game on that day.
On the pitch, during one game the floodlights went out. Ok it may not have been done on purpose, but how many times in Palaces history has a game been halted because of electrical faults. As Lennie Lwrence said, it is hard to believe that this would have happened had it been Palace playing.
Despite Lennie wanting to train on the pitch, we were not allowed to, how many teams are refused permission to get the feel of the ground they are suppossed to call home - only Charlton.
Throughout our tenure Palace fans and club were arrogant and patronising towards us and it is the way we were treated at Selhurst that has led to the feelings of animosity towards Palace.
Of course there is no animosity coming in the other direction, Palace fans have no interest in Charlton, just in Brighton. Never do Palace fans come on to the Charlton message boards and sling insults our way and never does Simon Jordan antagonise Charlton fans with insults about them or their Chairman.
What worries me is that after 22 years the animosity of both clubs has grown, the worst violence I have seen in recent years between fans has been when we have played Palace, violence on both sides and this year there is a danger that it will spill over with Simon Jordans continued attack on Charltons Chairman and the Club as a whole.
22 years of animosity has been fuelled by an ill thought out ground sharing partnership, but instead of the wounds healing, fresh wounds are being inflicted and it is now that those in authority need to step back and ask themselves - Murray and Jordan in particular - are their public utterances really helpful to maintaining competitive but acceptable support for these two South London rivals?