Want a decent game of football within 20 minutes of central London without breaking the bank? Time to go into The Valley.
I’ve a soft spot for Charlton Athletic. The first match I ever went to in the autumn of 1986 was an ‘Addicks’ match while the team was exiled at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park at the time (1985-1992). The club was in financial trouble in the mid-80s and had to leave its home ground, The Valley, for this wilderness period.
Charlton’s opponents on the day they returned to the redeveloped Valley on 5 December 1992 was Portsmouth FC. Charlton won 1-0. In a bizarre twist of fate on 9 December 2017, on the day the Addicks were celebrating 25 years back at their spiritual home, Portsmouth was again the opposition and the score was again 1-0, but this time to the visitors.
Both teams find themselves in England’s third tier, League One, which is probably a division below their natural positions.
The Valley is really handy from central London – less than 20 minutes from London Bridge station, and about 300m from Charlton station. I used to visit quite a lot when Charlton Athletic was in the Premier League, as tickets were cheap and it’s a nice club which has scope to grow its fan base to fill its 27,111 seats. The visiting 3,870 Pompey fans among the 16,361-strong crowd sang; “Your ground’s too big for you.”
Located in South East London suburbia, Charlton’s rivals are Crystal Palace and Millwall, although both those clubs have bigger rivalries; in Palace’s case it’s the “M23 Derby” with Brighton, and Millwall have a famous antipathy for fellow docker club, West Ham.
The atmosphere has improved markedly since my last visit about five years ago. I spent £22 to sit in the top tier West Stand, from where you also get amazing views across London’s Canary Wharf. You can pick your seat online and print at home.
How to get to Charlton Athletic
Charlton overland is around 20 minutes’ ride from London Bridge. It’s then a short 300m walk to the ground.