Charlton and Burnley fans – a contrast with genuine respect
As we counted the days towards our last game of the season at Charlton Athletic, there were fears from some Burnley supporters that disruptions throughout the game from home supporters could ruin our chances of becoming champions. We’d seen the disruptions in previous games on television, particularly during their win against Middlesbrough which was shown live on television on the day after we’d beaten Huddersfield at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Football fans are selfish people at times. We concern ourselves with our own club and often ignore those who are having problems at other clubs. Here in the North West we’ve seen at much closer quarters the problem at Blackpool. They’ve dropped from the Premier League to League Two in just five years and only four years ago were only a play-off final away from a Premier League return.
The very mention of the name ‘Oyston’ in Blackpool is, undoubtedly, as unpopular as a stick of rock used to be popular when I was a kid.
Charlton are much further away in the South East, situated just on the south side of the River Thames. I’ve said it many times, both ahead and after visits, that it is a fixture I look forward to when we are in the same division. It doesn’t have a London club feel to it in some ways and I’ve always found their supporters to be engaging and fair although I do have to say that it was at Charlton that I first encountered any hooligan problems back in 1971 when at least I was young, quicker and able to get out of the danger area.
I think we all know the story of Charlton and the takeover by Roland Duchâtelet early in 2014. He already owned a number of clubs but the now 69-year-old Belgian suggested he had great plans for Charlton. It’s hardly been the case and the club has seriously struggled since. They might have gone down in either of the two previous seasons before booking a League One place this time after a poor season that has left them ten points from safety.
I wrote in my match preview last week that our game there couldn’t be wider when you look at everything at the two clubs. Here at Burnley we have happy supporters celebrating promotion at a club that is run by local people, people who are supporters themselves. Charlton fans are at war with their owner and the foot in mouth chief exec Katrien Meire and it doesn’t take a genius to see she doesn’t have much of a clue when it comes to football and football clubs.
I have every sympathy for the Charlton fans. Some of our younger fans might not be aware but in the 1980s and 1990s it wasn’t that good at Burnley and protests were organised against the Frank Teasdale regime. It was never as it is at Charlton, and rightly so, but our club wasn’t being run very well at all.
Things are very much different at Burnley now. Our chairman and his directors were at the game on Saturday. It’s not so for Charlton. It was 2014 when Duchâtelet last attended a game. He’s even recently been at the ground during the week and flown out just ahead of games.
As a Burnley fan I had to have some concerns but I can confirm I didn’t need to have. I thought the Charlton fans were so respectful towards us. Those I spoke to were happy to talk about their situation and their attitude to our success on the day was simply first class.
When we first arrived at the ground there was a sit down protest outside. They handed out some posters to us which they hoped we might display inside the ground during the first minute of the game. Unfortunately the stewards were confiscating them as we went through the turnstiles claiming to be fully supportive of the regime because: “They pay our wages.”
At the far end, the club had taken some action to try and avoid items being thrown onto the pitch by leaving netting up between pitch and stand. Some items did get on at times but nothing like we’ve seen recently on television with the beach balls etcetera.
At intervals, the home fans would, as one almost, burst into chants of: “We want Roland out!” I even saw some in the directors’ box leaping to their feet to join in and on every occasion it was supported fully by the travelling Clarets. I don’t think I’ve ever been in an away end previously where I’ve witnessed Burnley supporters backing a home fans’ protest in such a way.
I think the whole ground stood to appreciate the big banner that was unfurled in the top tier of the main stand above the directors’ box. With a big arrow pointing down towards those seats was just the one word – LIAR.
Towards the end of the game there were a couple of hold ups and referee Roger East did the sensible thing. He sent his fourth official packing after the last substitution and then blew for time not too long after the ninety minutes.
Burnley fans poured onto the pitch in celebration. This is the point at which the authorities tend to panic and assume it’s going to kick off. All that kicked off were two sets of supporters, poles apart right now, applauding each other, showing each other so much respect.
It was peaceful, it was supportive and eventually the Charlton fans left the pitch to allow our players to come back out and take a final curtain call.
The last Charlton fans I spoke to was back at Blackheath, on the green across from the Princess of Wales. They were aware of having beaten us in the 1947 cup final but other than that we had a really good talk about football in general, our clubs specifically and they were astonished when I told them that one of our directors was in the pub paying for our drinks.
I do think it is often the case that the internet with its social media and message boards, is able to breed discontent between supporters of different clubs. It only takes a couple of comments from one end and the banter can quickly take a sour turn.
It’s when you visit their grounds and talk to their fans that you get a very different picture and I can’t imagine there will be one single Burnley fan who was at The Valley whose support and understanding of what the Charlton fans are going through hasn’t increased.
I do enjoy going to The Valley, but I’m sure even the Charlton fans will understand, given where the two clubs are going next season, that I’m in no big rush to go back, but when I do I sincerely hope they’ve resolved their issues and that the club is back in better ownership.
Good luck to them and a big thanks for Saturday. You did your club and yourselves proud. Our respect for you and your fight is genuine. Now go and win that fight. You deserve much better than what you are getting right now.Share this page :