The Valley -
Saturday, October 21st, 2006
Vs Watford, Premier League, 3pm
By Steve Beattie
This was to be my first trip to the Valley, a London ground that has eluded me over the seasons so much so that even when driving around that part of London I could never find it!
After phoning Watford ticket office and being informed that there where 250 tickets unsold that had been returned to Charlton at last my chance had come. A phone call to Charlton ticket office confirmed availability and location (South stand ticket office) although the sales person did not know what road the entrance was on (Floyd Road corner of Sam Bartram Way for your info). This was a key game, whoever won this would put daylight between themselves and the bottom of the Premier League. Would this be Watford first win of the season and spell the end of Dowies short reign?
Getting there these days is relatively simple, I took the M25 to M11 then continued on to the A406 extension. Take the first exit A12 sign posted Blackwall Tunnel and simply follow the new bypass all the way to the tunnel. The other side is just as simple, a new road sign posted Greenwich peninsular and "Charlton FC" comes up on the left right after you exit the tunnel. You follow the signs past endless retail parks until you hit the lights at the A206 Junction. You are now right on top of the ground although you can't see it.
I turned left here, over one roundabout took the next right over a level crossing and into Charlton Park Lane. There is plenty of street parking here although don't be tempted to use the free bays near Harvey Gardens as these are reserved for police!
Finding the ground is fun, there are no floodlights and the only clue is the distinctive block of flats behind one goal. I followed the trail of fans and the directions from the friendly stewards down the wrong side of the ground and had to walk past the new North stand and through the West stand car park. These two structures from the outside are really impressive. Charlton are frequently used as a model club by the likes of Watford as an example of the progress of a small club. I tell you the ground certainly does not give the impression of a small club. Further directions bought me to the ticket booth. The away price for that game was £20 which I thought was very reasonable.
The stewarding was efficient and relaxed even their attitude while carrying out the usually annoying body and bag search was better then that at most airports. I found my seat in the south stand, being one of the last to book I was unsurprised to find myself in the far corner 7 rows from the front. However the stand being raise slightly above pitch level meant even this seat had an excellent view. The stand gives away little of its age and is in fact quite comfortable although seats and leg room are a little tight.
The single tier stand to our right began to fill up with families. The Valley is carved into a hillside and through the metal fence you can still see the remains of that famous old terrace. In this corner are the entrances to the East Stand who's stairs seam to raise the height of the stand again up to the turnstiles. The impressive North Stand burst into life on the players arrival and the excellent PA system welcomed us to the Valley as did the fans to our right with a ripple of applause for their visitors from Watford. Football really has moved on, imagine that from the home fans, a warm welcome instead of abuse from a mob.
The match itself will live long in the memory of fans on the basis of Henderson's classic miss alone. Half time came and went, the facilities are a little basic but the toilets are clean. Be prepared for a long queue as there is no real concourse at Charlton and the food is quite expensive. Come second half both sets of fans where passionately behind their teams, and the band in the top tier of the Home end where in full swing but at no stage did we feel threatened even when Charlton where denied a clear penalty. Full time a 0-0 draw, honours even and Charlton still rooted to the bottom. We where only let out one side which is quite narrow, this took a while. The Policing through out was fairly low key but there was clear evidence of Mounted Police so watch where you tread.
Out into the streets and again no problems. Sadly In my haste to get to the ground, I forgot what road I parked in. 40 min later after passing it three times I was on my way home. Getting away is murder until you hit the Blackwall tunnel, the narrows roads and unfriendly traffic light sequences would not be too welcome after a defeat.
All in all I enjoyed my day out in this part of South East London and I can strongly recommend a visit to the Valley, although if driving there one tip. Remember to take you A-Z with you in to the ground!
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Last Updated : 21 January, 2009