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Selhurst Park
Crystal Palace v Charlton Athletic
Saturday 2nd February 2013, 3pm
By James Butler
(Charlton Athletic fan)

If you donít look forward to an away game at the ground of one of your local rivals then perhaps itís time to stop going to football. Add to this the fact that we had not been to Selhurst Park since 2008, then I think itís fair to say that, from a Charlton perspective at least, we were looking forward to the match, selling out our 3,000 allocation easily.

Personally I have not been back to Selhurst Park since the days when we used play our ďhomeĒ games there. Not a period that any Charlton fan will look back on with fond memories.

I first went to Crystal Palace in the early 70ís. In those days it was an okay ground, and compared favourably with the Stadiums of much larger clubs. What of the 2013 version? Well it is a bit of a mixed bag really. The old open terraces at either end of the ground have been replaced with smart modern all seater stands the best of which is the impressive two tier Holmsdale Road End. The Whitehorse Lane End, now I believe for obvious reason called the Sainsbury's end, is a much smaller single tier family stand, with some executive boxes to the rear. Thatís the modern side of Selhurst.

The old side however is less than impressive. Those of you that sometimes pine for those old stadia full of old world charm should take a trip to the home of Crystal Palace. The Main Stand was never great, but it now has certainly seen better days. However as I was not going to watch the game from this stand what did I care, but I find it incredible that people pay good money for it. Opposite the Main Stand is the Arthur Wait Stand. Back in the 70ís 80ís before the advent of the all seater stadium this was considered a pretty good stand, with its seats to the rear and terraced paddock to the front. I even quite liked it when we played at ďhomeĒ there. Dated would be a kind way of describing it now. The terrace at the front has been raised to meet the seats at the back to create an all seated stand with a very poor angle, this coupled with several supporting pillars leaves you with an obstructed view. This was made worse by the kid in front who had to stand on his seat all game. I could not complain, he would have seen nothing otherwise. To add insult to injury the concourse behind, with refreshment bars, were dangerously cramped, selling £4 bottles of beer, to go with the £32 match ticket.

Before the game interaction with home support was almost impossible due to the massive, and I mean massive, police presence. We had also chosen to take the coach to avoid the after match lunacy at South Norwood station. Itís around eight miles from Charlton to Selhurst, the journey took two hours! The train would have been about 1 Ĺ hours. Thatís South London infrastructure for you. Go in and out of town, never go across.

On arrival we were dropped right by the away turnstiles and went straight in. On entry everybody was searched, a very wise precaution on account of the boosting on the Chat forumís before the game that the idiot minority where going to smuggle in flares as they had at Millwall and Palace had at Charlton. My first impressions of the stewards were excellent, search, sad, but necessary, shown to our seats in a very helpful manner, and when we realise we could not get a programme inside one steward even help us to get one from a seller outside the ground.

The game itself saw Charlton well on top in the opening quarter, playing some nice stuff, rewarded in the 15 minute by neat Ricardo Fuller goal which sent the away contingent bonkers. Off went some flares, so much for the search on the way in... As for the goal, at the time I had no idea who had scored, I thought it had been a header, thatís says all about the view I had, £32?. Half time 1-0 was always going to be a tough lead to defend even though we were clearly the better team first half, we should have added to the lead. Reason, first Palace our not a bad side, that hurt, and we can always through a lead away, preferable in the last quarter of the game. Yep 2-1 Palace final score, Glen Murray scoring twice for I've lost count how many times this season.

There is a very old and tired song about one set of fans forgetting that the other set was there. Never has this been truer. Donít get we wrong The Valley is not always a cauldron of noise and our sing can be very repetitive and unimaginative, but a least we try. Apart from about 100 or so in one corner of the Holmsdale End, who to their credit did not stop all game. Until Palace scored, silence. Even when they did score the home support need to be revved up by canned music and the stadium announcer.

By this time the behaviour of our less desirable element was starting resemble that most associated with our other South London neighbours, they had run out of flares by about the 12th one, they amused themselves by ripping up the seats. The pre-match search was really paying dividends. This behaviour was meet by commendable restraint from the Met Police, who contented themselves with taking videos of the action. Expecting an extended lock in as a just reward for this behaviour we were amazed to be let straight out. We were faced by a wall of Police, who during the match had been amusing themselves by erecting a two metre steel barricade to keep the fans outside apart. Some of our support may be morons, but bravery is not high on the list of qualities, history has generally seen that the Palace support is similar and the fans normally just melt away. No the Police were determined to have their day. We sat for what seemed like an eternity on the coach whilst they deconstructed the steel wall and we could go on our way. Minor inconvenience. The rest of our support, young and old, idiots and the sane, were herded to toward the station, even if you had parked  a car in the complete opposite direct. A few streets away they were on mass Kettled and held. The result? Confusion, pushing and shoving as people at the back took a while to realise what was going on, followed by wanton vandalism to peopleís homes and cars simply because they happen to live near a football ground where Charlton had just lost 2-1.

I understand from Palace fans that this, over the top, policing is quite often the norm for a big match at Selhurst, so be warned if you have a large following, if you have any kind of reputation either just donít go, or prepare for the worse. Having said that there was plenty of yobbish behaviour displayed by idiots in the Charlton ranks to give the police ample justification for their actions, even if the actions seemed disproportianate to the threat.

Would I go back? Probably not, ticket price, journey time, and general aggro, itís only football. However a smaller following from a club with no previous in the fixture may well have a completely different experience. Palace are at the end of the day, like Charlton, are family orientated club with strong community roots. These type of clubs normally provide enjoyable hassle free days out.

PS I got home at 8pm for a game that was played within 15 miles of my house, Charlton home game similar distance normally in by six...

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