The worst relegation
The season just gone was abysmal and depressing, no two ways about it. Yet I only made it back home to a handful of games, the last one in March against MK Dons after when in my mind, our cast was dyed and I vowed not to give Duchatelet anymore of my money.
However back in 1980 I was a 13-year old Charlton nut who refused to miss a game, did a fair few aways, and over a space of an hour and a half my beloved team could make or break my school week. But my, the 1979/80 season was proper abysmal and if I knew the meaning of the word depressing back then, then it was most definitely that as well.
That season was the first I’d ever seen us get relegated as I started going after we won promotion from the 3rd Division in 1975 when after some gentle persuasion my Dad decided to return to The Valley after a break brought on by marriage, small children, and lost interest.
During that 1979/80 season Charlton won just 6 games, although they were all at home and did include victories over eventual champions Leicester and a 1-0 win over West Ham complete with Parkes, Lampard, Bonds, Devonshire and Brooking.
I don’t remember being as down in the dumps then as I was this season, but then again I was young and probably wasn’t paying as much attention as I should to what was going on behind the scenes because it certainly was a mess. Of course under Mike Bailey’s tutelage we bounced back at the first time of asking, but the omens during that summer of 1980 were not good.
We were relegated with just 22 points (28 in today’s money) and finished glued to the bottom of the 2nd Division 13 points from safety (2 for a win then). We won just 1 of our final 22 games and relegation was a long drawn out winters wait on muddy pitches and under darkening skies.
The main storyline of the season was the on-off power struggle between Andy Nelson and Mike Bailey. Nelson had brought us up in 1975 and then had two very enjoyable seasons finishing high up the table. But with no investment by owner Michael Gliksten, the continued sale of our best players and the farcial tie-up with the New England Tea Men, it was all to end in tears as Gliksten watched often from afar with bulging pockets, and a diminishing interest in the club despite his family being involved since 1932.
The squad was poor, with second rate additions replacing Mike Flanagan who was sold to Crystal Palace before the season started for a £650,000. This was a record transfer fee set between London clubs at the time. Without Flanagan, Derek Hales often fought a lone battle up front with either natural wide men such as Martin Robinson, Phil Walker or Colin Powell playing second foil.
But as was often the case under Nelson we usually needed three goals to win a game and we conceded 78 in 42 games, easily the worst in the division. Peter Shaw, Phil Warman and Lawrie Madden were often horribly shown up that season by some excellent young forwards such as Brian Stein (Luton), Clive Allen (QPR), Gary Lineker (Leicester), Gordon Davies (Fulham), Clive Walker (Chelsea) and Keith Bertschin (Birmingham) to name a few.
Les Berry toiled and wore his heart on his sleeve but even the brute force of Tony Hazell and the young talent of David Campbell were unable to help, nor was the often heroics of Nicky Johns.
We won just 1 of our first 12 games. That was in front of 5,323 against Shrewsbury in late September. The game was noted for the half-time introduction to debutant Paul Walsh, who didn’t score in 7 games that season but was to be the star turn the next.
There was excitement in November when Danes Viggo Jacobsen and Johnny Ostergaard were heralded as Viking saviours. The bustling Ostergaard did look like a Viking whereas midfielder Jacobsen was a waif. Their debut at home to West Ham saw Danish flags and a rare win. Steve Gritt scoring.
That win was followed in the next home game with another against one of the division’s best teams, Leicester City. It proved to be a false dawn though as Addicks’ started to make their anger clear, mostly against stay away owner Gliksten but not helped by the confusion of whether it was Andy Nelson or Mike Bailey coaching and picking the team. Fans gathered for an hour behind the west stand after a home defeat by Birmigham.
By the winter relegation was becoming a formality and Valley crowds were down to around 6,000, although just 4,838 witnessed our biggest win of the season, when for once it all came good, against fellow relegation rivals Bristol Rovers 4-0.
Away to Oldham in March after at least a battling 4-3 defeat, Nelson was finally sacked and was replaced formally by Mike Bailey. Benny Fenton was named as Bailey’s assistant. The change was met positively with fans, although the defeats kept coming, but in what was a tough run-in the team at least looked more together and despite defeats battled well in games against Chelsea, Leicester and QPR, who were all chasing promotion.
Bailey never won a game after he was officially put in charge, and we were relegated long before we lost 4-1 on the last game of the season at Upton Park.
What with a 6-0 FA Cup 3rd Round thrashing by Wrexham in the FA Cup it was a season that has lived long in my memory for all the wrong reasons.