I went to every match during the 1980-81 season, home and away, league and cup. I actually did that for four and half years, but this was the first season I did it and the one that probably stands out as the most memorable in my lifetime (closely followed by the subsequent promotion seasons and then the Premier years).
So, I have had a little wander back in time to assess the playing strengths of the 80-81 side and made a comparision against that I think is most likely to start for us in August. I know things have moved on in the last 30 years and that it's a dangerous game to start comparing players from different eras, but I am working on the basis that the third tier hasn't changed all that much, certainly nothing like the top flight, and that the sides we will play next year will be relative to those we faced in 1980-81. I am also giving the 2009-10 squad due consideration for playing in a lower league (although you could argue we've been doing that all season).
The first thing I need to say, is how pitifully small the first team photogrpah looked for 1980-81. There are only 14 players in it! A quick recce through the records also confirm that we only used19 players that season and five of those only managed single figure appearances. Therefore, I am going to compare the 14 players who did the business for us that year with the fourteen from todays squad whom I believe are most likely to figure come August. The 14 from 80-81 were Nicky Johns, Phil Warman, Les Berry, Peter Shaw, Terry Naylor, Lawrie Madden, Martin Robinson, Dick Tydeman, Phil Walker, Kevin Smith, Steve Gritt, Colin Powell, Derek Hales and Paul Walsh.
Against them I am looking at Rob Elliot, Kelly Youga, Mark Hudson, Jon Fortune, Yassin Moutaouakil, Jonjo Shelvey, Therry Racon, Lloyd Sam, Scott Wagstaff, Andy Gray, Deon Burton, Tresor Kandol, Danny Butterfield and Chris Dickson. I am assuming here that ZZ, Bailey and Ward will all be gone. You could add Shelvey to that list but for now I will assume no-one comes in with the big money and that we are prepared to hold onto him for a bigger fee downstream.
Nicky Johns 8 - A great shot-stopper and all-round goalie who allowed the back four to play their own games. Kept 18 clean sheets in the league.
Phil Warman 7 - Played as a full-time, tough-tackling left back and was content with playing down the line to Martin Robinson. Could actually whip in a decent cross when he did get the opportunity.
Les Berry 6 - Good in the air but could get caught for pace. Was helped enormously by Peter Shaw that season.
Peter Shaw 7 - Peter Shaw had endured an appalling start to his Charlton career and was the butt of jokes and songs from the Valley faithful before blossoming during this season. I can't remember any other player improving so much during their careers. He wouldn't have lasted in todays game.
Terry Naylor 7 - A tough, experienced pro who arrived from first division Spurs having seen his best years. He wasn't here to play third division football for too long.
Lawrie Madden 6 - A journeyman defender in my book but he did go on to better things with Sheffield Wednesday after he left us which really surprised me.
Dick Tydeman 7 - A tall, strutting midfielder who could pick a pass. Dick was probably a better footballer than he was ever given credit for.
Phil Walker 8 - Walker was happy to play in any attacking position equally at home upfront as in midfield. I have given him an extra mark as he weighed in with 8 goals.
Kevin Smith 7 - This was Smithy's break-through season and he made 24 vital midfield appearances.
Steve Gritt 8 - All effort and commitment. Gritt famously played in every position for the club and I have given him an extra mark here for his versatility in what was a tiny first team playing squad. He wasn't the best midfielder in the world but he was equally good wherever he played (even in goal).
Colin Powell 9 - A proper right winger. No left foot and invariably struggled away from home but he was largely responsible for making Charlton very hard to beat at the Valley during his career. He was a joy to watch and provided an endless stream of ammunition for Hales and Walsh.
Martin Robinson 8 - Not unlike his namesake Johnny, although he played on the left. Robbo was a little under-rated in my book. On his day he could go passed anyone and this was his season.
Derek Hales 9 - A mere 23 goals for Killer this season but many of them were vital winners. When Derek had a poor game he was just as likely to score as when he was playing a blinder.
Paul Walsh 9 - A contemporary of mine (my flatmate was in the same class as him at Woolwich Poly), Walshy broke into the side with Kevin Smith but was always destined for better things. He had bundles of skill, great close control, could shoot with either football and got up very well to make up for his lack of inches.
TOTAL = 106 points
Rob Elliot 7 - Been ok this year and I expect an improvement next season.
Kelly Youga 7 - Is back to his best and, again, I think he will look better next season
Mark Hudson 7 - Just short of an 8, although he was missing something earlier in the season (I hope it wasn't motivation or that could hurt us next year).
Jon Fortune 6 - Needs to be up for it next year and he will need to stay injury free.
Yassin Moutaouakil 7 - Surely his chance to make the right-back slot his own, especially if Phil Parkinson is moved on.
Jonjo Shelvey 8 - If we can hang onto him next year he should be pivotal and could get close to a 9 before he's prized away.
Therry Racon 8 - Therry should be one of the strongest midfielders in League One.
Lloyd Sam 7 - Lloyd should be a real threat in League one and needs to learn how to finish because we will need goals from midfield as we look light upfront.
Scott Wagstaff 5 - I think he may come into contention as Zheng Zhi and Bailey leave (possibly Shelvey too).
Andy Gray 7 - I get the impression he'd like to put Charlton behind him and move on after his personal nightmare. However, if we don't get any realistic offers (bearing in mind what we paid for him), and he might have to start with a clean slate. There must be League One goals in him.
Deon Burton 5 - He'll score more than this year, but so should just about everyone. Gets 10/10 for effort but he isn't quick enough or big enough to be a genuine goal threat.
Tresor Kandol 6 - Hasn't shown much so far, although Phil Parkinson seems to see something I can't. Hasn't exactly cracked it at this level previously.
Danny Butterfield 6 - Not sure he'll be around either but if we make him permanent he may feature if Parkinson is still in charge.
Chris Dickson 6 - I really hope Dicko gets his chance and starts knocking them in. However, he has looked very naive when he has played and I can appreciate the managerial view that he doesn't do what he's told; he runs all over the place when he comes on and is guilty of being selfish.
TOTAL = 92 points
So, there you have it. I guess I have to wonder where this squad would have got us in 1980-81. I've got to think mid-table and the chances are that we might start with a weaker playing squad than this. Ooh er....