Monday, 9 May 2016

Charlton Athletic Nil v Burnley 3

A very full and hectic weekend schedule which began on Friday, means I am last to the party with my thoughts on Saturday's encounter with Champions Burnley and the efforts of our fans to show maximum protest at the unacceptable face of football club ownership and management.

The Valley was a cauldron of noise on Saturday. The travelling claret and blue army from Lancashire sang their hearts out to urge their team on for the Championship whilst the home fans screamed abuse from three stands at the absentee Shareholder and the Puppet Meire.

The war on the home fans was also cranked up a notch by Meire who went to new depths to alienate and embitter her Customers. Hundreds of new Stewards were deployed pre-game to body search all home fans and their bags on entry to the stadium. She had also added the Orwellian imposition of a twenty foot high netting in front of the revolting peasants who now occupy the cheap seats in the Lower North. It might only be £175 for a season ticket there next season but none of the early bird purchasers would have known they would watch next season from a cage. It was something Ken Bates would have approved of thirty years ago when football hooliganism was at it's zenith. 

I met three Burnley fans at the station, a father I work with and his two grown-up sons. They have been to the Valley with me before and enjoyed pre and post match hospitality in the local Charlton pubs although they have always managed to watch the match from their end. This time they had to rely upon my help to secure tickets with me and they watched the match respectfully from the East although the younger son couldn't stop an involuntary leap from his seat when they took the lead. Those around us looked on with knowing smiles because the game was all about Burnley. We played very well in parts and Tom Heaton kept the Clarets in it with a couple of fine diving saves but you knew they would score and that the floodgates would open.

On the way in my guests stopped to put bets on, first scorer and anytime scorer. I told them to double it with 3-0, which they all did. At least it provided us with a whip for the Prosecco in the White Swan after the match (pints too!).

CARD played yet another blinder this week. They managed to ensure a relatively low-key protest was sustained throughout the day which ensured the game wasn't delayed or abandoned and they did so with superb press releases in Lancashire which got the Burnley fans on side and also managed a classy 'good luck' advert in the Brighton Evening Argos on Friday "from all your friends at CARD."

The decision not to spend protest money on throwables was perfectly timed to coincide with Clumsy's turnstile search although that didn't stop furious fans from throwing whatever they had to hand onto the pitch during the game to show their disgust at the new cage and the heavy-handed Stewarding as well as necessary policing, although the boys in blue were probably being deployed in case of major disappointment for the visitors. 

During the game we had my personal highlight of the season, a Charlton couple (by the looks of things) who carried out a lone-wolf protest brilliantly. They managed to drape a large bedsheets from the upper tier of the West displaying the work 'LIAR' in large letters with a huge arrow pointing downwards. They were in the press row and it was clear that they needed to move to their right to get the banner above the head of the biggest Liar in the ground. The East Stand duly obliged with howls of 'left, left' and mass gesticulation. At the point they halted, there was a brilliant snap taken which I attach here. One of Meire's Stormtroopers snatched the banner shortly afterwards but the job had been executed brilliantly and I think the gallant couple managed to resume their seats for the rest of the match - who said love is dead? No doubt the club will be scouring the database in an effort to ban them in future but nothing can ever take that away from them. My Burnley guest were throughly enjoying the home fans show and were amongst the first on their feet applauding loudly and directing traffic.

In the second-half we had another pitch invader who did a lap of honour gesticulating strongly at the Directors Box but by this time, Meire and Murray had already fled for their own protection. The lad was roughly grounded by clearly angry heavy-mob Stewards and Old Bill might need to look carefully at the footage because the force used looked excessive to me. They were clearly prepared for a fight and when another protester left the East Stand to run in front of the Sky cameras with a Roland out poster, he was caught by over-zealous Stewards who were again using excessive force. To be fair, this guy was struggling. I am not sure he had entered the pitch but so angry were the fans who witnessed the man-handling that soon a posse appeared on the touchline and he was wrestled back. He was apprehended behind the East and was pinned up against the wall by a dozen authority figures as we left the ground. I hope common sense prevailed but I will gladly pay his fine, if not.

We then came to final scenes of the season and something quite amazing happened. With the forces of law, order and small-mindedness ringing the home stands, the door was left open for the jubilant Burnley fans to pour down onto the pitch and they did so with gusto. Charlton fans were attempting to join the party but the first few on were pursued in comic fashion by Stewards incensed that their wall had been breached. Hilarious to see them running through herds of Burnley fans in pursuit of lone Addicks. At this point the dynamics of the situation appeared to change and the visiting fans turned their attention to chants of "give them their club back" and were clearly assisting Charlton fans to evade Stewards. The pressure of Charlton fans at the fence grew and shortly hundreds were filing along the walkways and cascading down the stairs of the East Stand which was less well defended. Inevitably the trickle turned to a pour and soon hundreds of Addicks were on the pitch and leading the chanting for Regime change. It was an impressive sight and a more impressive sound. The Police could clearly not be bothered and the Riot Squad and horses looked on with amusement as Stewards tried in vain to remember the 'no-nonsense' briefings they were given before the game. 

Sorry Meire but you can't beat the people and once again you were out-manoeuvred and out-thought by your Customers. Then we had the moment of retribution. With Meire and Murray having long since fled to hide in the bowels of the stadium, the fans turned on that symbol of Belgian brilliance, the Fans Sofa. It was torn to pieces by the victorious fans. I don't think they will bother with a replacement.

CARD also lead an effective sit-down demonstration behind the West Stand pre-match, the unexpected success of which must surely inspire a repeat next season if, God-forbid, they are still here. All-in-all a really eventful day and one that will live long in the memory of both sets of supporters. Other Burnley fans celebrating in the White Swan told me they were hugely impressed with our protests and they all got the spirit of what we were doing whilst trying to ensure their club weren't disadvantaged. They were all grateful for the applause they received from the home stands when they ran onto the pitch and when parading their 'Champions' flag in front of the East Stand.

Roland and Katrien - Time to Go.


Anonymous said...

I was in the west stand between the fans and the Directors' box and those chants in broad Burnley accents of "Give then their Clu-u-b back" were spine chilling - what a fantastic, horrific, saddening, heartening and passionate day..

Anonymous said...

Last to the party, but always an exellent read! The Burnley fans were class - they could have sung a few piss taking songs during the game but didn't - same as the last time they came to the Valley, they just got on with a good solid support of their own team. To see them join in with our protest, when they had so much to celebrate themselves, was inspiring. Its ironic that the erection of the wire fence was such an iconic memory of the hooligan days of the 80s, yet the enduring memory of Saturday was fans in harmony, and the pigs and stewards acting the role of hooligans.

I managed to launch three nutty bars and two milkyways on the pitch (I knew they'd be searching us) and got on to the pitch at the end to take part in the ritual dismemberment of the sofa. In a real quandary over what to do next season. Don't want to put money in the Rat's hands but really enjoy the protesting.

Pembury Addick

Dave said...

PA - pick and choose your games with protest in mind. I think we might find we have a 'protest club' established in a few locals where those who refuse to pay entry money meet to protest and follow events on TV.