They Might Be Giants: The Big Six of League One

Charlton Athletic

Until I started researching this article, I had no idea that Charlton had won the FA Cup. Indeed the previous season to their triumph they were beaten finalists.

Founded in 1905, Charlton Athletic only turned professional in 1920, entering the Football League the following year. By 1936 they had won promotion to the First Division and were runners up in their first season in the top flight. In order to get to the First Division they had won successive promotions from the Third and Second Divisions. Their followed a golden period which spanned the 39 – 45 War drawing crowds of up to 70,000 to the Valley which had one of the largest capacities in English football and averaging over 40,000 in a season. It was in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War that they achieved their FA Cup success, reaching the final for the first time in 1946 when they were beaten 4 – 1 by Derby County and again in 1947 when they overcame Burnley by the only goal of the game. Lack of investment in both team and stadium took its toll and in 1957 their longest stay in the top flight came to an end with relegation to the Second Division. There they stayed until 1972 when a drop to the Third Division followed. Three years later they won promotion again but were relegated again five years later in 1980. The following season, as Colin Murphy guided the Imps into Division Three, Charlton were climbing out of it and back into Division Two. Murphy’s assistant at the time was Lenny Lawrence who was soon to join Charlton first as reserve team manager before being promoted to the first team job in 1982.

However, the Addicks were in a parlous financial state and administration followed in 1984. The club reformed as Charlton Athletic (1984) Ltd. Even so their problems were far from over and a period of exile from the Valley ensued as a direct result of the fallout from the Valley Parade tragedy. On the field (Selhurst Park) the club had more success, winning promotion back to the First Division in 1986 where they remained until 1990. The club returned to the Valley in December 1992 but had needed to sell players in order to do so.

Charlton’s return to what was now the Premier League came at the expense of Sunderland in what has been described as one of the most thrilling encounters to take place at Wembley Stadium. With the sides drawing 4 – 4 after extra time, the Addicks won 7 – 6 on penalties, remaining in England’s top flight until 2007.

It is probably fair to say Charlton have been in the doldrums ever since with the club switching between the Championship and League One and a succession of different owners, the most disastrous of which has to have been Belgian Roland Duchatalet whose running of the club was nothing short of calamitous. A succession of managers came and went, all in pretty short order and only Lee Bowyer, appointed first as caretaker in March 2018, managed to stay beyond a few months. Bowyer departed in March 2021 to take the helm at Birmingham City to be replaced by the present incumbent, Nigel Adkins. Amid a period of relative managerial stability, matters in the boardroom were anything but.

Although Duchatalet’s ownership of the club seemingly came to an end with the takeover by Dubai based East Street Investments (ESI) between November 2019 and January 2020, a row between the new owners led to EFL approval being withdrawn. Meanwhile Duchatalet still owned the Valley and the team’s training ground. Soon after, ESI was itself taken over by Paul Elliott who himself then failed the EFL Owners and Directors test along with two other individuals in his consortium. By the start of the season just finished, Danish born, Colorado based businessman Thomas Sandgaard had acquired the club from ESI and was reported to have passed the Owners and Directors Test. Where the Charlton Athletic saga goes next is anybody’s guess but on the field at least they won’t be going anywhere for another season at least.

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