By Ben Hayes
‘When Football was Football: Charlton Athletic - a nostalgic look at a century of the club’ by Michael Walsh (£25 published by Haynes).
My initial impressions were not good.
The title is bad enough, harking back as it does to a mythical past when football was somehow more football than football is now.
And it is a part of a series - a series published by Haynes.
Now they are a fine publishing company I’m sure, but don’t they do car manuals?
And the front page tells us ‘From the archives of the Daily Mirror’, so everything was shouting cliché-ridden, hastily put together, cut and paste cash in.
Only it isn’t.
The main reason is that the author, uncredited on the dust cover for some strange reason, is a Charlton fan - and a fan who can write.
Michael Walsh is an associate sports editor for the Sunday People, as well as author of a number of books on the Great War.
Combine a real feeling for the club and its history, good and bad, with a surprisingly strong and varied set of photographs, and you have a coffee table book that will fascinate new or younger fans and delight older, long suffering Addicks.
The pictures are not always of games but sometimes of human interest stories such as Sam Bartram’s wedding or the tragic funeral for George Green’s 18-month-old son.
The big matches and events are all there but there are a number of pre-season shots, perhaps never previously used, with biographies of the stars from the 1930s.
There are other legends profiled up to the 21st century.
There are a worrying number of naked or semi-naked shots - a young Paul Walsh in the shower, a group of players from the mid-1950s squashed together in a communal bath at The Valley, but most disconcerting is Derek Hales wearing only that trademark beard and a far too tight pair of hotpants.
Moving quickly on, there are plenty of behind the scenes from The Valley.
I’d never realised just how ornate the old, Tudor-style boardroom was.
I do remember just how big, and in some places ramshackle, the old Valley was but the photos, and the book, are loving if also realistic.
The making of the book, though, is the clear layout that mixes facts, history, photos and quotes without making the page look too busy.
As we wait for more signings and eagerly look to see who will be the new legends to write the next few chapters in our club’s history, I’ll finish with a quote taken from the book from Dean Kiely which for me sums up what I want Charlton to be about.
“I’m a footballer, a commodity, a piece of meat, call it what you will, but at Charlton they care about their commodities, they care about their players and as player it is rare that you get that feeling at a club.”
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