This is a piece I wrote for the Charlton v Hartlepool programme today, the day Charlton were presented with the League One Championship trophy.
There are many wrenches when you leave your home country to settle in another but for me by far the hardest separation has been from the Addicks. As emigrations go mine is of a pretty low wattage – for the past four years I’ve lived in Dublin, a city not much further from The Valley than some names on the fixture list – yet I am still an Addick in exile with all the yearning and wistfulness that go with that. Especially on days like today.
At first there was the guilt of separation: having given my whole life to my team only to desert it voluntarily for new and distant pastures I could never meet the reproachful gaze of my specky, Charlton-obsessed, nine-year-old self.
But pride soon took over, an intense pride drawn from all those years I’d invested in my local team; the memories of so many great games, comical defeats and goalless bore-athons.
I’ve had cause to draw deep on that pride over here, too. In Ireland most people support a big English club. They refer to Liverpool or Manchester United as ‘we’, which grates a little, while scoffing at the neglected League Of Ireland clubs at the hearts of their communities, which grates a lot.
Being neither able nor willing to enthuse about “Giggsy’s” loyalty or “Stevie G’s” pass completion makes me a football outsider here, but my pride in supporting a club hewn from the community that made me is what keeps me going even if it can be a lonely existence. Apart from my long-suffering fiancée – from Mayo and not a football fan – there’s no-one with whom I can really share the Charlton part of my life.
Thank goodness, then, for the internet. The #cafc Twitter hashtag and the club’s official Twitter feed help me to feel like I still somehow belong, especially during matches. Where my old Saturday routine involved a train from Abbey Wood or a bus to Charlton village, now it’s a cup of tea in front of the computer, a check-in with the small but lively ‘Irish Addicks’ Facebook group and the real-time Twitter commentary from those of you at the game.
It’s not the same as being there of course, but when you’re displaced like me it’s certainly the next best thing: like The Valley itself Twitter has its share of wits, whiners, pessimists and prophets and when we score I still yell just like I used to in my seat in the North Upper, only now I’m also typing, like everyone else, ‘YEEEEESSSSSS!!!’.
When promotion was confirmed at Carlisle I had a little cry. When we became champions a fortnight ago I had another one. Doubtless I’ll be blubbing today too, sentimental old big-girl’s-blouse that I am.
As you read this I’m at home in Ireland living this special day through you lot. And, erm, having a little cry. But on behalf of all us exiled fans: thank you, tweeting Addicks, for making us feel such a part of this amazing season.