A bit of good news, first. Readers of Stamping Grounds may be interested to know that the former captain of Liechtenstein Patrik Hefti and his lovely wife Shannon have had a baby girl, Grace Serene Hefti. Hats in the air and big brass band to Heftis large and small.
With Charlton losing again at home last night and easing into the bottom places of the Championship like a man easing himself into a hot bath, I am experiencing a serene equilibrium. When I first began supporting them during the 1979-80 season Charlton were arguably the worst team in Britain and were practically relegated by Christmas. When you lose 6-0 to Wrexham, you know you’ve got problems. I’m of the opinion that the default setting for your team’s place in the great scheme of things is the one it has when you first support them. Hence I’ve spent the best part of three decades aware that Charlton aren’t very good. Indeed, that anything other than a heavy defeat is a miracle.
Over the last decade however, Charlton have consistently threatened a kind of aimless mediocrity. They would win on occasions, sometimes against the likes of Arsenal, Spurs and, amusingly regularly, Chelsea. Beating Crystal Palace became less of a sport and more like frying ants with a magnifying glass. It was all very odd.
But now, thanks in the main to manager Alan Pardew and the extraordinary legacy of the brief reign of Iain Dowie, Charlton are sinking towards the level they were at when I started going in my parka and NHS glasses. We even lost to Crystal Palace the other week.
The relief at this descent back into the hapless came back to me when I read a fantastic book recently called The Bromley Boys by Dave Roberts. It’s a long time since I’ve read a book about football, but this one’s different – it’s good for a start, unlike many football tomes of the last five years or so. Dave is fourteen in 1969 and watches Bromley home and away. I have to declare an interest here in that I was, in my teens, Bromley’s programme editor (officially verified as the youngest programme editor in the country by the Guinness Book of Records, fact fans) and also started a fanzine, worked behind the bar, served on the committee and on a couple of desperate occasions turned out for the reserves.
In the season covered by The Bromley Boys, Bromley are awful. I mean really dreadful. But as the season falls apart on the pitch, Dave develops his self-confidence and, for want of a better phrase, starts to find himself.
It’s a long time since I’ve recommended a football book to anyone, but The Bromley Boys gets a big thumbs-up from me, judging panel.
I’ve just sent the proofs for the new book back to Zoe, my frankly brilliant copy editor, so things are progressing more or less on schedule now that she’s corrected the numerous grammatical and factual howlers that I’d submitted in the manuscript hoping no-one would notice. I’ve also just sent two proposals for new books off to Agent Kremer so hopefully there’ll be good news on a new Connelly tome before long. Because, by crikey, if there’s one thing the literary world needs it’s more Connelly, right? Right..? Oh.
I’ve also been described as a ‘vibrant broadcaster’ by someone very high up at Radio 4, which is nice considering I’m doing precisely no broadcasting at the moment. Probably best.