Trust member David Mentiply take a lighthearted look at finding a new rival for the club
Part of what makes football interesting is the great rivalries that exist between different clubs. There’s El Classico in Spain, the Old Firm in Scotland, the Black Country Derby in the Midlands, and even the so-called Friendly Derby on Merseyside. As Charlton supporters, we love to hate our two south London neighbours. But no matter how hard we try, they’ve never truly reciprocated. The resentment shown towards the Stripey Nigels or Spanners is one-way. They’re already preoccupied with Seagulls, Irons and each other. So it’s about time we moved on and found ourselves a new rival.
Gillingham’s a good place to start. They’re fairly local and already dislike us for running Valley Express coaches from the Medway to Charlton. Many Gills fans see this as an act of blatant intrusion onto their territory. Problem is, Charlton fans are generally a reasonable bunch. So I think we can probably sympathise with the Gills on this one – if and when West Ham start aggressive marketing this side of the river to fill their new stadium in Stratford, we’ll feel similarly aggrieved. So sorry Gillingham, we’ll continue with the coaches but can’t promise any rancour from our end.
The reason for a rivalry with Crewe Alexandra would surely rank as one of the best in the world. Ever. Their fans are an irritant to many Addicks on Twitter because they sometimes mistakenly use the #CAFC hashtag. For the uninitiated, that’s the official Charlton hashtag. Crewe Alexandra Football Club already have two pithy, ready-made alternatives in #Crewe or #Alex. We don’t. That’s why they should back off from the #CAFC hashtag. Or else … we’ll see it as a sign that they want a full-blown rivalry with South London’s finest. But no, a rivalry based on a hashtag would only reinforce our reputation as anoraks. So best to continue our hunt for a proper rival.
Inspired by our new best friends down the road in Croydon, why don’t we start something with a team that’s based many miles away? After all, if Palace and Brighton still manage to maintain a fierce rivalry with each other (even though they are rarely in the same division nowadays), surely the Addicks and Terriers can muster something up? Fortunately, there’s already some animosity on their part. There’s the famous 7-6 comeback victory (with just ten men) over Bill Shankly’s team at The Valley in 1957. We also ended their 43 game unbeaten run when we were League 1 promotion rivals in 2011. But Huddersfield already have local rivals in Leeds, Bradford and Barnsley so I think we’ll have to look elsewhere.
Another rivalry based on internet beef – this time, fan message boards. When Charlton ran away with the League title in the 2011-12 season with 101 points, Wednesday were our closest challengers. Throughout the season, Charlton fans grew increasingly exasperated at what they perceived as arrogance from some Owls fans who referred to Wednesday as a ‘massive’ club with a huge fan-base and prestigious history. They seemed to think they had a divine right to promotion. Little old plucky Charlton do not take kindly to being patronised. A rivalry of sorts now exists on social media in the lead-up to our games. Fuel has also been added to the fire recently with Chris Powell’s crossbar celebration antics at Hillsborough and a number of well-thought-of players moving either way (Madjid Bougherra, Michael Morrison and Jose Semedo ). Truth is, though, Charlton would always play second-fiddle to Wednesday’s city-centre rivals Sheffield United if a proper rivalry were to emerge. That lets the ‘Massive’ off the hook.
For now, the hunt goes on. One day, we’ll find a set of fans who are worthy enough to call themselves our main rivals. Until then, we’re happy to continue our rivalry with the Nigels and the Spanners - reciprocal or not.