A new generation at Wembley

CAS Trust member Jamie Clarke previews Sunday's game from the perspective of someone deemed too young to be there in 1998...

Charlton Athletic head to Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon to play Sunderland in the League One play-off final. Nobody can forget what happened on the Addicks' previous appearance in a play-off final, but what has happened since that historic day?

  • Charlton and Sunderland have changed divisions a combined total of 13 times (Charlton six, Sunderland seven)
  • Wembley Stadium has been demolished and rebuilt from scratch
  • England men's football team have been defeated on penalties on four separate occasions
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google
  • Apple launched the first ever iPod
  • Six more books and eight films have been released in the Harry Potter franchise

​All of the above have taken place in the time since Charlton's last game at Wembley. However, there is one thing missing from that list, which is the most important of all - a whole new generation of Addicks supporters has been born.

Many of those who were at The Valley to witness Lee Bowyer and co secure our place in the play-off final will not have been alive in May of 1998 - or in my case, had parents who wrongly assumed their three year-old would be too young to appreciate going along. As much as any Charlton fan will not tire of seeing Clive Mendonca's magnificent treble that day, or indeed *that* Steve Brown tackle, younger supporters will be relishing the opportunity to behold the creation of new (and hopefully just as positive) memories this weekend.

Sunday's final against the Mackems is far more than just an opportunity to relive a famous afternoon of twenty-one years ago. It also has the potential to rekindle the spirit of the late nineties for a fresh, new cohort of Charlton followers. Alas, the match on Sunday will never be anything like the breathless bout of two decades before.

Or will it?

After all, our north eastern opponents have recorded a league-high 18 score draws this season and have only been kept out by opposition defences on two occasions. Charlton themselves are coming into this tie on the back of a penalty victory following a 4-4 draw, albeit over the course of two legs. Friday night's frantic affair was arguably the Addicks' least convincing home performance of the season, as the occasion seemed to get the better of them - something Bowyer will be looking to fix ahead of the trip to Wembley.

But what a trip to Wembley and a crowd of 36,000 Addicks will do is remind us all of how much fun it can be to support Charlton Athletic.

Whatever the result for Charlton this weekend, our fate for next season looks uncertain to say the least. Even a win and promotion to the Championship will not necessarily guarantee a positive future if the club are unable to rid themselves of Roland Duchatelet.

In Charlton's six appearances at the national stadium, their form reads: lose, win, lose, win, lose, win - a pattern which makes for worryingly ominous reading. Sunderland on the other hand have made eight appearances and, after winning on their first two visits, have lost six on the bounce since.

If these patterns are anything to go by, both teams are going to lose on Sunday.

But we know better...