Heather McKinlay – new CAST chair

I am thrilled to be taking on the role as Chair of CAST. I am following on from three previous Chairs in eight years. Barnie Razzell’s drive and enthusiasm launched and established the Supporters’ Trust back in 2012. Steve Clarke brought calmness and dedication during his stint in the chair - we all miss him enormously since his recent untimely passing. Since 2016 through torrid times, Richard Wiseman proved to be a safe and reliable pair of hands, as befits a former goalie (despite once letting in more than Perry Suckling though he insists he was man of the match). I unashamedly plan to steal the “best bits” from each of my predecessors. I’m conscious these are big boots to fill and will be relying very much on fellow board members who bring plenty of skill, knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for Charlton.

I joined the board of the Supporters’ Trust in January 2015, at a time when the relationship between the majority of supporters and the club ownership was slipping into cold war mode, operating on a spectrum from aloof cold shoulder to out and out protest. There’s no need here to recount the goings-on of the last five years, let alone the past rollercoaster year. I’ve certainly felt that we’ve been through much at CAST – from establishing our position as part of CARD, at the moderate end of the spectrum, to doing all the groundwork for “Our Club” in case fans needed to step in to save Charlton. Although I couldn’t bring myself to boycott matches, I did pull back on other spending relating to CAFC, from stopping buying a programme and merchandise to no longer having the occasional splash-out on a hospitality treat or player shirt sponsorship. I have to keep reminding myself now that it’s good to spend on club stuff again!

Even before Thomas Sandgaard officially and creatively completed his takeover, I was in regular contact with him. The first phone call from Colorado came as a great surprise – dialogue even before he was an owner! Interactions since have continued to be honest, transparent and in a spirit of mutual co-operation, and long may that last – perhaps all the way to the Premier League and into Europe if he stays true to his ambition.

I’m a little younger than Thomas, but like him, I was captivated by the Chelsea team of the 1970s, enthralled by watching them on TV. Dad soon showed me the error of my ways, bringing me along to The Valley to watch from the lofty heights of the East Terrace. I grew up in a council house in Belvedere, taking a circuitous bus journey to Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar, a dyed in the wool rugby-playing school where football was deeply frowned upon. It didn’t cure my Addicktion. I was the first in the family to get to university. Dad encouraged me to apply to Cambridge and I managed to get a place to study Dutch and French. Little did I realise that those skills would come into their own in the Charlton cause, spending many an hour translating Roland’s rants and Belgian media articles.

I loved football but had never had the chance to play. One night in the bar in my first week at college, I happened to remark that I fancied having a go. One of the boys offered to coach us and before long we had the semblance of a female squad, mainly converted from the hockey team and all absolute beginners at the age of 18-19. Our biggest challenge, beyond kicking - let alone heading -the ball, was finding opposition. Mixed matches with the boys were all well and good but lacked a real purpose – and it was only when we came to register with the FA that we realised they were also totally against the rules! This was in the mid-80s - women’s football had been banned outright until 1971. A chance encounter at lectures led to the discovery of two other formative women’s teams and within a term we had set-up a league and cup competition, encouraging many more colleges to join in. I captained the Churchill College team from right midfield, modelling myself on the combativeness of Bryan Robson, though without an ounce of the footballing ability! In my final year we reached the cup final and drew the first midweek match. The replay was re-arranged at short notice for that Saturday afternoon. In a bit of a huff, I chose to make my already-planned coach journey to London and onward to Selhurst Park, where I watched helplessly as Charlton succumbed to Luton. Returning to college that evening, I discovered that my team had won the cup without me. I didn’t have the heart to join the celebrations. I’ve put Charlton first on many an occasion in my life but that was probably the most foolish! Well, maybe a round-trip of nearly 1,000 miles to watch us lose midweek in December to Wycombe Wanderers isn’t too far behind.

I left London a long time ago as the result of marrying a Northern Irishman who didn’t take to the big city. We are now settled in Scotland, and our home is near Campbeltown, where my Dad was originally from. Every now and again I’ll make the trip along the long and winding single track road to the Mull of Kintyre and belt out a rendition of Valley Floyd Road. I left the city of my birth on condition that I’d still get to watch Charlton “live” once a month or so. Until the extraordinary circumstances of this year, I’ve stayed pretty true to that, flying down south or driving to northern away games. The other half still pays the price for dragging me away from the south-east: he gets to come along to watch the Addicks too and has long-since abandoned his childhood allegiance to Tottenham.

If some good has come for me personally from the Charlton drama of the past five to ten years it is that I now feel properly connected again in Charlton circles. Through the Roland era, I’ve got to know – and count as friends - many more Addicks. I’ve even popped up as a guest on the Charlton Live radio show – good practice for representing Charlton fans on various media channels over the past few months. The football is important, of course, but in recent years it is the fellowship of fans that has kept me engaged.

Our motto as your Supporters’ Trust is to protect, preserve and promote Charlton Athletic for this and future generations. We are brimming with ideas and initiatives to start this new chapter for the club under Thomas Sandgaard. It’s time to get back to focussing on the football, respecting the heritage and history of what makes Charlton so special while embracing the ambition and optimism of this new dawn. We all know this club has massive potential and as supporters we can be at the heart of unlocking that. I look forward to being your Chair and hope I can do justice to the role. We have a great team on the CAST board with an extensive range of skills. Do get to know us. Do email in your thoughts and ideas to chair@castrust.org. When the time comes, do find us on a matchday at our stall behind the Covered End at The Valley. Finally, we can be kids again, doing what we did again. Now come on you Addicks!