Team Spirit

CAST member Pam Boorman reflects on the importance of team spirit.

After building the team in pre-season, Charlton have had mixed fortunes so far. A blistering 5 – 1 win at home to Plymouth, Sean Clare’s goal, assisted by crowd shouts of “shoot!”  up for goal of the month, raised hopes for a good campaign  with a team to cheer to the end.

That hasn’t happened and after the two away 3-1 losses and a series of one all draws, the team appeared to lose heart and fans hopes faded. At Barnsley, play seemed to slow and Charlton’s ability to find players in space and to get passes to each other seemed to disappear. A consolation goal from Jack Payne showed good connection with Jayden Stockley and Miles Leaburn but there was no celebration or encouraging one another to spur them on to get more. Their mood seemed to match the colour of their shirts as they wore the blue third kit.

Last Saturday, at home to Oxford, something had changed and not just during the game. Earlier in the week, the squad had been at The Valley for the team photo for this season, followed by a visit to the museum. They were together and saw the history that had gone before them and knew they could be a part of that.

Previously after the warm up, individual players applauded the crowd as they walked off but on Saturday, that was different. They still applauded the crowd, but they did it as a team, across the pitch in front of the home end before disappearing into the tunnel. They stuck together as a team.

On the pitch before the start, each player went to the others and hugged, touched hands, patted backs just as the play-off winning team did in the 2018/19 season. It connected every player; it was “good luck, I’m here for you”.

Obviously the first half against Oxford didn’t go to plan; the connection evident before the game seemed lost but not for the second half. Two substitutions and a change of formation brought the connection back. The team worked hard for one another and for the fans. They looked determined to score and to show they could play a good game. They worked together and they never gave in. That was why they scored that goal. Jayden Stockley may be the name on the scoresheet but it could have been Scott Fraser, Miles Leaburn, Charlie Kirk, Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, Mandela Egbo or any of them. It started on the halfway line with George Dobson and ended with a great assist from Charlie for Jayden to get it past two defenders in the goal, another on the line and the goalie out to the right of his goal, getting up from under another Oxford player. That was Charlton’s teamwork. That was the team spirit back, never giving in and winning every battle.

Goal celebrations with fans and team players changed the atmosphere and the players had their “12th man”* back. Right to the final whistle there was a belief that Charlton could win, we could win. The team gave everything that second half. The “never say die – battle to the end” attitude showed them as football warriors equal to getting Charlton back up the league table and into leagues above. Ben Garner believes that Charlton can be successful** so let’s hope “Ben Garner’s red army” can keep their team spirit because we need a team to believe in. On Saturday we got that.

*Fans were called the “12th man” back in 2017/18 and 2018/19 season by Lee Bowyer.

**See Valley Review from Saturday 1st October 2022, pages 4 and 5.