Things may be vastly different now, fan protests, ownership turmoil and stuck in League One but there was a time when Charlton were one of the fun, young exciting teams of the Premier League.
Having won one of the most exciting play-off finals in history against Sunderland, Alan Curbishley’s side took their place amongst the top table of English football boasting the likes of club legends Mark Kinsella and Richard Rufus as well as future England international Danny Mills and hoped to establish themselves as a Premier League mainstay.
Although they would have a seven-year stay in the top flight when they returned in 2000, their first season in the Premier League was brief, even if it flattered to deceive.
A 5-0 hammering of perennial strugglers Southampton for their first home game of the season was a brilliant re-introduction to the top flight for the Valley but in the end it would be Saints who would have the last laugh, finishing ahead of the Addicks by five points to secure survival at Charlton’s expense.
A decent start that saw them take 13 points in their first 10 games including credible draws at St. James’ Park, Highbury and Anfield was soon undone by a 13-game run without a win that lasted from the start of November to their first fixture in February.
A mini-revival which saw them edge a 4-3 classic at Villa Park that kept their season going to the final day, wasn’t enough and their loss to Sheffield Wednesday saw them relegated.
Curbishley kept a relatively unchanged team throughout the season, here’s how they lined up for their first Premier League bow away at Newcastle.
GK: Sasa Ilic
The Australian born Serbian goalkeeper kept 10 clean sheets in a row to lift the Addicks into the play-offs and saved Michael Gran’s decisive penalty in the 7-6 play-off final shootout victory but following relegation he lost his place to Dean Kiely and left the club in 2002 before retiring in 2005. Image Source: Twitter
RB: Danny Mills
Having only joined Charlton in March 1998, Mills lasted just 15 months at the Valley before moving to Leeds United for £4.1m during Peter Ridsdale’s big spending days. At Leeds he was part of David O’Leary’s team that got to both UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup semi-finals before moving to Manchester City in 2004. He was England’s first choice right-back in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Image Source: Twitter
CB: Richard Rufus
A one-club man, the centre half spent his entire 11-year career with Charlton with his most memorable moment being his equaliser in the closing minutes of the play-off final against Sunderland - his first ever professional goal. Although error prone at times - being sent-off after 25 minutes of Charlton’s 0-0 draw with Newcastle, he remained a vital cog but was never capped by England. In the end knee injures forced his retirement in 2004. Image Source: Twitter
CB: Eddie Youds
One of a few players with Premier League experience, Youds had played for Ipswich Town in the Premier League before his spell at Charlton, his experience couldn't save the Addicks, but he retained his place in the squad until 2002 when he was sold to Huddersfield Town. Image Source: Twitter
LB: Chris Powell
The veteran left-back had three spells with the Addicks, starting in 1998 when Charlton were promoted. He made almost 300 appearances over his three spells at the Valley and was later manager for three years winning League One and being named LMA League One Manager of the Year. He is currently the assistant manager of former club Derby County. Image Source: Twitter
RM: Shaun Newton
A homegrown player from the Charlton academy, Newton stayed with the South-east London club for eight years but would only make 13 league appearances in the top flight due to a knee ligament injury. After being ousted by Claus Jensen he was sold to Wolves in 2001 helping them to their promotion back to the top tier for the first time in 19 years. He completed a hat-trick of play-off promotions by helping West Ham to their re-promotion to the Premier League in 2005. Image Source: Twitter
CM: Mark Kinsella
The captain of the team, Kinsella was the beating heart of the Addicks midfield and was named Charlton Athletic Player of the Year in 1999 and at times was often the standout player in the team. Injuries curtailed his career as he lost his place to Scott Parker and was sold to Aston Villa where he struggled to recover from more setbacks, he eventually retired at Walsall in League Two in 2006 before taking charge of the Addicks reserves for two years and is the current assistant of Drogheda United. Image Source: Twitter
CM: Neil Redfearn
Redfearn had been Barnsley’s standout player during their only Premier League season the year prior but couldn't prevent the Yorkshire sides relegation. Redfearn struggled to settle in London and couldn’t prevent their relegation either and opted to return to Yorkshire signing for newly promoted Bradford City. Post-playing, he’s turned to coaching, managing Leeds United in the early days of Massimo Cellino’s ownership and later Rotherham United, although he was sacked as Millers boss after 21 games leaving them 22nd in the Championship. Image Source: Twitter
LM: John Robinson
Robinson spent 11 years with the London side having impressed at Bright & Hove Albion and made over 300 league appearances for the Addicks as well as winning 30 caps for Wales. He was released in 2003 and moved onto Cardiff City and Gillingham but retired from the Gills after just four games. Image Source: Twitter
ST: Andy Hunt
Hunt moved up a division on a free after an impressive partnership with Bob Taylor at West Bromwich Albion and had a decent two years in London, scoring 24 goals aiding Charlton’s return to the top flight after one season but Hunt had to retire from football in 2000 due to suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.
Image Source: Twitter
ST: Clive Mendonca
Mendonca’s hat-trick in the play-off final was the final one to be scored at the old Wembley part of his 28 goals in the season that saw them promoted. He would find the net just eight times in the Premier League, three of them scored in the second game of the season in the 5-0 drubbing of Southampton. Injury set-backs ended his career, he played his last game for Charlton in 1999 before retiring in 2002. Image Source: Twitter
SUB: Steve Brown
Brown came on for Hunt after less than half an hour due to Rufus’ sending off, the versatile defender spent 12 years with the Addicks and was one of the club’s most popular players. He played four games in goal for the club, including in the Premier League against Aston Villa and kept a clean sheet in all. Image Source: Twitter
SUB: Steve Jones
Joining for £400,000 in 1997, Jones struggled to make his mark for Charlton, only finding the net eight times in 53 league games before being moved on to Bristol City in 1999. He retired from football in 2002 due to injury. Image Source: Twitter
SUB: Paul Mortimer
Mortimer had two spells with Charlton at the start and tail end of his career playing as either a defender or midfielder, he missed a crucial penalty against Leeds which denied Charlton a crucial three points in their battle to beat the drop and like Jones moved to Bristol City in 1999 where he eventually retired in 2001. He would later return to the Valley to coach the Charlton Women’s team. Image Source: Twitter
As sad as Charlton’s relegation was after just one season, even sadder is the fates of a lot of these players, Rufus, Hunt, Mendonca and Jones all saw their careers prematurely ended by injuries.
This bunch may not be as fondly remembered as the likes of Scott Parker, Matt Hollands and Claus Jensen who finished as high as seventh with the Addicks in 2004 but to get Charlton amongst the big boys and give Curbishley the platform to return after just one season away is an achievement that shouldn’t be forgotten.