Remembering the Addicks: Charlton Athletic’s bow

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.

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.

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