1992Back to The Valley
After seven long years, it was finally announced that Charlton would be returning home and the dream was realised on December 5th, 1992. Portsmouth were the opponents on what was to be one of the most memorable and emotional days in the club’s history.
With the old East Terrace condemned, The Valley was a three-sided ground, with a temporary structure in place of the West Stand, while portakabins served as club offices and changing rooms. But it was home and a capacity crowd of 8,337 packed into the famous old stadium to witness a historic moment.
Colin Walsh etched his name is Addicks folklore, scoring the first goal back in SE7 in the seventh minute and it proved to be the only goal of the game, with Charlton celebrating their return with a 1-0 victory.
1995Alan Curbishley takes sole charge
Prior to the 1995/96 season, Steve Gritt departed, leaving Alan Curbishley in sole charge as Manager.
His first season going solo saw him lead a play-off charge as the club’s youth setup continued to bear fruit. The likes of Shaun Newton, Richard Rufus and Lee Bowyer had forced their way into the first team as the Addicks finished sixth, but ultimately lost out to Crystal Palace over two legs in the semi-finals of the play-offs.
In the summer of 1996, Bowyer was sold to Leeds United for £2.8m, a then-British-record fee for a teenager.
1998The greatest ever game
In the summer of 1998, Alan Curbishley splashed out a then-club-record fee for striker Clive Mendonca from Grimsby Town for £750,000. He would prove to be the final piece of the puzzle, firing the Addicks to the Premier League in the most dramatic way possible.
Charlton enjoyed an impressive 1997/98 season and ended it in extremely positive fashion, with goalkeeper Sasa Ilic, who had been plucked from non-League weeks earlier, setting a new club record by keeping seven consecutive clean sheets in the last seven league games of the season as Curbishley’s men secured fourth place.
That record was extended by a further two games with a pair of 1-0 victories over Ipswich Town in the play-off semi-finals, booking a place at Wembley to face Sunderland for a place in the top flight.
The 77,739 Charlton and Sunderland fans who flocked to the famous Twin Towers witnessed one of the most epic matches the old stadium had ever seen as Mendonca fired the Addicks ahead with a classy finish before half-time.
Ilic’s clean-sheet record was expelled five minutes into the second half with Niall Quinn equalising for the Mackems before they took the lead shortly after courtesy of Kevin Phillips’ strike.
Mendonca fired back with 19 minutes remaining with another quality finish, but Sunderland got their noses ahead once again with Quinn’s second just two minutes later.
The Addicks were not finished, however, and Richard Rufus popped up with his first senior goal in his 165th match to make it 3-3 with five minutes left on the clock, forcing extra time.
Nicky Summerbee struck Sunderland ahead yet again in the 99th minute, but indestructible Charlton just would not lay down and Mendonca produced his third top-class goal of a topsy-turvy afternoon, becoming the first player to score a hat-trick in a play-off final as the game went to a penalty shootout after an incredible 4-4 draw.
Nerves were well and truly shredded and it would only get worse as every one of the first 12 penalties that were taken were put away successively, leaving Sunderland’s Michael Gray to step up with the score at 7-6 in sudden death.
The defender’s penalty was tame and Ilic guessed the right way, sparking wild celebrations as the Addicks revelled in a return to the top flight, with inspirational captain Mark Kinsella climbing the steps to the Royal Box to lift the trophy.
Mendonca’s heroics ensured his position as a club legend and he finished the season with a total of 28 goals from 46 games.