#PrideOfTheValley | John Collins

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The #PrideOfTheValley campaign launched last season to reward the most dedicated Charlton fans. Each home league game, a fan is selected to win the award and the individual is presented with a signed shirt.

Today John Collins, who is 92, has been nominated by the Maidstone and Weald supporters group. John has been watching the club for 83 years and was at Wembley for the club’s triumphant 1947 FA Cup Final win.

We asked John for some of his Charlton memories…

Why I became a Charlton fan: At 9-years-old I returned home from school one day and asked him if he would take me to see Arsenal. He said it's too far and after a pause, said that Charlton was much nearer and that they had just been promoted to the old First Division. I reluctantly agreed, and that was that for 83 years.

My first game at The Valley was: In 1936 but I don't remember the opposition. This was the season that we finished second to Manchester City having been promoted in the previous two seasons. Finishing second after two promotions is still a record I believe. This was followed in the next two seasons by finishing fourth and third.

On April 26th 1947 I was: At Wembley. It is noteworthy that my future wife chose to collapse on the terraces at Wembley (due to the heat) at the very moment that Chris Duffy scored the winning goal against Burnley in the 1947 FA Cup Final.

On May 25th 1998 I was: At Wembley. Memories - Clive Mendonca's fantastic hat-trick, Shaun Newton's final penalty kick which he clearly didn't want to take, Sasa Ilic saving Michael Gray's penalty, great joy at the end, Alan Curbishley flinging himself on top of Sasa Ilic!

On May 26th 2019 I was: Ill at home watching the match on TV with several members of my extended family. Memories - the horrific own goal, the excellent equaliser and the stunning winner. Great joy again.

My favourite Charlton game (not including the play-off finals) is: The 1947 FA Cup Semi-Final against Newcastle at Elland Road. We heard a rumour before the match that many of the Charlton players were suffering from food poisoning. We found out afterwards that this was true and several were actually sick at half time. Before the start the players were told that they had better score in the first half as they wouldn't be up to scoring in the second. Newcastle supporters brought a coffin draped with a Charlton flag which they paraded around the ground before the match. They were sporting enough to repeat this after the match with a Newcastle flag over the coffin as we had just thrashed them 4-0. (I would like to pay tribute to football supporters from the North East, in particular the Sunderland supporters, who have been gracious in congratulating us after both of the play-off finals when they must have been bitterly disappointed).

My favourite Charlton player is: Eddie Firmani, who was always very exciting to watch in the 1950s and 1960s. It often appeared as if the ball was attached to his ankle. He scored many great goals, often assisted by Stuart Leary and Bobby Ayre.

In those days injured players often returned to the first team at centre forward as this position was regarded as being less subject to fierce tackles than at full back where Eddie had been playing before injury. He was so successful as a forward that he never played elsewhere again.

The best part of being a Charlton fan is: often succeeding when unexpected (and vice versa !) and always feeling at home at The Valley as opposed to being very uncomfortable at Selhurst Park and Upton Park.

My all-time Charlton XI would be: Dean Kiely, Billy Bonds, Frank Lock, Bert Johnson, Derek Ufton, Mark Kinsella, Gordon Hurst, Bobby Ayre, Eddie Firmani, Stuart Leary, Keith Peacock

Subs: Sam Bartram, Don Welsh, Harold Hobbis, Scott Parker, Lee Bowyer, Clive Mendonca, Derek Hales

The Charlton player of the season will be: Conor Gallagher

The game I am most looking forward to is: Today's match as this is an honour for me.

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