I am off to Valencia tomorrow for some meetings and I am not sure what internet connection I will have, so I am taking a look at the Stevenage game today.
Stevenage was one of the first and most controversial of the post-war new towns, the Labour planner minister of the time arriving at the railway station on a visit to find that the boards bore the legend 'Silkingrad'.
The football fortunes of the post-war new towns have been mixed, to say the least. If we leave aside the special case of Milton Keynes, which received a transferred franchise from Wimbledon, Stevenage are the most successful of the new town sides. Crawley are now in League 2, with the aid of a substantial injection of cash. Harlow and Hemel Hempstead are quite a way down the non-league pyramid and Basildon and Bracknell are so far down as to be almost invisible. In Scotland, Clyde followed some of its supporters to the new town of Cumbernauld.
The challenge that new town sides face is that potential supporters often retain their old allegiances in London which are often transmitted down the generations. So I would expect that quite a few people in Harlow support either Spurs or Arsenal, while there are probably a good number of West Ham supporters in Basildon. Kent doesn't have a new town (unless one counts the expansion of Ashford) so there is no analogy for Charlton. New town teams can only compete on price and also by building up support among the young.
Stevenage have achieved back-to-back promotions with what Four Two Two has described as 'an uncompromising brand of football that occasionally stretches the boundaries of fair play. As the message spreads, opponents and referees are wising up and it will be interesting to see how much natural ability they have to fall back on.' Last season they picked up 70 yellow and 9 red cards. Their bench and some of their players were involved in a melée at Huddersfield on Saturday.
27-year old defensive stalwart Ronnie Henry is the fans' hero and has made more than 250 appearances. Keeper Alan Julian returned from Gillingham while defender Phil Edwards was signed from Accrington, one of a number of signings from League 2 clubs. Charm merchant manager Graham Westley is adored by the fans and is regarded as the most successful in the club's history.
The Times forecast that they would finish bottom of League 1, but Four Four Two was more confident, praising their defence and putting them 12th. Stevenage are currently 15th, having won two, drawn two and lost two at home but scoring 12 goals in the process.
I think this is a tricky fixture, not least because of the limited away accommodation which sold out quickly. Stevenage will be looking for a 'big club' scalp to add lustre to their season and I think this could be our first defeat in the league at 2-1. My bigger concern is that a key Charlton player picks up a serious injury from a clogger.
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