My face carries a look of disappointment whenever a new acquaintance tells me they’re not into sport. It probably looks similar to how it would if I’d just seen I was one number away from winning the lottery.
For not only are my options limited in terms of what I can discuss with sportophobes, but I feel genuinely sorry that they have not embraced the wonderful feelings sport can provide.
The unforgettable moments, the life-changing experiences and the pure enjoyment and entertainment it gives are arguably unmatchable, at least for those whose lives are completely engrossed by sport.
And it is football that provides the most powerful examples of such incredible emotions, in addition with a few feelings that are exclusive, at least in their scale, to football.
One of those is that sense of belonging all supporters have to their club; a shared identity that moulds fans and the notion of the ‘club’ together. Charlton supporters have experienced the extremes of such feelings over the years, especially seen in the campaign to get the Addicks back to The Valley. Unity and pride.
It can also be experienced in the stands. Take that much talked about Cardiff comeback game in 2012 as an example, with supporters unified in the face of adversity, and the players responding with a performance that matched the passion from those offering their support.
And those feelings expressed inside a ground lead to another factor that makes football so special. For Football, to an extent that other sports cannot match, is partisan. Vigorous support is constantly demanded for your club, with questions constantly raised about what makes a ‘real fan’, while rivalries make the game all the more special.
It’s probably football’s partisan nature that means some Charlton fans are reluctant, if not aggressively against, welcoming Chris Powell back to The Valley on Saturday when he returns with his Huddersfield side. Showing appreciation to Powell, some suggest, means supporters are not performing their duty; to support Charlton Athletic.
There has been no issues with welcoming back other legends to the club, so I don’t particularly understand this. Darren Bent was applauded before the game against Derby on Tuesday, and even had his name sung by the travelling Addicks come full-time, despite Bent helping the opposition to victory.
So those very few who argue he is not worthy of a good reception are not worth listening to. But, in an attempt to make sense of why a very small minority are so against giving Powell a reception, the argument that showing recognition in some way detracts from supporting the Addicks, and by association will have a negative impact on their performance, is one that must be considered.
That consideration, however, is minimal. Or at least minimal from my perspective as the type of football fan I am.
I want to make it very clear that I am not attempting to be provocative in anyway. I just feel there is a need to explain why I will be showing as much appreciation as possible to Powell on Saturday, when others have suggested they won’t be.
For me, those unforgettable moments, a sense of belonging and the partisan feel football provides are matched by the connections you develop with players and managers.
I have no shame in admitting I have grown as attached to some who have represented the club as the club itself. It would appear doing so is frowned upon by some supporters, but it is Darren Bent, Johnnie Jackson and Yann Kermorgant who have given me unforgettable experiences as much as it is Charlton Athletic Football Club.
Without the actors, there would be no films. And without the people, there would be no Charlton.
And Chris Powell, as a player and manager, has provided me with more moments than anyone else. I don’t need to list them, as I have done so several times before (largely here and here), but when a man is at the centre of some of the best days of your life, it would be wrong not to respect and worship him. Undoubtedly a Charlton legend.
He, and his side, also provided some much needed sanity to my life. I have admitted this before, so again have no shame in writing it again, but I have long put up with a nagging sort of depression that comes and goes when it feels necessary.
To have something I was engrossed in, led by a figure I believed in, with a side that embodied his spirit and gave me hope, optimism and positivity, was so often vitally needed.
Even in those desperate final months, where Roland Duchatelet’s actions were making his job impossible, he still managed to instil belief and respond with arguably the best few days of my life at a time when I was at a very personal low.
That he did so in such conditions, the nature of them reaffirmed today, only increases my respect for him.
It goes without saying that my appreciation for Powell is extreme. Probably too extreme. But I don’t apologise.
I support Charlton Athletic. I don’t, as I have been accused of several times since Powell’s sacking eleven months ago, believe any individual, including the flat-capped one, is bigger than the club. Charlton existed before Powell, and continues to exist after him.
But certain individuals, including Powell, have played such a substantial part in the recent history of this football club, and the recent history of my life, that withholding my feelings towards them isn’t something I wish to do. Nor do I wish to ‘move on’ and forget about how Powell’s Charlton made me feel.
The man who will stand in the away dugout on Saturday gave his absolutely all for the club, both as a player and manager. He played with professionalism, a determination that showed an unrelenting desire to help the club succeed, and quality. He managed with such class that he was the perfect representative of the club, he built a team that played with the determination he showed on the pitch and gave us so many unforgettable moments.
The very least I believe you can do is give up just a moment or two of your energies that would normally be devoted to supporting the players wearing Charlton red to appreciate what a man so committed to this club did for it. A man that still feels strongly about the club, if not its owners.
It will not distract me from supporting the Addicks. Personally, I would be absolutely devastated if Powell rocked up in SE7 and went back up north with three points, so there will be no split loyalties.
But Powell has played a massive part in my Charlton supporting life, and I know the vast majority of you who will read this will feel the same. I would feel a sense of guilt if I didn’t thank him for that when the chance was there.