Remembering the 1999/00 title-winning campaign


It's the summer of 1999. Charlton have just been relegated from the Premier League and Alan Curbishley is driving to Chairman Richard Murray’s house worrying whether he’s about to be sacked.

“I went and met Richard Murray to discuss what we were going to do,” recalled Curbishley. “We were sitting there having a cup of coffee, and his wife came in and said, 'stop talking football - just give him a new contract and get on with it!’.

“I drove away thinking, ‘I’ve gone round there thinking this could be a bit difficult and I’ve come out with a new three-year contract!’ But that gave me the confidence with all the staff and everything else that we were going to give it a right go. And that’s exactly what happened.”

It would end up being quite the turnaround considering how the previous season had ended. 

“It was a blow,” said Curbishley. “I remember at Villa when Browny [Steve Brown] went in goal; we got a fantastic result, but came off to find out that Southampton had won at Wimbledon. We were banking on Wimbledon beating them. 

“Pards [Alan Pardew] was actually at the Wimbledon game, and he phoned Keith [Peacock] to say, ‘Wimbledon didn’t really do enough’. So it all went down to the last game and we blew it.”

But, crucially, the club had not overextended themselves during their year in the top-flight. 

“We were in a healthy position - after winning promotion we never spent all the money, we never went overboard with the contracts… That meant that summer, we could really invest. We didn’t have to sell players,” he said.

“Teams that get relegated, they end up losing their better players. It’s the players that are left behind - they’re the ones that you’ve got to look after. But we managed to turn that around and bring people in.”

According to Steve Brown, the squad were on the same page. “The mentality was okay, actually,” he recalled. 

“The key bit was, ‘what’s it going to look like when we walk back in the building?’. And it was exactly the same squad, with additions. We brought in [Dean] Kiely that summer, which I think is massive. No disrespect to any of the 'keepers we had - they’re all good 'keepers - but he came here with Bury in [1997/98], and we played them away as well. They were two 0-0s, and he was the reason.

“So out of that relegation came, ‘oh, hang on, we’ve actually got a better squad than we did last year.’”

That summer also saw one other note of encouragement, this time from a player on the way out. “John Barnes said, ‘I’m off, but let me tell you: you’re a fantastic bunch, and you’re going to go straight back up next year’,” remembered Curbishley.

The Addicks flew out of the traps, winning seven of their first nine in the league starting with a Clive Mendonca hat-trick in a 3-1 win against Barnsley.

“We went from a team in the mid-90s that struggled to score goals to suddenly we had a Mendonca, and a [Andy] Hunt, and you’re watching games like [Barnsley] thinking we can score goals for fun," said Brown.

“There were goals from everywhere, and there was a confidence but Curbs just didn’t allow you to run away with being confident.”

That measured approach would be useful after the fast start as the Addicks began to slow down, only winning one of the next four. Later, in November and December, their win away to Swindon Town would be their only victory in six league matches.

But the Boxing Day comeback win at home to Crystal Palace steadied the ship. “There’s goals right across this team,” explained Brown. 

“So even when we were 1-0 down there was no fear. It was an extraordinary year for that - if we went 1-0 or 2-1 down, we always felt like we had enough goals to come back and win.”

The derby win kicked off a remarkable run of 12 league wins in a row in which the Addicks put one hand on the First Division trophy. 

“This was my favourite season by some distance as a football player,” Brown said. “It was an absolute pleasure to get on that pitch most weeks. There was a camaraderie within this group which obviously is enhanced by results, and a successful season. We bounced into the training ground.”

“I always went into games thinking that we were going to win them,” added Curbishley. “We were confident in our ability. And also, whoever was out in that XI went out and did their best, and we always had people on the bench. There was never any grumbling when players went off, it was like, ‘we’re in this together’.”

The Addicks did not win a single one of their last seven games, but it did not matter. The damage to nearest challengers Manchester City had been done early in the new year. Promotion was sealed on April 22nd - the day after a 1-1 draw with Portsmouth - and the title was won two days later with another 1-1 draw, this time at Blackburn Rovers.

While it may not have come in as dramatic a fashion as two years prior, this time Charlton had been comfortably the best team in the league.

It would be the last act in the Charlton careers of the likes of Mendonca, who never played another game for the club following the promotion season, but what followed was the greatest years in the history of the club. None of that would have been possible without the 1999/2000 season.

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