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 is the club’s annual Football v Homophobia matchday and our LGBTQI+ supporters group, the Proud Valiants, have nominated Gary Ginnaw for today’s award. Gary plays a huge role in the club’s fight against homophobia and is player/manager for Charlton Invicta who won the Grassroots category at the inaugural Football v Homophobia awards earlier this month.
We asked Gary for some of his Charlton memories…
Why I became a Charlton fan…I went on a school trip in April 1992 to Upton Park for Charlton v Plymouth. It finished 0-0. I was 9 years old. Charlton are my local team. But it wasn’t until my brother in law - who was a massive Charlton fan started taking me to games that I really got into it. I’ve been up and down the country supporting the Addicks ever since - to date its 565 games and over 60 of the current EFL grounds.
My first game at The Valley was…Tranmere Rovers at home in 1996. I went with my sister and her husband. I was 13 and we won 3-1 - I think Mark Kinsella and Mark Robson both scored.
My first away day with Charlton was… Easter Monday 1998. Port Vale away. This was in the midst of the run to the play off final. We won 1-0 with Super Clive smashing home an 80th minute penalty in front of the jubilant away fans. We travelled up on the coach and before the days of iPhones were frantically trying to find out the scores of the other promotion contenders!
On 25th May 1998 I was… I was in amongst those scenes - a 15 year old me. My first Wembley experience. We went on a coach - about 30 of us. We had breakfast at my brother-in-law’s uncle’s place. I was on Buck’s Fizz and the rest of champagne. People were dying their hair red and putting on face paint. I remember people not being able to watch the penalties. I didn’t feel that nervous - maybe because I was only 15 and relatively new. The 2019 play-off experience was far more nerve wracking for me. The celebrations were amazing! I couldn’t quite believe Charlton Athletic would be playing in the Premier League and featuring in my sticker album!
On 26th May 2019 I was… Again I was there 21 years on. This time a slightly more mature me. The nerves pretty much set in from the moment the league schedule finished. Portsmouth, Sunderland and Doncaster were all tough teams. You couldn’t pick a winner out of those four. We went to the away game and the atmosphere was fantastic. But the home leg was just pure electric. I don’t think I’ve encountered something as special as that night. In typical Charlton fashion we nearly threw it away - the scenes after the penalties on the pitch - it just gave me a sense that this was our year. Things had come together at the right time - Lee believed, the players believed and most of all the fans believed. We made a day of it at Wembley. The box park was buzzing before the game with people losing their voices. I genuinely had myself prepared for extra time and possibly penalties again - when Bauer prodded home. My initial reaction was “what do I do now?!” The celebrations were crazy! The limbs! It wasn’t quite 4-4 and 7-6 again but this time is felt more special to me.
My favourite Charlton game (not including the play-off finals) is… I think it’s got to be the 4-4 draw with West Ham at the Valley in November 2001. It was a Monday night and the game just had everything, including a stoppage time overhead kick from Jonathan Johannson to equalise.
My favourite Charlton player is… Wow - how do you pick one?! Dean Kiely made saves I’ve never seen before. Like saves he didn’t have the right to make. Graham Stuart was a favourite when I was growing up. I’ve always had a soft spot for Paolo di Canio. I watched him at Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday and could see the class. He was the only name I ever had on the back of a shirt (and I was 20!). It’s just a shame we couldn’t have signed him a few years before. And then Yann Kermorgant! He reminded me of Eric Cantona. He was pure magic. He could make something happen out of nothing. And scored some wonder goals! But Johnnie Jackson to be just typifies everything about Charlton. He wore his heart on his sleeve in every match he played. And the amount of times he saved the team with last minute goals. The promotion season in 2012 and the first two seasons back in the Championship were by far the best of his. He just stepped up and led the team by example. Definitely my favourite.
My favourite Charlton kit is … I actually always liked the Nike 2015/16 University of Greenwich home strip with the collar. I’ve still got that shirt and wear it quite often. It’s by far my favourite.
The best part of being a Charlton fan is… How do you answer this?! I think it’s the sense of belonging. I’m sure every club is the same. But Charlton is a family club with the community key to its success. I love the history and roots of the club. Being from south east London myself - I feel like it’s part of me and who I am.
My all-time Charlton XI would be… I never got to see some legends pull on the red shirt - Sam Bartram, Rob Lee, Keith Peacock, Derek Hales, Alan Curbishley etc. I can only go on my own experience and for me it’s got to be: Dean Kiely; Chris Powell, Richard Rufus, Jorge Costa, Luke Young; Johnnie Jackson, Graham Stuart, Matt Holland, Johann Berg Gudmundson; Yann Kermorgant and Paolo Di Canio.
The Charlton player of the season will be… I’m currently torn between two. Dillon Philips and Darren Pratley. I think Philips has made some outstanding saves this season and kept us in games when we might have dropped points. Any successful team needs a goal keeper that’s going to be able to win you an extra 10-15 points per season. I’m sure Alex Ferguson used to say that! But for me Darren Pratley does a job that sometimes goes unnoticed. He works his socks off every time he pulls on the shirt. He’s a leader too. I think for his work rate and effort – I’d go for Darren because he deserves a lot of recognition for carrying the team through some games at times this season.
The game I am most looking forward to is… Leeds away?! Surely. Last game of the season and what a day to seal survival!