Memory Lane: The days of Champagne Charlie

WTTGT Writer: Dean “Memories” Scott


Aaahh the 1980s… or is it really the forgotten decade (until ‘the magnificent’ Georgie Graham returned in ‘86)?

Let me take you back my friends to the start of it, when Terry Neill was manager, and wrestling used to be on at 4.00pm every Saturday before final score on World of Sport with Dickie Davies (swoon).

We were shocking! I remember looking at the league table on the programme and I thought we must be good, as we were always top. Sadly, my old man pointed out that in fact, we were top of page 2, in about 12th. That’s a reality check I could have lived without.

Football stars (there’s a trade description act right there) such as Ray Hankin and John Hawley were wearing the shirts with no distinction whatsoever, until 1983, when “Champagne” Charlie Nicholas arrived. My heart skipped a beat! A flair player who wasn’t older than my house had arrived! He went straight up on my bedroom wall; he was the answer!

I was there for his home debut against Southampton. The crowd was bigger than normal. The atmosphere was like, well, what an atmosphere should be like. I was there, with my uncle, queuing up for my ticket at the North Bank (how I miss that). I was buzzing – until some wolly said to me “so you’ve come from Canada to watch the game” – hold on Nobby! I’m East End born and bred, and proud!

We won 2-1(I think) and HE damn well scored!  It was great! Hello good times! Farewell page 2 on World of Sport!

How wrong could I be? Old players came and went; Mariner, Woodcock, etc, and yet no trophies… until Georgie came.

In 1986 George arrived and was swiftly followed by his first signing, Perry Groves, £75k from Colchester. His uncle Vic was an Arsenal player from yesteryear so he was popular to begin with. Alas, he soon lost form… but on the plus side he was good company on a night out.

With George arriving, youth was given chances, Adams, Rocky, Quinny… a new team was evolving and by God it wasn’t too bad, trophies followed and the rest they say is history but, for me, I gotta love those forgotten years…



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