It’s March 20th 1954 and I am at The Valley with my father watching Charlton play Cardiff City. Early in the game in the game I am surprised to see the keeper fumble the ball and almost concede and I realise that Eddie Marsh rather than Sam Bartram is in goal. I ask my father what has happened and he says that Bartram was injured in training. Outfield players were not usually allowed to see the ball during the week to make them hungry for it at the weekend and just underwent rather unsophisticated fitness training.
The exception was the keeper and Bartram, no doubt acrobatic in training, had managed to injure himself. Charlton took the lead with two goals, but Cardiff got two back. Eventually, Charlton managed to score a third goal to win 3-2. Next week at Huddersfield with Marsh still in goal Charlton lost 4-1. An extra two points would have seen Charlton go above Chelsea in the final table.
Eddie (‘Wilson Edmund’) Marsh was signed by Jimmy Seed after he saw him play for Erith and Belvedere in a VJ Day match. He then had to undertake national service. While Bartram was keeper, he made just six appearances. After playing in the reserves for many years, he had 20 more outings after Bartram retired, but Charlton started to concede goals at an alarming rate in the 1956/57 relegation season, 120 in all (although Marsh was not the only keeper). He was sold to Luton Town for £250 in the summer of 1957 and later joined Torquay United. He also had a year as trainer-coach at Plymouth Argyle, then managed by Charlton legend Derek Ufton.
If a keeper was injured during a game before there were substitutes an outfield player had to step in. Charlton’s worst ever defeat was 11-1 against Aston Villa on 14 November 1959 at Villa Park. Duff conceded six goals and then dislocated a finger through his efforts. Townsend took his place and conceded another three. Stuart Leary then took his place and conceded another two. This was understandable for a centre forward who had a pulled leg muscle that greatly restricted his movement.
Even when three substitutes were permitted, it did not necessarily make sense to include a keeper rather than an attacker, a midfielder and a defender. This is where Steve ‘He’ll never let you down’ Brown had to step in. On Fridays training finished with a five a side match but the keeper for the next day did not take part and Steve usually played in goal. However, as he noted recently on Valley Pass, it is a myth that he never conceded a goal as a keeper, he did against Manchester City. He did play four times without conceding, in particular I remember him playing the greater part of the match in goal at Southend United. In our first season in the Premier League, he took over in goal at Aston Villa after Andy Petterson was sent off and made a crucial save from a free kick enabling Charlton to win 4-3. Unfortunately, it was not enough to avoid relegation.
In non-league football, the sudden departure or injury of a keeper can create a crisis as there is sometimes no number two. When my non-league club, Leamington, were lower down the pyramid than tier two, we faced this situation. Then someone remembered they had been talking to an Italian living rough on the station who claimed to have played in the regional leagues in Italy. He came in for a trial and showed himself to be an accomplished keeper. He was grateful for a square meal, a shower and some spending money.
Returning to Charlton and thinking about keepers over the last twenty-five years, there are many names to choose from, including Tony Caig who played just one half of one game for the Addicks at The Valley. Local lad and Charlton fan Rob Elliott played a total of 95 games for us, and has recently been training at Sparrows Lane. Darren Randolph perhaps didn’t get the opportunities his talents deserved. American keeper Mike Ammann was spotted by director Mike Stevens and played in 30 games between 1994 and 1996. I sponsored his socks!
Scott Carson came in on loan from Liverpool in 2006/7 after Charlton had failed in an attempt to sign Robert Green from Norwich City. He played in 36 out of 38 Premier League games that season (he was absent for the two against Liverpool). Although we were relegated, we would have done worse without him and he was the first loan player to be voted Player of the Year. Andy Petterson played 10 games for us in 1998/99 (somehow I thought it was more) and I remember a stunning save at The Valley against Crystal Palace. Sasa Ilic’s penalty save at Wembley made him a Charlton legend. The less said about Roland Duchatelet’s import Yohann Thuram the better, Chris Powell reportedly instructed to play him instead of Ben Hamer.
However, myfavourite keeper of the recent past and the one I rank alongside Sam Bartram is Dean Kiely who played in 177 games for Charlton. Alan Curbishley spotted him when he was the standout player when Bury came to The Valley and drew 0-0 and signed him to some scepticism for £1m. In fact it was a classic example of Curbishley’s ability to spot underrated talent.
Goalkeepers are often remembered for their mistakes rather than their great saves. On 11th March 2000, after a good run, Charlton played lowly Swindon Town at The Valley. I bought a hospitality package that day and invited an Addick from Swindon, anticipating a victory. Kiely made a rare mistake and let a soft goal slip underneath him, Charlton losing 0-1. The fan from Swindon was beside himself. Curbs said recently on Valley Pass that he was not so concerned about losing to Swindon, as it was more important to win against the teams around Charlton and we went on to win promotion.
Deano’s parents lived half a mile away from me and his son was for a while the keeper at Leamington. I saw Dean Kiely at the club on an awards night and I approached him and identified myself as a Charlton supporter. He could not have been more pleasant.
Finally, one must mention Nick Pope who was brought in from Bury Town and played 33 games for Charlton before he was snapped up by Burnley, Sean Dyche later admitting he got a bargain. Pope, of course, has gone on to play for England.
At one time keepers were often rather distinctive and flamboyant, like Sam Bartram, but they have had to become more professional and integrated members of the team, benefitting from specialist goalkeeping coaches who were not available in years gone by. There is too much at stake in the modern game for too much individualism.