Football: Walsh repays the fans' faith: Trevor Haylett at a happy Valley as Charlton return to scupper Portsmouth 1-0

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The Independent Online
FAITH - blind, determined allegiance - can be a powerful force of motivation. With faith Charlton, their supporters and directors have moved a mountain, raised millions and uncovered a home. Amidst the rubble of history, boardroom mismanagement and planning dictates a dream has survived and come true.

Faith can also find expression in less obvious ways. Colin Walsh has demonstrated his and now has his reward. One of Lennie Lawrence's first signings after the trauma and upheaval of their exile from the Valley, Walsh aligned himself with Charlton the place as well as Charlton the team.

He bought a house five minutes from the old ground in SE7 because they told him, and he believed, that one day it would be home from home.

With the jungle of decay and delay, that dream began to seem more of an impossible illusion, a return about as likely as a 'no comment' from the former manager Lawrence.

But Walsh kept the faith and on Saturday, when Charlton and all of their followers - in all senses of the word - came home, the gods repaid his faith. After seven long years the winning goal took only seven minutes, an emphatic sweep of Walsh's left boot taking the ball beyond the Portsmouth goalkeeper Alan Knight.

It was his first for 38 games, his 50th in the League, and the one he will treasure most. Derek Hales, the club's record scorer at 168 goals, nodded approvingly.

'I was always promised that Charlton would be back at the Valley one day and I liked to live among the fans because they have shown how they have wanted to return here,' Walsh said.

As endearing and warming as the homecoming proved, the achievement will lose some of its impact if the team cannot match the efforts off the field and put points in the bag as others have brought life to dying terraces. The efforts have been colossal, the last strip of tarmac only going down with the match-day clock at 10am.

'My feelings are of absolute relief,' Roger Alwen, the club's chairman and the man credited with making it all possible, said. 'It's absolutely marvellous to see 8,000 people here again, but we need them to turn up every week to make the gamble pay.'

Goal: C Walsh (7) 1-0.

Charlton Athletic: Bolder; Pitcher, Minto, Gritt, Webster, Balmer, Robinson, Power (Grant, 90), Leaburn, Nelson, C Walsh. Substitute not used: Pardew.

Portsmouth: Knight; Awford, Daniel (Burns, 67), McLoughlin, Symons, Agnew (P Walsh, 62), Neill, Chamberlain, Clarke, Whittingham, Maguire.

Referee: A Gunn (Sussex).

(Photograph omitted)

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