The Animated Carnival of Charlton and Brentford

Like captive skeletons inside the imaginarium of Ray Harryhausen, fans and players alike march doggedly across barren desert into The Valley of the damned, moments from combusting, willing sacrifices to a sun God who shows no mercy.

At least Phillips is less conspicuous than usual, cloaked in his favourite colour – Advent Purple. He’ll have a good day today, I think to myself as I settle into the molten plastic universe of North Lower.

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Fig. 1. Phillips’ alternate kit, available at the CAFC Club Store for £11.99

During the opening decade of the game it’s quite difficult to track a linear narrative with my glasses melting down my face, but Oshilaja is showing some early signs of trickiness.

What is Pearce? I don’t know it. He does seem to have quite a ‘gung-ho’ attitude though, which is favourable.

Pratley is our prized jack-in-the-box today, but it still gets a bit hairy around the 10-minute mark. We are all too heatstroked at this point to detect that this quality is a distinct foreshadowing of the match to come.

Brentford summon and squander chance after chance – and in heat-absorbent black too! It’s almost admirable.

We’re all burning up, and Cullen surely won’t make it. To make the most of his remaining time, we give him a corner. He waits five minutes, until the ball is replaced by a mirage – from here on out, it’s anyone’s guess where the real ball is.

Gallagher has a good 90s throwback hairstyle, an on-trendness that bolsters him with solid momentum throughout the match – other players take note. A platform shoe and voluptuous curls could be just what Purrington needs to give him an edge.

Those of us lamenting having to choose between Charlton and Notting Hill Carnival today will appreciate the effort that’s gone into assembling the players into a carnival float formation from which the ball is catapulted vertically. A final flourish for the fans – Phillips throws it clean out of the ground.

Purrington fulfils a darling tackle and Oshi is having trouble savouring the inherent nature of a pass.

I am graced with a profound innate understanding of the baseball cap, its function and conception.

To his credit, Cullen hasn’t melted yet, and it leads to some minor hallowed opportunities. Phillips falls over onto two men he takes to be challenging his personal space, one of whom reclines to receive a Swedish head massage.

Oshi retreats to his trailer. Unfathomably, we continue play with ten individuals. And then suddenly Argonaut Lapslie is here to return the Golden Fleece! This is followed by 10+ minutes of running up and down.

Lee Bowyer is down to his shirt sleeves in a display of Victorian striptease.

‘Tweet us yours’. Your… Children? Anguish? Kidnapping stories by the looks of things.

The steward and I have matching waters, though his is allowed the cap! A flagrant abuse of double standards. You might wonder whom is stewarding whom, and I think I can hear someone whispering just this behind me.

No one is watching the football, but there is an open goal! Trusty Gallagher shoots one as straight as a ray of sunlight, butterflies exploding from the rafters, and we give him a big round of applause. A sort of heat haze delirium has set in and we’re suddenly playing much better.

Half hour injury time is added and we all sprint to the bar. I make three ill-advised queue choices before realising that {insider tip alert} the ones in front of the screens are deceptively short. Downing my Heineken in this dank, signalless dungeon, I have the idea for a sort of sadistic blind taste test at the Valley. Despite its relative strength, Heineken is not good. At least it’ll promote faster dehydration, which should offer a mild buzz for part 2. In the toilets, I chance upon a fashionable poster for twin players – when is Dillon going to debut his brother?

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Fig. 2. Pictured, Dillon (left) with identical twin Gromlen looking alarmed in the advent kit

There’s no overt indication given that we’re underway again, and sound and light have taken on a much slower and more delicious quality, as of nighttime German cinema, and we watch our men now as through a blinking strobe, with amped-up confidence bristling over everyone.

‘DJ Coaches’ lights up our big screen – a package holiday service I would not wish to encounter.

We’re patting about nicely until Brentford’s number 3 does a frontside 180 kickflip over Pearce. We’ve all lost count of how many players have gone down; we’re skating street at the Southbank and there’s no Nyjah Huston to save us. Pearce is a little bit weepy when he returns and it sort of sets the tone for the second round.

These plentiful pratfalls might lead the discerning reader to understand this as a match of great fisticuffs (as perhaps, the recent overture against Nottingham Forest was), but in fact, I believe it is the sun simply flexing its wiles.

There are more tattoos at the Valley than Vespa mirrors at a Quadrophenia rally (though you’d imagine there’s significant crossover).

Brentford have the absolute BEST surnames and no one is even trying to argue about it: Nørgaard, Mokotjo, Marcondes…

Remember when it was Makienok’s birthday? Well, it was Naby Sarr’s birthday the other day and it’s not too late to tell him how you feel. ❤

Our current steward has zero interest in watching the crowd.

Phillips does a good save and we inexplicably sing the Johnny Jackson song. Is Phillips his son? In the distance a sign reads ‘?[phone number]?’, which could be an ARG trailhead? A message from the Hanso foundation? Please set up a Meetup group if you’re interested in discussing theories.

I forget to watch for a bit and when I reengage, a Brentford player is doing pushups and everyone is singing Jonny Williams’ praises. More songs follow: ‘Lyle Taylor – he staples your shit’? ‘Just a bus stop from Fulham’ – we can all get behind some quasi-accurate geographical sledging.

There is a battle of the number sevens – they rise from the earth and merge like Svankmeyer’s hands sculpted from clay. Lyle Taylor is assaulted and we are given an angel’s kick.

Golden Fleece, Golden Fleece, Golden Fleece, I sing to no one in particular. Is this how chants are born?

Johnny Williams gives a hop ‘n’ hug over the fence, and Cullen is given another corner for reasons moderately unknown. It amounts to nought.

Field is on, but where is Oztumer? I had been rather looking forward to him.

I love how the East and West Stands look to be clapping totally out of time – do they hear what I hear? How far away is the experience of their unique orbit anyway?

We bask in the haze now at least, the full sun sending signals from a retreated graze. Though still continuously threatened, Charlton cling onto the dangled portents.

Brentford take their 18th corner of the match – and follow it up with another in a sort of special square-dance. If you dress in black, you have a pre-ordained right from Lucifer to be this deadly, I think.

Only divine providence and Lapslie’s golden fleece will save us now…and they do! As we drift into the horizon, we chant about war and Lyle Taylor does trash angels on the pitch. Another decent outing!

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Fig. 3. Until next time, Ra…

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