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My favourite game: Charlton beat Sunderland in classic play-off final | Nick Allbury

Clive Mendonca’s hat-trick and Michael Gray’s ashen face are among the memories from an incredible encounter

Football stirs the same emotions in all of us. Joy and despair, fragile optimism and resigned acceptance. Yet it’s how we manage these feelings that shapes our relationship with the game.

As a youngster, football was my master. All I wanted in the world was to see my team, Charlton Athletic, walk out at Wembley Stadium, and also, if it wasn’t too much trouble, to see us play in the Premier League. Both always seemed improbable, and yet, remarkably, on one heady late-spring day in 1998, via the Division One play-off final against Sunderland, I was offered one and the tantalising prospect of the other.

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