Charlton AthleticSport

Dean Holden once snuck into Old Trafford in disguise without a ticket – now he’s ready to lead his Charlton side out against his boyhood club

He once had to sneak into Old Trafford in disguise to watch a match – but now Manchester United supporting Charlton Athletic boss Dean Holden says it will be ‘surreal’ to lead his side out at the Theatre of Dreams.

The League One Addicks face Erik Ten Hag’s superstars in an EFL Cup quarter-final on Tuesday evening – a dream tie for a Charlton manager who was a United season ticket holder for 30 years.

Salford-born, the 43-year-old only took over at The Valley just before Christmas but will now get to walk his side out down a tunnel he once had to tiptoe through to watch his favourite team play.

A general view of the stadium ahead of the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: Tuesday January 3, 2023.

“It was Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League quarter-final,” revealed Holden – speaking about a 1-0 defeat Alex Ferguson’s side suffered in a second-leg tie back in April 1997.

“My dad, uncle and brother-in-law were all stewards years ago. I got let down on a ticket. I’ve got to be careful here, my dad might get in trouble for this!

“One of the stewards didn’t turn up so there was a spare hi-vis jacket and a radio. I went and sat by the tunnel where you walk out, by my old man. God knows what I’d have done if there’d been a pitch invasion or something like that.

“It will be surreal. My family will all be up there. Twenty-eight of them begging and borrowing tickets. My wife and kids. My old man, he’s been a supporter his whole life so it will be pretty special for him. I’m pleased for him that’s he’s going to see me coming out at Old Trafford.”

Dean Holden celebrates at full-time. Picture: Paul Edwards

Holden was a trainee at Old Trafford up until the age of 14 – counting United legends Nobby Stiles and Brian Kidd amongst those who coached him. He soon left for Bolton Wanderers before making over 350 league appearances in a career that spanned 16 years and nine clubs. His coaching experience began in Greater Manchester with Oldham Athletic.

And Holden has already been part of a coaching staff that has knocked United out of the EFL Cup – he was Lee Johnson’s assistant when Bristol City dumped Jose Mourinho’s star-studded side out at the quarter-final stage in 2017/18. The Robins were eventually beaten over two legs by Manchester City in the semi-finals.

So, can the Addicks, who sit 12th in League One, repeat the trick and cause one of the competitions greatest ever upsets?

Holden said: “All I will say is what I’ve just said to the players: ‘if you don’t believe it’s going to happen, it won’t happen.’

“I’m not talking about beating Man United, I’m talking about anything. Your brain is very powerful in that regard. You have to believe for anything to happen. So, why not?

Picture: Paul Edwards

“We can go up there and really show what this club is about, on and off the pitch. 9,000 fans up there is an incredible achievement with no trains coming back to London. That’s phenomenal. For the players, it’s about going to the best stadium in the world, against one of the biggest clubs in the world, and really seeing what elite is like.

“It’s not an opportunity you normally get when you’re in League One. The players can go there with the shackles off, go up against some top players and really enjoy it. It’s a free hit. We’ll go up there and be well prepared. We’ll prepare as well as we do for any game, and we’ll see.”


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing:


If you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can make a donation which will allow us to continue to bring stories to you, both in print and online. Or please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ

One thought on “Dean Holden once snuck into Old Trafford in disguise without a ticket – now he’s ready to lead his Charlton side out against his boyhood club

  • Wasn’t that long ago when they were regularly playing at Old Trafford in the PL, not really a Cinderella story as you imply.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.