Tuesday, 31 January 2017

How Not To Do It

Just had the opportunity to listen to part three of Getting To Know The Network. As with parts one and two we should both praise and thank Jimmy Stone and all those who contributed to a project which will no doubt form the basis of doctorates and university courses in sports administration, under the heading of 'how not to do it'. And while we have the fourth and final part to look forward to (in a strange, depressing sort of way), let's not forget that this isn't a history lesson. The play is still going on.

There are insights but for me the most important aspect of part three is just the overwhelming impression left of the utter incompetence of Duchatelet and Meire, how ignorant they were - and from all the evidence in front of us still are - of what it takes to succeed in running a football club. Positions of advantage not exploited, assets not utilised, behaviour almost designed to fail. And to those who might respond by saying that from Duchatelet's point of view things are not that bad, sell young players and minimise the financial drain, it should be said that this is only the latest 'objective' thrust upon him because the others have not worked.

Take a simple example, the treatment of Michael Morrison (and to a lesser extent Simon Church and Polish Pete). Just listen to the accounts of how a guy who had given sterling service to our club and proven his quality was pushed out. OK, they wanted him off the wage bill. But how dumb to do it in the way they did, nastily and with no respect. Add to that stupidly, because everyone could see how they behaved. Players would start to conclude there's no point busting a gut for this club, the mood in the dressing room sours, etc etc. Why is it that arrogant buffoons don't seem to stop for a second to consider the consequences of their behaviour and whether those consequences are sufficient to mean it is in your best interests to behave differently - never mind of course questions of ethics? The answer I guess is because they are stupid, or to be kind have a skills set which is not suited to making a success of team enterprises. How long do we have to wait before our owner realises this?

Anyway, I hope all Addicks listen to the podcast and draw their own conclusions. It is after all rather timely for it to be released on transfer deadline day and to contain testimonies to support fans' views that Duchatelet's attempts to do things on the cheap are not a recipe for success, or perhaps that we can only expect success despite the actions of the regime. (Of course, this was penned before confirmation of the signing of Messi.)

On that front, the splendid victory at Bolton must give us grounds for hope as those sorts of results are seldom fluked. They usually require good team spirit and if Robinson is succeeding in that area - and continues to - I will try to stop laughing at what he says.

Finally, I'd only offer my belated sympathies to the family and friends of Big Dave Shipperley. He is held in affection by all Addicks who saw him play. My favourite memory of him - leaving aside that own goal, which did have rather more style about it than Darren Bent's recent classic - is what seemed to be an entirely predictable but utterly unstoppable tactic from corners. Big Ship goes to the far post, ball hung up there, he heads back across goal, Killer puts it in the net. Ah, football was so much simpler back then.


Friday, 20 January 2017

Shun Forum/Q&As For EFL-Required Dialogue

My apologies to anyone who thinks this may all already have been said and done many times over. But I think the coincidence of the Trust announcing a prospective Q&A with Meire for its members and the Trust itself issuing a statement clarifying its position on contacts with the regime merits some comment.

Feel obliged to start by reiterating a basic ground rule, one that really shouldn’t be necessary. As far as I’m concerned anyone who goes around shouting or writing about ‘real’ supporters, ie ones who agree with them, and ‘others, not genuine Addicks’ is either a regime troll/employee or someone who needs to go on a basic training programme on what it means to be an Addick. Of course there are Addicks who support the regime, who tolerate it and are anti-protest, who would welcome a change of owner but feel the protests won’t help achieve this, and those who believe that only with a change of owner can our club prosper, regain its self-respect, and consequently back and/or participate in the protests.

It should be clear to all which group I fall into. But I hope It is also clear that there’s never been any suggestion from me that those Addicks of a different opinion are not real supporters. We all want the club to do well, to enjoy our matchday experience, and to be part of a full and vibrant Valley. Nobody wants to be protesting, those of us who do believe it is necessary. There will be an end to Duchatelet’s ownership, sooner or later, and that will be the cause for the celebration (even with a little dancing) of a reunification of all Addicks, something which I hope even regime supporters accept is impossible as long as he is the owner and doesn’t change his spots (unless of course you want unity among a few). And for every one Addick who complains that the protests are spoiling his/her matchday and is feeling forced away, I’d point to those who have been forced away since the regime showed its colours and incompetence and well before the protests began. They all, young and old, count equally and we want them all back when circumstances change.

Anyone who claims that they speak for real Addicks, the majority, the overwhelming majority, the silent majority, a rising majority etc is bullshitting. I don’t know how the numbers stack up and nor I imagine does anyone else. We can only go on anecdotal evidence, not what the bloke next to you says in support of your views, and it’s been a while since the last pre-match protest. If anyone might know it is the Trust.

There’s an intriguing start to its statement: “with the arrival of a new year and the recruitment of a number of new members …” Does that actually indicate that regime-supporting Addicks have indeed been taking up the suggestion that they join the Trust to get their voices heard? I’ve no idea but if they have it is entirely welcome news. I’d urge all Addicks to join, to make the Trust as representative as it possibly can be. It’s entirely up to them of course but the creation of separate pro-regime groups would be, in my view, divisive and counter-productive. And if as a result it ended up that a majority of Trust members were against the protests, it is absolutely right and proper that the Trust would then separate itself from CARD. I would expect no less. I’d also expect that unless and until it is clear that a majority of Trust members are against the protests the Trust maintains a line that reflects its members’ views as previously expressed and remains a part of CARD.

With this in mind, while I’d agree with most of the views and positions outlined by the Trust in its statement, I would advocate both that the Trust withdraws from the Fans Forum and declines to participate – and urges its members to decline to participate – in the latest planned staged Q&A with Meire.

The two relevant factors here are the Trust’s constitution and the English Football League’s new rule requiring clubs to enter into a defined process of dialogue with supporters. The Trust justifies its continued participation in the Fans Forum on the grounds that it remains “committed to communication” and that its primary purpose is “to be the vehicle through which a healthy, balanced and constructive relationship between the club and its supporters and the communities it serves is encouraged and developed". The Trust goes on to acknowledge that the Fans Forum is the regime’s “preferred vehicle” for dialogue with fans.

I would suggest that the Fans Forum, however worthy and well-meaning as far as the Addicks who have participated in it may be, has been and remains an entirely inappropriate ‘vehicle’ for the sort of dialogue which the EFL now requires of football clubs. The regime has from early on deceitfully and wilfully attempted to give the impression that it values supporters, that it values supporters’ opinions, and that it wants constructive engagement with supporters. The only honest line I’ve seen on that front came in the recent Duchatelet interview when he said that “supporters can have a say in the logistics, like how the beer should be served”. Many moons ago in a piece on the Fans Forum minutes I joked that dialogue with fans had to be about more than the price of Bovril, but it seems not.

I would ask whether Duchatelet’s comments on the sort of dialogue with supporters that he feels is appropriate, and the sort of dialogue that we have witnessed to date, meet the EFL’s requirement that meetings (which should be held at least twice a season) should discuss “significant issues relating to the club” and are compatible with both the spirit and the letter of the EFL’s wishes. I would suggest that the regime does not currently comply with the new EFL rule and has no intention of doing so. Consequently I’d urge the Trust to contact the EFL to take the matter up with the club, to force compliance. This proper dialogue could take the form of scheduled meetings between the club and the Trust, an agreed agenda, and details minutes published by the Trust.

In the interim, the Fans Forum and the utterly pointless and counter-productive Q&As merely serve as vehicles for undermining the possibility of meaningful dialogue, allowing the regime to try to pretend that there is ongoing dialogue. I would urge the Trust to turn its back on both in pursuit of the goals outlined in its constitution – unless and until it is clear that a majority of its members support a different position. I’m a member of the Trust but have no interest in attending an event at which Meire will pay lip-service to communication and no interest in her answers. It’s not as if she is able to regain any shred of credibility and when it comes to ‘significant issues related to the club’ she is only the mouthpiece for our absent and indifferent owner.

Oh, and by the way, lest we forget Karl Robinson. Each passing day without a response from him, positive or negative, to the Trust’s invitation for talks lowers his standing in my estimation. He may of course be preoccupied with injuries and suspensions ahead of the weekend of course, or perhaps the piece yesterday about his shareholding in the company of Dele Ali’s agent. I’ve read the report and some of the comments around it, but seems to me there are two questions to be answered. First, did Robinson buy the stake (albeit a small one) and, if not, for what services was he given it? Second, although the regime has said there are no Charlton players on the books of the company involved, Impact Sports Management, are there any deals with any agents which mean that club officials, including the manager and board members, might benefit financially from the sale of players? If I thought there was any chance of honest answers that could be a reason to attend the Q&A.

Have to end with a ‘Robinsonism of the day’, I really like this one. On the club site, talking about Scunthorpe, he says: “It’s a long season, it’s hard to stay up there for the duration and we all have dips. That’s not to say that they’re going to have one.” Actually Karl, yes it is.


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Duchere's Derby Getting Closer

Local derbies? Who needs them? Saturday’s result does of course mean that the run without a win against our nearest neighbours will be extended at least until next season. But I find that only a minor irritation, especially in view of other, more pressing concerns. I’m not suggesting that matches against the Spanners are not passionate, intense affairs, just that we’ve never judged our standing by the outcome of them. If we’re in the same division as Millwall something is fundamentally wrong, we’re having a period of underperformance (unless it’s that freak season when they somehow managed to join us in the top flight). While joining those expressing the hope that they don’t get pushed into leaving their ground, I’d happily accept not beating them for the next 50 years if it meant we didn’t actually play them. Some things are just written, like the rule that Palace never survive a season in the Premiership; that’s still in place, the current aberration is merely the exception that proves the rule.

I may not be in attendance at The Valley for the time that Duchatelet remains in charge (or becomes more intelligent, which is frankly too much to hope for) but I did manage to take in a game on Friday night. I find myself installed in Lyon for 10 days (possibly longer if the threat of Arctic weather proves a reality) and my partner Suzanne and I had the opportunity to see our first Lyon Duchere game in National, France’s third division, after last season’s promotion (their second in about five seasons).

It was the first game back after the Christmas break, on a cold, dark night (National games are normally played on a Friday evening), with Duchere taking on Pau. Now Duchere have been playing a blinder so far in the higher league. They won their first two games of the season and three of their first four, heading the league early on, only losing to Concarneau, who are now top. A bit of reality (or complacency) set in after that, and of the next eight matches only two were won, two were drawn, and four lost. Still not bad for the new kids in town.

In those first 12 games Duchere had conceded some 17 goals, a relatively high total for the league. As unlikely as it may seem, I can only conclude that they then had an email or some form of contact from our beloved owner, it is the only reasonable explanation for what followed. He must have informed them that if you don’t concede a goal during a game you won’t lose; that if you actually score one and don’t concede you will win the game, giving you three points; and that not losing and winning some games is a positive combination whereas not scoring and conceding goals is not. Clearly Duchere acted on these invaluable insights as they went on a run of four clean sheets in five games, winning three of them.

As a result going into the game they’d pulled themselves back up to sixth in the 18-team division. Pau went into it fourth from bottom, occupying a relegation spot (as far as I can tell four go down, two go up automatically and the third-placed team could). However, they were only six points below Duchere with a game in hand, so nobody was expecting an easy win for La Duch (at least we weren’t).

The first half proved to be an even and rather cagey affair. Pau shaded it by virtue of passing the ball better, more crisply, and having a dangerous Lookman-lookalike playing behind the front two, with Duchere looking more to the ball over the top and lacking precision. Actual chances were few and far between and for all the approach work the closest both sides came was when in quick succession both goalkeepers came for high balls from set pieces they had no chance of getting, only for the headers to go over the bar. Just before the break Pau did get a forward played in but his shot was well parried by the Duchere keeper. Goalless at the break – and at the time I’d have put money on that being the eventual outcome.

However, Duchere improved markedly in the second half, on the solid foundations of a strong defence, and Pau wilted. Duchere began to get more joy from quick passes out wide rather than through the middle and the Pau defenders struggled to cope with the pace and low balls driven across the box. Pushed back, Pau now struggled to make any impression going forward and the chances for Duchere started to materialise. One ball squared from the left saw the Duchere forward get on the end of it at the far post, the goal at his mercy. But instead of bundling everything over the line he tried to place an effort on goal and a defender somehow blocked it; the ball didn’t go dead and was pulled back only for the rasping drive from outside the box to go inches over. Next time around Duchere did put the ball in the net from another low cross but the linesman cut short the celebrations. Add in a blinding save by the Pau keeper and it was increasingly looking like one of those nights.

Indeed, Pau seemed to have weathered the storm going into the last 10 minutes. They’d made changes seemingly to tighten up, with their Lookman taken off, while Duchere made a switch up front to introduce a nippier guy. The most remarkable passage of play saw I think four consecutive fouls, including one pretty bad one by a Duchere guy arriving late, all let go by the indulgent ref with the result that we were playing on with two Pau and two Duchere players on the ground. By now it was snowing and both teams could have been forgiven for taking an honourable draw and getting to the warm baths. But with the clock running down one more low ball into the box was to prove decisive as this time Duchere’s nippy sub managed to get something on it from an onside position. It wasn’t pretty but it counted.

Pau didn’t have it in them to mount an effective riposte in the time remaining (five minutes of normal time and three extra) and so Duchere made it three wins and a draw from their last five, deservedly on the second-half performance. With a couple of games in this round called off because of the weather, they have moved up to fourth in the table, with 28 points from 18 games. But their good form will be put to the test in the next round as they travel to take on for a second time Concarneau, who are on 31 points from 17 games, two clear of second-placed Quevilly Rouen with Boulogne in third.

Rather strangely, as far as I can tell three of the top four in National are currently teams that were promoted to the league last season (by coincidence the fourth is Pau), the exception being Boulogne. So it’s not just Duchere that have adapted well to the higher standards. Nevertheless, that La Duch are punching well above their weight is apparent from attendance figures.

I was rather disappointed on Friday to see no evidence that their promotion has led to stronger support but thought numbers might have been affected by the weather. Not so. The stats show that Duchere have to date averaged 239 in nine home games, putting them at the bottom of this particular table. I’m not privy to the club’s finances, but I’m guessing that unless they get a decent pay-out from the French league it is hard to make ends meet. They’re still charging just EUR5 to get in (meaning an average gate receipt so far this season of EUR1,185), there’s no sign of any away fans lifting numbers (we did hear one shout for Pau but it could have been their coach driver), and it’s quite possible that without the local ‘derby’ they enjoyed against Olympique Lyonnais B in the lower division Duchere’s average attendance will be lower this season than last. And now they have to travel around the country for games (the lower divisions are regional).

The idea that a club with an average attendance of 239 might be challenging for promotion to a country’s second division did prompt me to indulge in a little research. The average crowd for a National game is only 1,120 (the highest this season being 3,022, for the splendidly-named La Berrichonne de Chateauroux; heaven only knows what they sing), with 10 of the 18 clubs failing to reach 1,000. Yet the league includes for example Paris FC, the third club of Paris (after PSG and Red Star FC 93) with an average attendance of 561, and GS Consolat Marseille, the second-biggest team in that city, average 284.

Of course overall attendances in France are materially lower than England. Ligue 1 has PSG (44,507), OL (40,618) and Olympique de Marseille (33,933) but the numbers fall away after that, with an overall average of 20,378 (compared with 36,452 for the Premiership in the 2015/16 season) and only nine of the 20 teams above 20,000. In Ligue 2 the average drops to 7,021 (17,583 for the Championship), a total that would be much lower without the top two (RC de Lens on 26,862 and RC de Strasbourg on 15,408); no other team averages over 10,000. But whereas the average for France’s top division amounts to around 56% of that for the Premiership, the percentage drops to around 40% for Ligue 2 against the Championship, and to just 16% comparing the third flights.

And the reason(s)? The size of France has to be one. Heading off from Middlesbrough to get to Southampton for a match would involve a trip each way of around 295 miles. Quite an effort, but nothing to match around 622 miles if you wanted to get from Lille to Marseille. I’m assuming that away support is much lower in France than England, in all divisions. Also, as is evident from the above, there are very few local derbies in France. According to Wikopedia this is due not least to the Vichy regime’s decision to create new football leagues with just one team from each region, prompting many to merge, plus the fact that public subsidies for football clubs have over the years encouraged mergers rather than funds being spread around. The last top-flight game between two teams from the same city was apparently in 1989/90.

However, there does seem to be something else, less tangible. As a generalisation – but one which Suzanne puts forward, not me – the French are just not interested in football (or much else) unless they are winning. The national team is usually ignored or lambasted except when winning the World Cup/European Championship. If France are down 0-1 with 10 minutes to go Suzanne will usually shrug her shoulders, say ‘it is done’ and go off to do something else. I kid you not, she did that for the 2016 Euro final. It’s the same for rugby. As a result it seems there is just precious little interest in supporting the small second or third team in a city.


Ever the optimist, I’m hoping that Duchere buck the trend, that the area, which would not be listed among Lyon’s most chic, really gets behind its team. Like us a few years ago they are on the up. Just two more promotions and Duchere would have a truly famous local derby to look forward to. 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

No Fool Like An Old Fool

I was going to let this all pass. After all, it is going over old ground yet again, people will have had ample time to read the translations of the latest Duchatelet interview(here) and to draw their own conclusions. And nobody's going to be surprised that my comments are not especially positive as regards our owner. But it had been written, just overtaken by events (news of the death of Paul Went and confirmation of the sale of Ademola Lookman - and on that front Morgan Fox goes with similar best wishes for his future career). And it really isn't our fault that our owner continues to provide ample evidence to support the view that he is delusional, grossly ignorant when it comes to football, painfully arrogant, and disturbingly stubborn in clinging desperately to any line of thinking that might make him appear otherwise. So here we go again.

When questioned about interfering with managers' decisions, Duchatelet opened up with fresh blinding insight: "if you concede two goals per game, you can never finish in a good position". He went on with: "At Charlton ... we were at the bottom of the table and I have tried to help the manager. Suggested other options to him. Which is logical, I think. Apparently, he thought this was not done. That says a lot about the intellectual level of that manager. And also about the intellectual level of all activists who think that this is not done. They think that I should just get behind the wheel of a car and drive blindly." He went on to say that "managers that do not take into consideration advice by others, are stupid managers." 

So, Roland, you did indeed suggest other options to Sir Chris, gave him some advice (while of course also questioning his decisions and at the least pressuring him to pick certain players). He quite rightly did not act on that advice as it was bloody stupid, as is plain for all to see from the published emails. Powell would have been stupid to have followed Duchatelet's advice, or rather he put a higher value on what was good for the team/club than pandering to an owner's ego and had enough common sense not to tell our owner just what he really thought of the advice (which with hindsight is rather a pity).

As for Duchatelet getting behind the wheel of a car and driving blindly, perhaps if he tried that the outcome would be better as we have witnessed his abilities when it comes to him actually trying to drive a football club. There is a worthy organisation which provides advice for elderly drivers (here) and perhaps our owner can get some useful tips. I'm just suggesting other options to him, trying to help him you understand ... 

Now we move on from the duplicitous to the imbecilic. "For us, football is a place where people gather every fortnight and have fun. That’s the mission of football and in fact also the essence of a football club. The function of football is to have a great evening with friends and to sometimes also meet new people." He added for good measure that "supporters need to realise that this is the essence". Quite frankly, as a lifelong football supporter I don't take very kindly to being told just how I should view football and I don't doubt that very few football fans would agree with his sentiments. We can again just fall back on the evidence. Duchatelet added that "the main thing is that we fulfil a social function. That people meet in the stadium every two weeks". Far fewer people now meet at The Valley every two weeks than was the case when Duchatelet bought the club, despite the promise to improve the matchday experience. Now just why is that, Roland? Does it amount to failure to deliver on your part? 

Then the interview moves more into the world of fans' protests and delusion and contradiction. Duchatelet commented that "when I was still the president of Standard it was already clear that the people who would cause all the misery were actually not supporters. It was people that were attracted by the fact that they could easily run riot." And of course Charlton protesters are disgruntled former employees, a faction which wants the club to fail etc. It is of course much easier for him to believe that protesters aren't real fans, just isn't the truth. 

Then after acknowledging that the interruption to his recent birthday lunch was "very unpleasant" (thanks Roland, confirmation if we needed it that demonstrations in your home town make you uncomfortable) Duchatelet continued with "supporters can have a say in the logistics, like how the beer should be served" (how very kind of him; I used to make a joke about the Fans Forum being restricted to input on the price of Bovril but seems that was close to the truth) but that "if they want to choose instead of the board or the manager, then things go wrong". Of course no Addick has ever actually suggested that the board or manager should not make the decisions. Rather there's a lot of accumulated experience and know-how among supporters, all of whom want the best for our club. They would have happily given advice and insight on many issues if consulted (ie if there had ever been meaningful communication between the regime and the supporters). Such advice has been ignored by Duchatelet. Now didn't he say earlier something about people who don't take advice being stupid? Not really contradictory, just that what he really means is that his advice is valuable and should be acted on, the advice of others is worthless. 

Duchatelet's partner Marieke Hofte chipped in with "there is not much we can do about it. It has started to live a life of its own. Roland is the scapegoat. It does not matter any longer whether he does something well or something bad. He is the symbol of their protest."  Well of course he bloody well is! We are protesting because he has shown himself to be an unfit custodian of our club; he isn't a symbol of the protest, he is the essence of it if you like. 

Back to Roland and "they first picked on Katrien Meire (general manager at Charlton). When I continued to back her up, they turned against me. A sort of witch hunt. Sociologically very interesting, but it has gone too far. Especially because they are bothering me personally." For the record we didn't first pick on Meire, she just laid herself open to being the object of some early themes through telling porkies. And it really wasn't clear for a while whether our owner was being misled by an incompetent CEO or whether he himself was really responsible for the daft decisions and strategies. Not surprisingly, we have concluded that your decision to retain Meire is evidence of your failings and that things will only really turn for the better when you are gone. 

The interview concludes on a rather disturbing note. The interviewer asks Duchatelet when he does not 'simply give in and leave Charlton for what it is'. The response is typically blind. "I never give in to blackmail. I can determine myself what is good for the club." Now blackmail involves an attempt to extract money or some other reward in return for keeping quiet about something you know. Not exactly an accurate portrayal of the protests, is it? And Hofte comes back with "at Charlton protests are still playful. At Standard, it was really aggressive." Duchatelet should thank his lucky stars that CARD has been keeping the protests within acceptable bounds, as it rightly should. There is no excuse for any element of racism, xenophobia or aggression in the protests. As for Duchatelet being able to determine himself what is good for the club, we beg to differ. He is not. 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Farewell Went and Lookman

A belated Happy New Year to all Addicks! May we get what we want for 2017; for all of us that's promotion, for most of us it's a new owner and a return to being proud of our club. This was indeed going to be another rant in response to the latest offensive, deluded and duplicitous interview given by Duchatelet, but that's been overtaken by events and will have to wait for another day. Not as if we'll have to wait long for fresh ammunition.

Have seen the sad news that Paul Went has died. He tends to get overlooked when people put together their best-ever Charlton XIs: he played a decent but not memorable number of games for us (174, over five seasons, would have been more but for injury which restricted him to only 16 appearances in 1969/70), he notched a reasonable number of goals for a centre-half (16, including seven in 1971/72, only beaten by three others that season) but no memorable ones (he did get two in a game against the Spanners but we still lost), he didn't feature in a promotion-winning team for us (if you assume as I do that a top-flight spot is always going to be wasted on Palace it was an especially gross injustice that he didn't), and his final season with us - before being sold on at a handsome profit - ended in disaster and relegation on the final day. But he does merit being put right up there, he was very, very good.

I can't add more to the words of Keith Peacock on the club site. I will have seen just about all of his appearances at The Valley (plus some elsewhere) and just can't remember him having a bad game. He must have done as he was ever-present in 1971/72 and in addition to getting relegated we conceded 77 goals, the highest total in the league. I can't recall any particularly amusing or exceptional anecdotes; basically nothing has stuck in my mind other than that he was a reliable and highly competent defender and, like Graham Moore, was a member of the only Charlton side in my youth which suggested that more could be achieved than scrapping around the bottom of the second division.

Thanks for the contribution to our club Mr Went. All our condolences for sure go to his family and friends and I'm sure the news will be marked by the club and/or the fans at the next available opportunity.

In obviously very different circumstances today we also bid farewell to Ademola Lookman, whose move to Everton has been confirmed. He goes with all our best wishes for the future. Of course his going puts our daft owner's 'strategy' for our club in the spotlight, even if no Charlton fan is really going to carp about the decision to take what appears to be a reasonable price (of course the details have not been disclosed by the regime). The use of the funds will at least allow us to better assess the balance of priorities for our owner, between getting promotion and trying to balance the books.

I've never been comfortable with the idea that Charlton have 'always been a selling club'. I think there are only a few clubs worldwide who have never found themselves in situations where a player is sold to a club in a higher/better condition. For sure we are more of a 'selling club' than say Arsenal. After all, I've seen us sell players to pay the wages, even let one star go for nothing because we couldn't pay him, and make more routine sales of progressing young players. But both of us ended up accepting offers for star players when around the top of the Premiership, in these cases because the player wanted the move. Basically any club outside the top flight and without a reasonable prospect of promotion to it in a short space of time is going to find itself hard-pressed to hold on for long against a determined Premiership suitor. For once there's no good reason to disbelieve the regime when it indicates that offers for Lookman were turned down in the summer and taking up one now can't in itself be viewed as asset-stripping or youth fish-farming.

Trouble is the sale only makes sense for us if we use funds to strengthen elsewhere and go on to get promotion. There is a world of difference between selling a good young player when it is in the interests of the club and that player and the rationale of a club being to find, develop and sell young players, in order to balance the books or at least minimise the financial drain on our owner. Karl Robinson said after a recent game that Charlton fans can be 'very excited' about the young players coming through. I'd like to be, but I can't, if the sole purpose is to put them in the shop window. Meire's sterile offering of the chance to see Premiership stars of the future is as utterly unappealing now as it was when she outlined it. I wish Lookman well, would undoubtedly applaud him if he ever played again at The Valley. But he has gone and I will take little pleasure in his progression unless our club also thrives. I don't care one jot whether or not I've seen a future Premiership star, I did care when he scored for my club.

I'd be tempted to say anyone who knows anything about football would understand this. But that would be interpreted as another insult to our owner. He is doubly stupid as not only does he not understand the rationale, indeed essence, of football, he makes no attempt to educate himself, even when what he does patently doesn't work.

But I digress. Let's end with a little note to Mr Robinson. Well done to him and the players, life and the league table obviously look better after seven points from three games than after no win in six and getting turned over by the Spanners. But now we've no game for another 10 days, only one in well over two weeks. Sure it's an important one and yes there is plenty to be done during the transfer window. But nobody's forgotten that pledge about wanting to meet the fans and learn more about the protests and the Trust's as yet (I believe) unanswered invitation. As before, if you don't take it up we will have to assume that either you weren't serious or you've been told by the regime who you can and can't meet.

And sorry Karl, the protests aren't going to stop, even if we win our next home game. Understandably there is an element of ebb and flow about them influenced by our league position and form, none of us want our club to fail. But if you do meet the Trust, and listen, you should be convinced that the issues run much deeper and that the protests are not the frivolous actions of serial complainers but rather a result of the regrettable but unavoidable conclusion, based on the evidence, that our club cannot thrive under the current ownership.


Monday, 19 December 2016

Mr Bumble

Let's have a little sympathy for our owner. I'm reliant on others' translation for Charlton-related parts of Roland's latest attempt to educate the world via Belgian media. But it's still worth watching the interview without understanding a word, for the way Duchatelet speaks and his body language, the attitude of the interviewer, and the behaviour of the invited audience. What he says about Charlton, the protests and Sir Chris is of course complete drivel. We all know that. What I found illuminating is watching Duchatelet mumble and squirm through that part of the interview, looking decidedly shifty. Basically he knows full well that he's talking nonsense, trying to remember and peddle a line that he really doesn't believe himself and which nobody is buying; and he's not a very good liar.

Equally revealing, once Duchatelet gets off football his demeanour changes. His replies are more confident, he talks at greater length without hesitation, seemingly intent on convincing his young questioner of the merits of his arguments and the depth of his insight. Only problem is the interviewer looks like he's only barely suppressing laughter for much of the time and the members of the audience are quite clearly bored out of their minds, hoping desperately that this irrelevant old man is shuffled off the show as soon as is decently possible. I can't comment on what he actually said on non-footballing matters; what is apparent is that nobody is listening, which must be tough for any visionary to take.

No doubt Duchatelet will believe that the interview went well; no doubt that is what the sycophants around him will say. All is well in the world of Roland. But you can tell it isn't really. His insults are getting more desperate and will only give fresh impetus to the protests, fresh ammunition. And there's enough in what he said and the way he said it to infer that he is closer to giving up the ghost than before. He owned Standard Liege for four years, soon it will be three years for us and he talks in terms of legacy, having done a decent enough job etc. He is deluding himself as before, he was and is an unmitigated disaster for our club. But if that delusion shifts him towards selling, more power to it.

In the interim, I'd been putting this together before CARD began its advent calendar. Might as well get it finished and out anyway, it is that time of year after all:

On the first day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the second day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the third day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the fourth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the fifth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the sixth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the seventh day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the eighth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
George Tucudean, Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the ninth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Karel Fraeye, George Tucudean, Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the tenth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Relegation, Karel Fraeye, George Tucudean, Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Endless lies and insults, relegation, Karel Fraeye, George Tucudean, Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
One decent pitch (thank you and goodbye), endless lies and insults, relegation, Karel Fraeye, George Tucudean, Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.


Friday, 16 December 2016

Heroes v Villains

Johnnie Jackson's splendid, heart-warming act for Kyle Andrews has had the response it deserves (see Chicago Addick). Perhaps the best testament for the skipper is that none of us are really surprised by the gesture, we already know enough about the man for him to have earned our admiration and affection. But it did send my mind off at a tangent on a quiet Friday morning: who would be in my Charlton XI for pure commitment to the cause? And perhaps also who would be in the team to face them, those who quite clearly didn't give a monkey's?

Now we're not talking outright ability here, rather some base level of contribution to the club and evidence that for good reason the fans took them to their hearts, that they truly cared (or for the other team even when it was clear the player had ability but was just looking after number one). I've tried (a bit) to balance out special cases with pure longevity (it would be easier just to pick the players with the most appearances for the position), and to distinguish between commitment to the cause and just a liking for kicking the opposition (which is why Phil Warman and Paul Miller are edged out) as well as commitment to our cause over commitment to any (eg Andy Peake). For sure there's a bias towards players I've actually seen, so with one obvious exception apologies to any player pre-1960s.

There are some tough calls - and given that my teams have been put together rather quickly and off the top of my head no doubt I've missed out some who merit inclusion. So please help out with suggestions for improvement, with reasons why your guy should be included instead of someone listed.

With those provisos, here's my heroes team (managed by Curbs rather than having Sir Chris as player-manager):

Bartram
Solly
Powell (Sir Chris)
Shirtliffe
Brown (Steve)
Jackson
Gritt
Peacock
Powell (Colin)
Kermorgant
Firmani

Subs:  Kiely (apologies to Charlie Wright and Bob Bolder), Curtis (just ahead of Humphrey and Reid), Kishishev, Morrison , Jones (Keith), Walsh (Colin), Hales, Horsfield (with apologies to Matt Tees and Carl Leaburn)

Tough on Deano to not make the first team (and Bob Bolder and Charlie Wright not to be on the bench) but even though I never saw him play how can you not select Bartram? Firmani over Hales? No question that Killer is in every Charlton legends team. But in a team chosen for true commitment to our cause I'd opt for Firmani and Kermorgant as the starting front two (forget whether they could actually work as a pair), with Hales and King Arthur on the bench (even though this meant no place for my boyhood hero Tees).

The Villains? Again, I've tried not to just pick the duffest players but rather those who stood out for their attitude (which is why there's no place for Lepoint; just not really his fault). But sometimes you just have to choose the useless one, beginning with ... (actually beginning with the manager, one Roland Duchatelet; it's a job he seems to think he's qualified for and with the help of his Boy Scout he does have a good knowledge of some of the players in his team, albeit mostly ones on the bench as they were so bad they couldn't even make this team):

Thuram-Ulien
Mills (Danny)
Pitcher
Setters
Johnson (Roger)
Buyens
Dunphy
Milne
Ghoochannejhad
Sordell
Jones (Andy)

Subs:  Uytenbogaardt, Koc, Nego, Sarr, Tucudean, Crawford (Ray), Makienok

Now Uytenbogaardt may for all I know have been the most committed Charlton player in history; and you can't criticise just because he was always second-fiddle to Bartram. But come on, six years at the club and six appearances has to be some kind of record for extracting the Michael. And I have to have a reserve keeper. It was either him or Lee Harmsworth, which would have been a tad unfair. Danny Mills? I could be wrong here but, while there was nothing wrong with his full season for us (and no, we'll never forget the free kick at Villa Park), when he came back on loan I'd swear he got himself deliberately sent off, ensuring he'd be banned over the Christmas/New Year period and able to put his feet up.

Pitcher would make everyone's team I'm sure. Maurice Setters features not least as I've still got a newspaper cutting (from my scrapbooks of the era) covering his arrival headlined 'I'll raise the Jolly Roger at Charlton', talking of what he will do for the club in their fight against relegation. Played eight games, the last of which was 0-5 against Leicester, Firmani sacked, end of story. Eamon Dunphy was a decent player, but anyone who is responsible for a book and TV dramatisation where having signed for us from Millwall he tries to console one of their released youngsters by saying 'things could be worse; I've got to go and play for Charlton' has to be included.