Saturday, 17 September 2016

Missed Chances, Points Wasted

I had no plans to actually go to the game today, just intending to turn up for the CARD photo, suitably attired. Turns out we missed the first shoot, which had been brought forward, but made a repeat effort put on for us late arrivals, then a ticket for the match found its way into my possession. Let me just stress that no transfer of money to the regime was involved in the manufacturing of this post.

The game proved to be a criminal waste of three points. After 20 minutes I'd pretty much come to terms with just how empty The Valley is these days, we were 1-0 up, looked perfectly capable of adding to that, Wimbledon didn't look as if they carried a real threat, and my thoughts were just nothing silly at the back and we should run out comfortable winners. At half-time we should have been two or three goals to the good but no particular reason for concern, given the way the game had gone. After 60 mins I remember thinking we'd gone off the boil rather but were still comfortable, just hadn't put the game to bed; I also wondered why Wimbledon seemed so content to be carrying on with one up front and seemingly just going through the motions headed for defeat. After what proved a pretty material substitution by them, two goals, and a lame response from us, by the final whistle my mind was turning to just how we'd lost a game that was there for the taking.

That may seem a little unfair on Wimbledon. Perhaps they had a game-plan all along (although the substitution that they made, which involved the introduction of a second forward, one with considerable physical presence, came as a result of a clash of heads at a corner and their guy going down poleaxed and getting stretchered off). Truth is that with that change Wimbledon looked a different team going forward, scored two decent goals, and ended the game in the ascendency.

The team was unchanged from the Fleetwood game, with Solly and Fox either side of Pearce and Konsa in front of Rudd, Crofts and Ulvestad in central midfield and Holmes and Lookman occupying the wide positions, and Magennis and Ajose up front. And after Konsa was a little fortunate not to pick up a yellow card after an early slip prompted a clear foul the first chance came the way of Lookman. He was given far too much time, moved inside onto his right foot, but put the shot wide of the far post. Really should have at least tested the keeper and you felt at the time that surely it can't be that easy for him, surely Wimbledon wouldn't give him that much space again. Wrong. Seems the clock was only showing eight minutes gone when the ball was played square to Lookman and he took it forward to the edge of the box. Again he cut inside, shaped to shoot and their defender obligingly fell to the turf, allowing Lookman to take it further to the right, then to direct his shot unerringly inside the near post. It was a calm and effective finish, a goal all his own work, but the defending was shocking.

It looked like the first of many. Magennis was doing a good job of bullying their two centre-backs and laying it off, Ajose was buzzing around with intent, Holmes was threatening, and there was also Lookman. Crofts and Ulvestad didn't seem to be getting forward to provide support, but quite frankly it didn't look as though they would be required to do more than feed the others and protest the back four. Wimbledon did produce an early scare or two but nothing clear-cut, with Pearce in particular cutting out most balls forward, whereas the chances for us were to come with regularity through the first half.

Holmes had a decent shot beaten away, Ajose was played in, not really a one-on-one as he was further out than that but he was clear and failed to test the keeper, then the one that was laid on a plate for him. Down the right Ulvestad and Solly worked to create space for a cross, eventually Ulvestad floated one up to the far post, Magennis headed it down invitingly, but Ajose blazed it over the bar. It was a bad miss as finishing chances like that are the reason he is out there. Instead he'd been well placed twice and hadn't put in an effort on target.

There may have been other chances in the first half but no more come to mind. At the break we were ahead but really should have been out of sight. There was no strong feeling at the time that the failure to score more might come back to haunt us as we seemed in control of the game, but you did feel that a team looking to be around the top six needed to be more clinical in front of goal - and that if we ended up failing to beat a team that looked as limited as Wimbledon we will have problems.

The second half carried on in a similar vein: us in control, Wimbledon sitting back despite being behind, and just the need for a second goal to make it safe. It didn't come. We probed, threatened, still had the weapons. One squared by Magennis almost provided Ajose with a tap-in but didn't quite find him. When we did get one on target, a good header from Magennis I think, their keeper dived low to his right and pulled off a stunning save. That was a turning point. So was the injury Wimbledon suffered from a corner. There seemed to be some confusion as their guy had been on the ground for some minutes with a stretcher called for, yet when the guy was carried off nobody was ready to replace him. The pitch announcer said someone else was coming on, but eventually a big guy pulled on a shirt and prepared to enter the game. He moved alongside their lone forward and suddenly the game seemed different.

Slade seemed to sense that Wimbledon were now a different kettle of fish and withdrew Ajose, sending on Novak with around 20 mins left. But he didn't change the shape, didn't look to the available Jackson to help close things down (and perhaps pop up with a goal). Instead the next material event saw their left-winger force or take advantage of a slip from Solly to cut in on goal, only for Konsa to save the captain's blushes with an excellent block. Like our goal, it was to prove a portent of things to come. Not long after the ball was worked to that same guy. Lookman seemed to realise the problem and doubled up, only this time the guy knocked it between the pair of them and was suddenly in, rifling the ball past Rudd.

Still more than 10 minutes to go, plus stoppage time, so their equaliser really should have made it game on. But by then we'd lost momentum and the chances were not coming along so frequently, while they knew that they were back in a game they had no right to be. It was at this point I thought Slade should have made a change, probably to bring on Jackson, as on the pitch we looked in need of drive and leadership. Nothing happened and with five minutes left on the clock we were to concede again.

To be fair, this goal was a peach. Former Charlton youth player Fuller hadn't looked the most comfortable right-back playing football this afternoon, up against Lookman, but he moved forward down the line and onto a ball, to curl in a superb cross. It was curling away from defenders, came in just behind their sub, he twisted his neck and directed it like a bullet past Rudd, who again had no chance.

With five minutes of stoppage time we still had around 10 minutes left to get something out of the game. We didn't. Wimbledon not surprisingly chased everything down, we looked desperate (especially when Solly found himself in space at the far post but was unable to square it to someone in a red shirt), and although Magennis nodded one down for Novak to finish he was clearly in an offside position. Instead their sub proved pretty adept at running down the clock and the game ended with them in raptures and us ruing both missed opportunities and an inability to respond to a change in circumstances.

As this is the first game I've seen this season I can't compare with what has gone before, only give my impressions. I hope the manager and the players are annoyed with themselves and use that anger to positive effect next time around. Today they came up short. It was a case of Shankley's 'the best team always wins, the rest is just gossip'. They took advantage of our failures.

Player Ratings:

Rudd:  7/10.  What rating do you give a keeper who made no saves and had no chance with their two goals?

Solly:  6/10.  No lack of effort but got outmuscled by their guy twice and the second time it cost us a goal.

Fox:  6/10. Nothing decisive at either end of the pitch, no problems but no great contribution either.

Pearce:  7/10.  I was impressed with him, a classic 'no nonsense' performance. For most of the game our defence was untroubled, for which he took much of the credit. But that changed with their substitution.

Konsa:  6/10.  One excellent block, some good tackles. Clearly an excellent prospect, just question whether he is ready to deal with the sort of sub they threw on.

Holmes:  7/10.  Always a threat, even towards the end when he carried the ball half the length of the pitch only to not get the curled shot right. Another shot beaten away.

Crofts:  6/10.  Pretty anonymous for most of the game, but for most of the game we were in control and all he needed to do was shore things up.

Ulvestad:  7/10.  He wasn't exactly box-to-box today, still finding his feet. But showed glimpses of what we hope is to come in giving our midfield more guile and energy.

Lookman:  7/10.  Should have been the match-winner but wasn't.

Magennis:  7/10.  Really overall did his job, was effective in leading the line and keeping their defenders unsettled. Just didn't make a decisive contribution.

Ajose:  6/10.  Has to be judged on whether or not he takes the chances that come his way. Today he didn't.

Subs:  Novak (6/10 - made no real impression, went offside when might have been played in).


Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Protesters Are The Positive Ones

I realised over the weekend - and my first trip of the new season to The Valley, to help hand out CARD programmes - that it had been some weeks since I'd posted anything. There have been good reasons, including a working holiday in France (the task was to improve our knowledge of the wines of Burgundy and I'm pleased to report that, with a lot of effort and consumption, good progress has been made). There's also been the feeling that all roads lead to 'you are destroying our club, sell up and leave' and there's only so often you can say this without sounding boring. No matter, let's say it again, in the form of a ramble through recent events. Because it needs repeating, at a time when it isn't easy for the protest movement to square supporting Slade and the team and wanting success on the pitch (which every Addick does) with the firm belief that for our club to prosper in any real sense we need new owners.

For sure it's pleasing that on the pitch a wobbly start has become a respectable one, with every indication that the players are behind the manager. It's impossible for us to say for sure how the transfer system at the club operates (ie the extent of Slade's influence), but from a distance it would seem that, for now at least, he has a strong say when it comes to signings - and at least he isn't getting stiffs dumped on him from a Poundland network. Equally it would seem that he has next to no influence - other than his one trump card, ie a threat to walk away - when it comes to sales.

I'd say that so far Slade's made only one error: not ensuring that the issue of the comments apparently made by Johnson was put to rest. If Johnson made the remarks to supporters as reported, a full and well-publicised apology was appropriate, as the Trust called for. We all say things in the heat of the moment and, even though the guy is never going to feature on a list of popular players past and present, a full act of contrition would have been the end of the matter. Without that - if there has been one I missed it, just saw a remark from Slade to the effect that Johnson had apologised - there's an unwanted issue of how supporters will respond if he is selected and perhaps in turn a factor in whether he is picked. Doesn't do the player or the team any good.

While we're dealing with matters on the pitch, it's worth remembering that our absent owner is now occupying himself (according to his partner) by focusing on the sporting side at Sint-Truiden. No surprise then that after a fluked win in their first league game of the season the Roland influence has come to the fore and they've since lost three and drawn one. No doubt in Duchateletworld the glorious victory and the plucky draw were the result of his faultless leadership, while the three defeats were down to ... (just fill in the gaps, any excuse would be accepted). Roland doesn't do failure as we know; he - and his minions - consequently just don't do truth either.

I digress - not completely as at the time in history Burgundy did extend to include what we now call Belgium (and the Netherlands) - but did thoroughly enjoy while on holiday a French whitewash of history. Dijon - which I shall forever remember fondly for a sumptuous tasting afternoon - makes a good deal of the glories and good works of the four grand dukes of Burgundy - Philip the Bold, John the Fearless, Philip the Good, and Charles the Bold - during the time of their split from the king of France, before the amicable reconciliation. What you won't find there is a single mention of the fact that during that time they allied with England and fought against the 'French', or that it was they who handed over to the English (albeit for money) Jean d'Arc. A glance at their legacy and you might propose Philip the Spendthrift, John the Murderer, Philip the Serial Shagger, and Charles the Ugly and Totally Crap as more appropriate titles. Ah well, just more reminders of the facts that we are all Europeans (that what we refer to as nation states are modern inventions) and that, as they say, history is written by the victors.

My source for this (and much else) is the obviously accurate '1,000 Years of Annoying the French'. They really should rename it '1,020 Years ...' as my partner Suzanne would suggest that I've been doing a good job of continuing the trend. We were having a lively exchange later in the holiday in the heights of Jura, prompted by her wasting valuable time ensuring that the apartment of her sister that we were leaving was totally devoid of any speck of dust. My constructive complaints were not being taken well. 'What are you going to be like when you are even older?, she inquired. 'Difficult', I suggested. 'Ha! What do you imagine you are now?' (I should point out that this came from a woman who'd just thrown a wobbler over my trimming a bit of facial fuzz in a bathroom that she'd just passed as clean for purpose, and had suggested that 'we are going to have a problem if we live together if you don't do things my way'.)

I had been trying to explain to Suzanne the latest example of utter stupidity on the part of the regime, the laughable (were it not so utterly reprehensible) hauling in of an Addick looking to renew his season ticket and being called to task for being OTT in his criticisms. I told her that we are now being widely known as the club that hates its fans. She replied that I'm so difficult that now that the regime wouldn't want to sell me a season ticket I probably want to buy one. So to be on the safe side, please just select any insult and you can confidently assume that I've used it privately or publicly to describe the regime. They have deserved every one for what they have done/are doing to our club.

In fact for the record I received a CAFC email back in mid-July inviting me to buy a season ticket. Curiously it went on to claim that 'last season we can see you spent more than £150 buying tickets on a match-by-match basis'. Now I didn't spend the proverbial penny last season, so either they have me mixed up with someone else or - more likely - they just sent out a junk email in the hope that for some the contents might be true (working from home I most enjoy the 'our records show you were involved in a car accident which wasn't your fault ....'; as I've never owned a car and haven't driven one since passing my test decades ago - first time please note Suzanne - it is a long shot). So just in case there is any doubt, in the theoretical instance that I sent in a season ticket application and was offered a code of conduct agreement, I trust I would adopt the Cantona approach. He (if I remember correctly) was accused of calling one (or more) of the French football selectors an idiot. When called in to answer for his actions, he went up to each of them in turn, said 'idiot', and walked out.

They have been idiots from the start. And how do we know nothing's changed? The evidence. Duchatelet obviously hasn't changed as Meire unbelievably remains at our club. He is still the dictatorial buffoon who gave those crazed interviews and released those revolting statements. Meire hasn't changed, although she keeps trying to suggest that she - or at least the club management in general - has. Again, the evidence. Just take those 'programme notes from the senior management team'; they can't help themselves, they are snide, divisive, cheap, and deceitful. "We'd like to begin by thanking all of those that stuck by the club last season" - in other words not those who protested and who, by their protests, clearly did not 'stick by the club'. We have "a change in strategy by the club", nicely glossing over the fact that previous strategies have been doomed to failure, as everyone with any understanding of football said at the time. "We have lost players ..." Exactly how do you lose one? Did some wander off after training? You've sold them to offset losses and ended contracts to save on wages. Ah no, "the players we've lost all wanted new challenges". Are they really trying to suggest that if 'they' had wanted to stay there would have been no sales? Utterly ridiculous.

Most obnoxious was "we haven't been maximising fully the passion, energy and effort that our fans have" and "we want to communicate better and more frequently with our fans". Presumably a change, therefore, from the 'Charlton fans have to accept ...' approach and the false promises before of meaningful dialogue. The regime doesn't want to 'communicate', let alone have a real dialogue, that much is obvious. It does want an end to protests, more season ticket/matchday ticket sales/spending inside the ground and to that end is seemingly prepared to endure some time wasted on a few selected meetings. Too cynical? Easy enough to prove me wrong. If the regime/senior management had any sense it would take advantage of the relative lull in protests and take the initiative by inviting the Trust and CARD representatives to enter into open-ended discussions. It would be hard for them to turn down such an offer at this point in time and such an offer just might incline some of us to question whether something has indeed changed. Of course there will be no such offer, since that would be risking the facade of change off the pitch being exposed.

Most laughable was "the new era is about positivity". Protest by its very nature is in a sense negative, a reaction to something deemed unacceptable/undesirable. But it is also positive, a call for a change for the better, for a brighter future. Those calling for new owners are not mired in negativity (and of course they are not xenophobes), they are the positive ones.

I was going to go on to cover the absurdity of Meire and the FA, bringing in the exchange of letters that I had with the Football League following the reprehensible statement made in the wake of the Burnley game by chief executive Shaun Harvey. But time marches on, Suzanne arrives from France this evening and there is a property to be cleaned (as best as I can), and that may be enough ranting for one day.


Friday, 8 July 2016

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

I'm sure there have been many fine academic studies into the potential negative impact of sales and marketing campaigns, just that I'm blissfully unaware of them. I do know that downsides, in the form of consumer boycotts, exit. For example I continue to balk at any Virgin service because they once sponsored an inferior south London team. We don't forget. So while it is possible that for once Ms Meire is telling the truth and ITRM is indeed a "forward-thinking (I've added the hyphen just to correct the English for the benefit of the club website), successful business which does (correcting from 'who do') great work in the community", I will forever think badly of the company and in the unlikely event of the situation arising would decline to use their services and urge anyone I know not to use them.

It is disappointing to see the news of a new club website, not because there's any affection for the current one (in normal circumstances we would be welcoming a return to a bespoke site) but as any evidence that the regime is planning ahead for anything other than a sale of the club goes down badly. ITRM MD Dave White may say that "this is an exciting project for the Club and all the fans". He is clearly wrong and should be ashamed of himself, if he does indeed have some affection for Charlton Athletic. As for the fans, I hope that every grouping, up to and including the Trust, sees it as in our club's best interest to shun contact with the regime, unless and until there is a commitment from Duchatelet to sell.

You may infer from this that nothing's changed as far as my attitude towards the regime is concerned. And you'd be right. Of course the appointment of Slade and developments since then have given cause for reflection. It is quite remarkable that Duchatelet has completely abandoned his masterplan for the selection of and duties of a head coach, and that the strategy for selecting players to bring in - one so eloquently expressed by Murray not long ago - has gone out of the window with relegation. Those changes are, in themselves, to be welcomed - although surely Duchatelet's regular U-turns (let's not forget the silly reliance on financial fair play) should remind us that he's not implementing some insightful grand plan but rather scrabbling around and moving from one failed initiative to the next. There can be no confidence in him sticking to any particular path, other than one which might involve making money (or minimising the drain on his finances).

The bottom line is that the regime is still in place and there do not appear to be ongoing initiatives towards a sale. The hapless Meire continues to pretend to represent Charlton. So the best we can hope for is that Duchatelet will stay away and not interfere (with luck he will occupy himself with his repurchased Belgian toy), that Meire manages to say and do nothing for as long and as often as she possibly can, for the sake of our club's future and its reputation, and that Slade will put together a squad capable of getting us promoted. In the interim I see no reason to ease up on the campaign to rid our club of the regime, to target all revenue streams etc. And yes, I have no doubts that CARD's shirt sales set against the official strip will tell its own story, as it would seem are season ticket sales.

That doesn't get around a real problem for CARD. I don't go along with the notion that 'we made our point' last season and now should just shelve/abandon the protests so as to maximise our chances of getting back into the Championship. But some fans probably will - and for good and understandable motives. The regime may be thinking that it's seen off the worst and that the recent changes might prompt a change of heart in sufficient number of Addicks. It makes it a tough call for CARD, to maintain the backing of the overwhelming majority of fans, how to define in practise 'support the team, not the regime'.

I've no insight into CARD thinking (I just turn up and help hand out the pre-match materials) but would personally favour something along the lines of 'the protests - of course - continue but for now nothing will be done inside the ground before and during matches, when we urge Addicks to get behind Slade and the team'. If hopes of a promotion push prove groundless, the picture changes and CARD would be ready to lead that change, while in the interim keeping up the pressure on club revenues, including urging no spend inside the ground. The alternative approach - continuing the same level of protest, even increasing it - only works if Duchatelet is led to a sale. If there are grounds for backing that in the short term, terrific and let's do all we can. If not, the risk becomes one of crash and burn, of Addicks being alienated or just bored with continuing, regular disruption to games.

So a new club strip, Welling again, and off we go once more. Nothing has changed (except of course the division we're in, the manager, probably close on the entire squad by the time we actually start the season).


Friday, 10 June 2016

Reason To Believe

I sometimes tell my partner Suzanne things that are not true. She will usually react by suggesting that I’m lying to her. I will reject the accusation, on the grounds that a reasonable definition of a lie is ‘a false statement made with a deliberate intent to deceive’, whereas there wasn’t a bat in hell’s chance that she would actually believe what I had just said. So while untrue, what was said can’t be a lie. Now Katrien’s comments (and we all know the track record) really do seem to fall into a similar category as surely she can’t imagine that we (or anyone in football generally) would actually believe them. They, like the fact that she retains her job, come across as nothing more than a bad joke, at our expense.

So while I can understand Peter Varney being livid at what Meire said and to want to see a formal retraction, as demanded in his statement, I also hope that he needs no reassurance that whether or not he gets one, and whether or not there is litigation, will not influence any Charlton supporter as regards who and what is actually believed. We merely add Varney’s name to the list of those who have earned our respect and trust who now find themselves at odds with Ms Meire when it comes to the truth. We know from both deeds and words over many years that Varney is a Charlton supporter and wants the best for the club. Ms Meire has told us of her love for Charlton but all that she says and does run at odds with that notion. Such words consequently aren’t cheap, they are at best worthless.

In that context, wouldn’t it be insightful if we heard something from Richard Murray on this particular episode? He recently expressed his disappointment at the treatment he has received from fans. He is undoubtedly in a difficult position; he can only quit once and when litigation is in the air silence is perhaps understandable. But whatever their differences of late Varney is a guy who worked alongside Murray for many years and with the addition of Curbishley of course the three together can claim the plaudits for the most successful period in the club’s recent history. Whatever goes on behind the scenes, saying and doing nothing public risks putting Murray even more squarely in the Meire camp and in that event he could hardly complain if he is increasingly seen in that light by fans.

The following is taken from the programme for a game against Preston on 8 March 2008 (the season when we failed to bounce back to the Premiership), to cover Varney's decision to stand down as chief executive (for 'personal reasons'). Murray on Varney: "Every single director of this football club is disappointed with the decision that Peter has reached and will be disappointed to see him leave. He is without doubt the most impressive individual I have worked with throughout my business career." Varney on Murray: "... I must pay particular tribute to Richard Murray, who took something of a gamble when appointing me to the role 10-and-a-half years ago, and who has supported me enthusiastically in everything I have set out to achieve." Where did the love go?


As for Ms Meire, I’ve just seen the announcement from the Football League that clubs will from now on be required to hold at least two meetings with a representative group of the club’s supporters. I sincerely hope that Charlton, as represented by the Trust, will decline to take up any invitation to attend a meeting at which Ms Meire is present, on the grounds that she is not a real representative of the club. I hope that all those who have dealings with Charlton Athletic follow a similar course. Only Roland can sack her but we don’t have to deal with her in any way, shape or form. 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Perhaps Not So Dumb

I can't say whether Russell Slade was being refreshingly open and honest or craftily indiscreet at today's press conference, going on the reports and quotes that I've seen. Only time will tell but for me, for now, he has the benefit of the doubt. Many will conclude that he needs his bumps felt for signing a contract which apparently does not include "control over my players", instead relying on a "verbal agreement". I'd guess it's a little more complicated than that - and Slade may be boxing smart.

Assume that Slade wants the job but either knows or suspects he can't get full assurances over player transfers and team selection put down in writing. And to be fair it's not easy once you start going down that road to try to cover all possible eventualities, even if the club CEO portends to be a lawyer. No contract can do that. So instead Slade gets some words, words which he will remember but Duchatelet and/or Meire will no doubt remember differently. He must know that were he to resign on the grounds of these assurances proving to be lies, actually winning any case for compensation would be very much in doubt, his word against theirs (and they lie) - with nothing on paper. Pretty poor deal on the face of it, one which Chris Wilder did not sign up to (and which may not be far removed from the sort of contract that Sir Chris also rejected).

However, by answering today's question as he did Slade has put it in the public domain that assurances have been given. Consequently, if at some point in the future he walks away the world and his dog will believe him and not them. If the club was not toxic to potential managers before, it would be then, probably leaving Duchatelet with little option but to bring in either someone so desperate it would be laughable, or revert to a network crony, which in light of the latest U-turn (now we want a manager, not a head coach etc) would be absurd. So by my reading Slade is not without cards in the game, even if his only meaningful one would be to actually quit (meaning once or twice he could threaten to do so). Doesn't sound like the start of a relationship built on trust, but who in their right mind would trust this regime?

Otherwise it seems what Slade said was reasonable and fair; in other circumstances there could be grounds for optimism. Unfortunately for him Ms Meire could not keep her trap shut, so the conference will be remembered as much for her continuing defiance of reality as for our new manager's hopes and aspirations. And Richard Murray seems to be right beside her. "Fraeye stayed too long, that was probably the biggest mistake". I suspect most would suggest that appointing him in the first place was somewhat bigger, but of course Meire has said previously that every change of head coach has led to improvement.

Murray apparently said "I was disappointed with the treatment I got last year, considering what I've tried to do for this club". He has been called a lot of names on some sites and has had to listen to some unpleasant singing after some games. Can't be pleasant for sure, but the stage has been reached whereby we can't say whether his support for the regime is motivated by his sincere belief that they are good for Charlton Athletic or personal financial interest. I have no idea. If I remember correctly he was retained by the regime to provide a link between the board and the fans. Given what has happened since, it isn't just Meire who should consider whether the extent of their failings in the job should result in resignation, before any sensible employer gave them the push. It is fair to say that whereas when Duchatelet bought the club the retention of Murray was seen as a clear positive (including by me), when the next change of ownership comes (may it be soon) nobody will want to see him involved any longer. And the longer he acts as an apologist for the regime, the further away shift the memories of the good years under his stewardship.

There's a rule in logic/argument form that I remember (and may have used before), reductio ad absurdum. This states (if I remember correctly) that if you can take an argument to a contradiction you can go back and change one of the assumptions (on the grounds that at least one of them has to be wrong). Today Meire reportedly said both "I want to stress, we have the best intentions for this club" and that "the club is not for sale". (I'll gloss over the other one - "I'm very positive we made the right appointment and this will start to bring the fans back" - as it is obviously wrong, or at best wishful thinking.) I'd suggest the two amount to a contraction; if they were truly motivated by best intentions for the club it would be for sale (or at least they would be talking to potential purchasers/investors). But it's not her decision anyway.


Monday, 6 June 2016

Good Luck Russell

Russell Slade it is then. I couldn't get excited at the prospect of Chris Wilder and suspect that nobody, with the possible exception of Mrs Slade, has ever had their temperature raised by the approach of Mr Slade. He doesn't cut that sort of figure. But let's face facts: given the circumstances we can't be anyone's first choice and there would probably have been a shrug of the shoulders from most of us whoever ended up taking the post. Duchatelet hasn't left yet, the rest is secondary, especially as Slade's appointment cannot be said to either accelerate or postpone his departure.

Others have been doing a good job of late keeping up the appropriate criticism of the regime. Having celebrated the promotion of my adopted French team Lyon Duchere (who rounded off their season on Saturday by trouncing Olympique Lyonnais B 4-1), I've instead been reflecting on how I felt about all the speculation of recent weeks, and why. In a nutshell how can I be so indifferent about who takes over? And just what do I want going forward?

For the latter, over and above all else the departure of Duchatelet, for the good of our club (which also explains the former as no good can come of their remaining). And on that front it has to be said that recent developments have been disappointing. He is still our owner (quite simply no news is bad news), there is no indication that he is about to sack Ms Meire (which itself beggars belief), and with his formal reacquisition of Sint-Truiden he cannot be said to be on a path of extricating himself from football. And he is of course still daft as a brush ("it was not my intention to return to Belgian football ... I'm back but I've never been gone ..."). There's not even a hint of irony, let alone apology, from his partner and Sint-Truiden's new president when she declared that while she will handle the business side "Roland will focus on the sporting side". What a spring in the steps of all Sint-Truiden supporters that must have put; they have our sympathies and, like us, must hope that this period in their history will pass quickly. If they're lucky he'll pull on the shirt next season, that would save on the wages.

That means two things: first, the protests continue, hopefully intensify when the time is right; second, we are really still in the dark about plans for the season ahead and will be until there's some idea of what sort of team might take to the pitch. If there is a secondary objective for me, it is that Duchatelet spends every penny he has in trying to get us promoted - before selling us for a higher price than he could get now. I don't care if that leaves him/the club open to a financial fair play fine, if we have to endure him for another season (which I fervently hope we do not) it seems only fit and proper that he should pay through the nose for the privilege, give Slade everything he asks for, and don't interfere (other than to make the ridiculously long overdue change of CEO).

We know that's not going to happen. I can't help thinking that Daddy Roland thinks we've been a bad baby, that we deserve to sit in the naughty chair for a while under the auspices of Nurse Ratched. Same approach as before in the Championship: hope to be competitive, be ready to take a profit on any player sale, and, by setting the bar low, probably fall short. The degree to which Slade can alter that mindset remains to be seen. In any event, disunity is seldom a pointer to success and there is no chance of that at Charlton under the current regime, something which surely Slade realises.

Seems that Slade will be put through a press conference tomorrow and that probably won't be easy for him, especially with the fool to whom he will have to report sitting next to him (I hope for his sake Johnnie Jackson is on his hols and won't be required to provide moral support). He is bound to be asked about the protests and supporters' attitudes towards the regime. It would clearly be a mistake were he to call for the protests to stop, on the grounds of forging a united front to try to get us promoted. Simply not realistic and would only alienate Addicks. If I was him I'd probably go for something along the lines of: 'I've been brought in to get us back into the Championship and to progress as a club. All I ask of the fans is that when the team is on the pitch they given them their full support (and in return I'll do my damndest to put out a team worthy of that support). What happens outside of that is not for me to comment on'. Then if he's really lucky, Meire will say nothing. 

By taking the post Slade inevitably goes down in our estimation, as does anyone who opts to take the Duchatelet coin. But something along those lines would I think come across well, be not at odds with 'support the team, not the regime', and would be sentiments that CARD should be able to live with, while the protests continue.


Saturday, 28 May 2016

Bravo Duchere (and Hull), Commiserations Sint-Truiden

It seems there is to be no final day drama for my adopted French team Lyon Duchere. They are promoted!! Bravo La Duch! Tonight they turned over Auxerre B on their own patch, 1-2, while rivals Grenoble were held to a 0-0 draw at home to lowly Montceau-les-Mines. Now with a game left it is still possible that the two can end the season on the same number of points. But the final ranking must be down to head-to-head results rather than goal difference as my partner Suzanne keeps sending me evidence of congratulations being sent around (I shall gloss over the fact that she's had weeks to find out what I needed to know). There is no doubt that Duchere are promoted, for the second time in four or five years, and Lyon now for sure has two football clubs.

Just how Duchere will fare in France's National, the country's third division, remains to be seen. Like many across the continent now getting promoted, no doubt they'll be among the favourites to come back down. We've been there. And there's no doubt they will be punching well above their (current) weight. National contains teams like Dunkerque, Boulogne, Beziers (I'd add Strasbourg, Amiens and Orleans but it looks like those three will get promoted). Duchere games I've been to sometimes have had crowds of a couple of hundred and only recently have ball-boys been a regular feature, rather than the players having to collect the ball. But who cares? Tonight Duchere can celebrate, I hope Lyon will celebrate for them, and planning for next season can wait until after what now should be a love fest against Olympique Lyonnais next weekend.

So Duchere join the ranks of those who end the season on a high. Add Hull to that list, given the outcome of the Championship play-off final today (and of course Barnsley, who confirm their promotion to the Championship tomorrow). Is there a lesson from the fact that two of the teams relegated from the Premiership a year ago kept their managers and have gone back up? Of course there is, just don't expect our owners to understand it.

Football is a zero sum game and as Duchere celebrate the fans of Grenoble will be crying into their Chartreuse (I will join them in a glass later). So will the followers of Sheff Wednesday, while supporters of other clubs have suffered even crueller fates. The news that Duchatelet has bought back Sint-Truiden only fills me with sympathy for their fans. They don't deserve him. Neither do we.

Of course if Ms Meire were to be transferred to them from us I'd be a little relieved. At least it would raise the possibility of greater competence in our neck of the woods. But overall I'm in the camp that believes it matters not. She has no business being involved in a senior position at any football club - obviously nobody else in football would employ her - and if the repurchase of a club rather closer to his heart actually encourages him to stay in the game it is a massive net negative, for us and Sint-Truiden.

We've seen the comments Duchatelet has made regarding "foreign owners" and understanding "football culture". It has been quite frankly sickening to read them. He has demonstrated that he doesn't understand football, what it takes to succeed in the industry. All he does with his words is drive home the message that he is incapable of learning why he fails, in football, politics etc.

Actually Albury Addick rather trumped me with a post about our owner being clinically insane. I had been considering the idea that if I was an offspring of Duchatelet, or a potential beneficiary of his estate, whether it would be possible to have him declared mentally incapacitated on the grounds that just retaining Meire is evidence of wilfull destruction of capital. What other reason could there be?

So tonight let's raise a glass to congratulate all those who have succeeded this season, to commiserate with those that have failed. And to bemoan the fate of those who, at least for now, have to live with the prospect of continued failure.