When you are away from a screen for most of a day (there are too many distractions on the Eurostar and TGV to get to Lyon, usually in the form of a bottle, to be bothering about staying connected) there’s that keen sense of anticipation when the next morning you check the club site. Is it Church, Fuller, Obika, Sordell – or all of them. And we’re still waiting. So be it. As tomorrow morning we head off to Italy (assuming I manage to squeeze all of my French partner Suzanne’s shoes into the car), to some way up another bloody mountain there are other things on my mind, such as will there be enough room for my spare pair of kacks alongside Suzanne’s kitchen sink and her other essentials.
Travelling inevitably gets more difficult with each passing year, not so much because the bag over the shoulder seems heavier as one matures (it’s remotely possible I’ve matured a little from my teenage years but I certainly haven’t aged) but because the crankier you get the more situations arise to deepen the effect. Last time I took the train to Lyon, I went for an FT and bottle of water at the WH Smith’s shop inside the Eurostar terminal. It had a number of self-service terminals, a couple of cash tills, and two assistants. ‘I prefer to use the tills if you don’t mind’, says I. ‘Oh, we’re not using them today, but I can show you how to use the self-service’. ‘No thanks’. ‘Why not?’ ‘Ask me in six months when you don’t have a job any more’. This time around there was one assistant. ‘We’re not using the tills today because I’m on my own’. Enough said. As before I said no thanks and put the items back.
I don’t think I’m just a Luddite, it’s about two things. First, shedding more jobs at this juncture for the economy isn’t great for the wider picture. Second, where is any incentive to comply with a change which I don’t want? Will I get through the process faster? No. Will my goods be cheaper as a result? Fat bloody chance. I could benefit indirectly if the brain-dead fund manager overseeing my hopelessly inadequate pension scheme has some retailers included, but for the time being at least I’ll take the chance. Simple enough trade-off, I avoid going into WH Smith’s (and will change supermarkets if the pressure to use self-service machines increases).
If I’m cranky this morning it’s Suzanne’s fault. I arrived at Part-Dieu at 19.00 French time last night, replete from the wine, but she needed to work late. So I was obliged to have a second pastis in the bar while waiting to be picked up. And there’s no uplifting news from the club site as yet.
The news that Button has gone and that Smith is deemed surplus to requirements is a little surprising but understandable. Button was given a chance last season and didn’t take it, can’t have been enamoured with the prospect of warming the bench for another season, and had the opportunity to drop down a flight but presumably be first choice. Good luck to him, and to Smith, they both have the time to rebuild. Presumably the club feels that Pope is ready to be called upon and I’d be inclined to agree with Wyn Grant about us always being able to do an emergency loan for another keeper if Hamer is out for a few weeks. I just hope that being the undisputed number one has a positive rather than negative effect on Hamer’s thinking as we certainly can’t afford him to be off song; he acknowledged last season that being dropped gave him a necessary kick up the backside.
Defence sorted (barring any departures), forwards awaited, but if there’s one area that could still use some adjustments it is midfield. Jackson, Gower, Hughes, Pritchard, Green, Harriott, Stephens, Hollands, Dervitte if needed, may not be a clear over-indulgence of personnel, especially if at the moment 4-5-1 is Plan A, B, C, D etc (Pigott may be pressing for a start alongside Kermorgant but if we started a game with both there’s no option for change on the bench); but I still feel that Stephens and Hollands either play or, like Button and Smith, look elsewhere. We are all led to believe that there are little or no funds available, so savings where possible are desirable.
On that front, I have no criticism of the owners if they feel unable/unwilling to invest more in the team. I’m not writing the cheques. But if they do attract criticism they have only themselves to blame. It’s a by-product of their failure to communicate. It’s not enough to simply conclude that we have no money (or worse). We know we are significantly loss-making, so the owners’ decision is what level of losses are acceptable dependent on their ambitions and the confines of the new rules. The last statement of intent was along the lines of ‘we aim to take the club back to the Premiership’. Of course no timetable was, or could be, suggested. But does that goal still stand? If it does, how would it square with taking chances on Championship status by cutting the purse strings? My feeling is that the owners would get significant goodwill and support if they were open and honest about the financial planning and constraints rather than leaving up to supporters to draw inferences from activity (or lack of). But they have chosen to be secretive so cannot complain if these inferences are unfair (note: if shortly after this is published we’ve signed Messi please ignore the above).
So for good measure here’s another inference. There have been enough rumours of fresh investment (Turkey, Russia etc) and hints that investment would be welcomed – but an outright sale of the club not. Many moons ago I sold a company of mine to a moron. He planned to do a further deal or two and make a decent return out of his investment. Trouble was, each prospective deal fell flat because he was too greedy, treating the other side as an obviously inferior, stupid, exploitable bunch. The facts that they had made the money and were in a position to do deals, and that for any deal to succeed there needs to be upside for the other party too, didn’t seem to occur to him. I hope our owners do not share similar traits. Also, why opposition to an outright sale? First principle of even A-level Business Studies is that you never consider how much you have invested in a project when deciding whether to continue/change. If it makes sense to go on, fine; if circumstances have changed and a deal means you don’t recoup what you have spent, that’s fine too.
Enough meandering. Suffice to say that when we take the field at Bournemouth there will be a small corner of northern Tuscany that is forever Charlton; when we take on Middlesbrough – and give Mobray the spanking that his silly comments after the last game deserve - that corner will have shifted to Piedmont; and when we are repeating last season’s performance at Barnsley it will be back in Lyon (ahead of the return to Blighty). Just where it will be when we take on Oxford in the Capital One cup has to be a matter of indifference, unless we change the habits of a lifetime and opt for a proper cup run.
I guess the perhaps insensitive recent comments from a certain politician regarding the north-east and fracking might provide an opportunity for a little taunting from the Charlton crowd. Their fans must know that if fracking does take hold it will start in their area – and end eventually around Watford. But you really would think that a sensible politician would take the obvious opportunity to redress any impression that they don’t care about the country outside London and the South-East. I’m all in favour of one or two experimental fracking sites and, to prove that we’re not anti-outside London, the clear choice would be to nominate as the locations a couple of areas actually in London, places with no value, character, social contribution etc. Do I need to spell it out? Selhurst and Bermondsey perhaps? There would after all be nothing to lose and a good deal of potential gain (in the event either that the whole thing works and makes money or these areas disappear in a hole in the ground). Tough to choose between them though. Perhaps best to go with Selhurst as if the part of Bermondsey I’ve in mind was the one there would need to be some resources allocated to potential provisions for the local intelligentsia, to head off the risk that a sudden shortage of plumbers, electricians etc sends the costs of certain essentials in Blackheath through the roof. And the Old Kent Road and its surroundings could be too close for comfort; this isn’t so much Nambyism on my part, more like Nanma (not anywhere near my area).
Oh come on, of course these are cheap shots. No complaints please. I’m out of the country and probably incommunicado for a couple of weeks, unless we dip into some internet café. I’ll be back when we’ve nine points on the board and every gripe I’ve ever had has been dealt with.