In a recent post I digressed (no, really?) to comment that I never really had time for Shakespeare. Perhaps understandably, given locale, Wyn Grant, came to the defence of the Bard. So amid all the uncertainty, differing opinions over Sir Chris and recent developments, maybe it’s time to elaborate, rant a bit, and perhaps, if we’re lucky, make it somehow relevant to our position (and my feelings about it). It may go on a bit, but the weekend’s a long way off.
Now I’ve no problem with a night out at the theatre, all good fun, and I won’t dispute that the guy wrote well. A couple of hours watching one of his romps can even lead to entertaining debate on some aspect of the human condition. But the plays themselves are nothing more than clever ploys to pose questions. You don’t learn anything from Shakespeare; everything in the performance/interpretation (and post-event debate) only serves to bring out our own/the director’s basic instincts and prejudices as there’s no right/wrong answers. If it’s any comfort I had the same problem with Dostoyevsky, indeed novels in general. Aside from the fun of a Flashman book, I haven’t read one for donkey’s years. I don’t advocate burning them, or view them as useless, it’s just that there’s so much else to focus on and actually learn from, and so little time. Without doubt the silliest thing I ever read was a review of a novel which stated that “I learnt more about the First World War from reading this novel than from all the history books”. No, you didn’t. If you want to learn, rather than being spoonfed what may or may not be half-truths, read something from someone who experienced it.
Have I been neglecting my creative side? Oh no, don’t get me started on that one. Next I’ll be asked to accept this inane modern tendency to confuse creativity with making things, to label some activities as ‘creative industries’. There’s creativity in everything – and far more in a well crafted and executed bond trade than in most popular music (they actually share a good deal as you are selecting certain combinations and possibilities to produce the desired end-result). Some architecture for example can be considered creative, but most amounts to simply calculating what is the possible outcome given the constraints involved (money, space etc), just glorified plumbing. There’s no word (I think) to be the opposite of creative, just uncreative, which implies an absence of something, something which we tend to view as desirable. True creativity is found in many places, is rare, priceless, and shouldn’t be debased by an attempt to brand certain activities as 'creative' by their nature and others not.
But I digress. Unlike Kenny Rogers’ Gambler (from which I filched unashamedly for the headline of the previous post), I don’t claim to have made a life from reading people’s faces. But I can lay some claim to have forged something approximating a career out of reading people’s bullshit, spoken or written, from the all-too-frequent technique of stating the blindingly obvious in a fashion that makes it sound opinionated to recognising when someone is not telling the full story – and if so to then try to assess why not. It’s made me something of a cynical old git (the truth is probably that I used to be a cynical young git and was always that way inclined, so career ‘choice’ was at least partially predetermined).
There are inevitably some areas in life where your background, experience, allows some degree of understanding, even expertise. That allows you sometimes to realise that someone, or some media outlet, is either ignorant of the topic or being deliberately misleading. That’s the easy part. However, nobody can have expertise in all areas and so sometimes it comes down to trust. I’m not a scientist and don’t claim to have useful opinions on for example global warming/climate change (and I’ve no time for the ‘I’m entitled to my opinion’ line: have an opinion by all means but please keep it to yourself as it’s worthless). So when on one side of the debate there is a considerable majority of scientific opinion (at least I believe so) and on the other there is … former chancellor of the exchequer Nigel Lawson, my instinct is to put more trust in what the former might say and note but basically ignore the latter.
Now I don’t claim to be an expert on football. Best I managed was six goals in my first three games for the school team and mentions in dispatches, plus later a runners-up trophy for a five-a-side competition. These proved to be the peak of accomplishments (to date at least). So when it comes to footballing matters, if there’s any difference of opinion between for example Sir Chris and a certain new owner, who to the best of my knowledge has a playing career no better than mine, I know which opinion I’d put my trust in.
All of which brings us back to Shakespeare. Not surprisingly, we all welcomed the takeover, given antipathy to the old owners turning towards despair as they had lost the means or willingness to take action to help cement our place in the Championship (or to head off our embarrassment over the pitch). We not surprisingly thought a new owner would see avoiding relegation as the overwhelming priority and appreciate that this would require investment to strengthen the team. Why would anyone buy us without the carrot of the Premiership in mind? And how could this not square with maintaining Championship status?
These were our responses, based on our priorities, our interests, and our understanding of our (ie Charlton’s) position. The current debate over the merits of keeping Sir Chris seems to be following similar lines (I’m firmly in the camp that we need him but accept others may have different opinions, based on the same goals that all of us supporters share). What seems to be dawning, in the fashion of a Shakespeare play (or possibly an episode of Columbo), is that there might be another agenda, another set of priorities involved. And perhaps Doctor Kish in his post today is getting close to outlining what that could be.
Under this scenario, Duchatelet has no immediate need to replace Sir Chris – unless there is a real falling-out, which might be the result of not agreeing with the new owner. Sacking him would still cost some money and a replacement would need to be found. If avoiding relegation isn’t the priority, why bother at this stage? But can we conclude that avoiding relegation isn’t the priority? No, we can only infer, based on the evidence. For me, the most damning piece to date is the sadly predictable decision to sell a goalkeeper in fine form, one only selected by Powell as recently as September as worthwhile, to reduce the net wages bill of Duchatelet’s regime.
Sir Chris has not surprisingly talked in terms of players moving on and potential new heroes coming in. All of the incomings bar one were already on the Duchatelet wage bill. The exception, Parzyszek, seems like a truly exciting acquisition. But on what grounds have we landed him, what promises? A cynical old git might think that if he does well for us, might he end up loaned out to Standard Liege next season, if needed in the Champions League? On that basis, buying him is to put him in the Duchatelet stable, available for a move on if needed for a greater goal: trying to milk the benefits of the Champions League.
Perhaps our new players will prove to be heroes, if we stay up. But our true strength over the past couple of years, even the past couple of decades, has been an uncommon bond between supporters and the club born out of the wilderness years and the return. That may be a thing of the past, but no enterprise succeeds if different parts of it are pursuing separate goals. We know our goals and we know that Powell shares them. Whether our new owner does we will only be able to tell as we watch the play unfold as we can’t rip up the script, choose the actors, nor ensure the happy ending we want. Merde, now I can’t get a Bee Gees song out of my head.