Here we go again, with the reported interview with Duchatelet by BBC Late Kick Off London and the South East. The intro says Charlton supporters “must accept that their leading players could be sold to Standard Liege in the future”. I don’t accept. Before just (again) accusing the guy of being ignorant, let’s go through each quote in turn from the piece on the BBC site.
“This club (Charlton) also needs to make money”. Well, if we are owned by someone not ready to invest in the club, that goes without saying, whether we are in the Championship or lower leagues. It appears to be our misfortune to have been bought by someone who views achieving a breakeven position in the shortest possible time as the immediate priority, rather than avoiding relegation and implementing a plan geared around progress – which whether Duchatelet likes it or not in the Championship involves funding losses (of varying degrees). This was the inference from the transfer window moves.
“It is not to be excluded that some players will be sold to Standard Liege and play Champions League”. Combine this with the quote from SL’s sports manager Jean-Francois de Sart: “the objective is to share the players. When a player not good enough for the (SL) first team needs some experience he can go to Charlton. When we have a big talent of Charlton he can come also to Standard Liege”. The latter quote perhaps not surprisingly, given the interests of that guy, amounts to viewing Charlton as an SL reserve team/feeder club. The former one, from Duchatelet, comes close. His related later quote is: “If you have five children (ie five football clubs) what is the priority between your children? They are all your priority. I think that is the right attitude”. You arrogant, ignorant fool. You do not have ‘five children’, you own (directly or indirectly) five football clubs, each with supporters with their interests, goals, ambitions etc. If we areyou’re your ‘children’, what parent decides to have children in the expectation of making money from them? At what age are they expected to break-even?
Back to the quotes. “We (Charlton) will be a very realistic club in terms of what we spend. The aim is very quickly to break even, so the fans should expect us to sell players once in a while”. Believe it or not, Roland, there are some of us who supported the club through us offloading Paul Elliot to pay wages, Robert Lee to keep us going, and many more (up to and including Jonjo Shelvey and Carl Jenkinson). Please do not assume we are stupid or unrealistic. Children can be sometimes of course. Selling players in the best, wider interests of the club is accepted. Selling players to another of your children, in order to help that child (to the detriment of Charlton, including the enjoyment of watching Charlton), is not.
The sentiments expressed by Duchatelet display the same sort of ignorance and/or indifference to the interests (goals, ambitions etc) of supporters that rang through from the weekend interview by Cardiff owner Vincent Tan. He managed to further undermine his standing through exaggeration and distortion. I can’t quote exactly but he stated that he saved the club. Wrong. He perhaps ensured that they didn’t go into administration, didn’t get relegated; that isn’t the same thing as Cardiff FC in whatever form would not have ceased to exist if he hadn’t bought them. He said he got them promoted. Fair claim, given the investment made. But then went on to effectively ask for an apology from what he claims is a minority of Cardiff supporters and to threaten to walk away if he gets hacked off. This seems to an outsider (I don’t wish to claim insight into Cardiff supporters’ wishes) to be based on fans actually disagreeing with him over issues that are important to supporters, which for Tan clearly amounts to said supporters not accepting ‘reality’ in that he owns the club and can implement any change he wants to, with reference to no-one.
A decent starting point for Duchatelet would be to accept that he doesn’t know what it means to be a supporter of a football team. Why should he? He might try talking to some if he is interested in learning. We might make jibes at Palace supporters for example, but deep down we know that they care about their club in the same way that we do ours. And it is our club, in a very real sense. We are (no longer) equity holders in Charlton, but we are stakeholders, or at the least an interested party, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who knows anything about football. To ignore that fact is silly.
To outline in part, I can of course accept Charlton selling players such as Cousins or Poyet, if and when the need arises and if and when the time for them is right (including if and when they decide they wish to further their careers elsewhere). Outside the Premiership that’s just a necessary evil. But while they wear the Charlton shirt they are assets of the club. My desire to cheer them on is based on my emotional bond with my team/club. If they start to be scooped up as and when to bolster a Standard Liege Champions League campaign, to no benefit for Charlton, it is a world of difference (and does revive my previous fear that perhaps the so far anonymous Peter the Pole signed for us on the promise that he might get shunted over to SL if the need/opportunity arose).
Perhaps it’s best summed up by something an older (then) guy said at Selhurst Park before a game against Liverpool in the first season of our spell in the top flight under Lennie Lawrence. He just turned around and said ‘I’ve been waiting 30 years for this game and because it’s here it means nothing’. Too true. Duchatelet’s interests may develop in a fashion that ends with us being the focal point, given the riches of the Premiership. But Roland, I can watch Premiership football any time I want to. Some things are more important.
Not accepting can only amount to one thing when I don’t own the club, which is to withdraw my support, the money that I spend on (and at) Charlton. It is something that, for the first time in many years, for me arises as a possibility depending on how things work out. I will always be an Addick and if my worst fears come to pass it would amount to a case of following from a distance and waiting for the Duchatelet regime to end, which it will sooner or later.
In the meantime, depressingly, the Tintinometer is downgraded once more to a 3, especially given the delay in the conclusion of a new contract for Sir Chris. When the announcement was made of talks being underway I commented that I hoped he would be made an offer that reflected his true worth, not the value corresponding to the world according to Duchatelet. We are back to uncertainty on that front and it isn’t good.