This blog is fast becoming less about football and more a sociology forum. So be it, here we go again. I don’t believe Duchatelet is some kind of ogre, I don’t believe we have some divine right to expect any owner to be prepared to pour his/her money into the club for our benefit. I accept that Duchatelet’s European consortium could work to our advantage over time, in terms purely of league position, if factors beyond his control go his way. I also accept that my views and feelings are based on my experiences, not just with regard to football, and that all we have gleaned about his character, from what he has said and done, strikes negative notes with me because of these experiences.
I also believe that the changes made since the takeover, up to and including the sacking of Chris Powell, have left us materially weaker than before when the crying need was for strengthening, if avoiding relegation is the priority (it has been mine). I don’t believe Duchatelet intended to weaken us, but do believe that the errors of judgement that his decisions have revealed are symptomatic and likely to be repeated, because the man doesn’t understand football and what conditions create success. I’m sure he doesn’t really want to pick the team and decide on transfers, he just can’t help himself because he is right. If the manager (or head coach if you want) makes decisions that are in accordance with his views, all is well and there’s no interference. But that’s a façade, a very transparent one.
Duchatelet now has his chosen puppet installed as head coach and his lead piper in situ to handle the board. No need now to interfere further for a while. I don’t believe in personality strengths and weaknesses, as if there’s some kind of Platonic ideal. I do believe that what are strengths in some situations are inevitably weaknesses in others. People may believe that the fact Duchatelet has made a success in business means he cannot be a fool. I don’t. The (very admirable) qualities that were behind his success are, in my opinion, serious weaknesses in the context of owning/running a football club. It is a different game, one where man-management (at every level) counts for a great deal. I don’t believe Duchatelet has the skills required to make a success in this business.
It’s also possible that my negativity towards Duchatelet is the result of being too up myself. I don’t own the club, or have the money to buy it, why should our opinions matter a jot? Or rather why should I pretend that they might? We are left with a choice to either buy into the Duchatelet model, or passively accept it and see how things turn out, or reject it to the limited extent possible. It’s no different from how we reacted to the forced move away from The Valley. Every Addick made their decisions then and whichever option was taken was no reflection of their feelings for Charlton. Such decisions I think end up being determined by what you get from the total experience of being a Charlton fan.
I keep remembering the very kind lady who was organising the teas/coffees and lottery on the coach for a Sheff Wed away game a few years back. We lost 4-1 and afterwards asked politely – but without irony - ‘did you enjoy it?’ When I expressed my incredulity she replied she comes along for the social side. All about your priorities. Perhaps mine are imbalanced, but they are what they are. They include balking at the prospect of investing emotional commitment to a club which might the next day see its prospects undermined by the greater glory of the consortium. They also include taking offence at the suggestion, whether or not intended to be taken seriously, that we are one of Duchatelet’s children. Just think about it for a minute. Parents (usually and ideally) decide to create a child and embrace all that that involves; there are words other than ‘daddy’ for people who buy children created by others and demand to be loved.
My conclusion is that Duchatelet is simply not fit for purpose. In an ideal world he would be intelligent enough to realise this, abandon and dismantle his consortium and find buyers for his clubs, accepting that at least us will not be worth what he paid. But that’s a pipe dream. When all’s said and done, we still don’t really know why he embarked on his football experiment. Perhaps it is all down to his mummy not showing him enough affection.
We wait to see how important players in the drama will respond. The admirable CAFC Trust is in an invidious position in that it’s role is to represent the fans in dealings with the board. No doubt its main figures have differing views on Duchatelet’s experiment, all of which works against it taking a strong pro or anti position. It will be interesting to see how the Voice of The Valley comes out as it is less constrained in this respect. Richard Murray may or may not still have financial interests to consider, I don’t know. His only weapon is to resign from the board, it is a card that can only be played once (and only used as a bluff once, if at all).
Me? I will turn up tonight (not least to buy the programme as the manager/head coach notes should be interesting), wearing a Chris Powell T-shirt. If the fans register their opinions by singing long and loud in support of Powell (whether as an expression of anger or a well-earned tribute) I shall sing along with them, for as long as it lasts. If not, or as and when the singing ends, I may well exit then. So no match report from me tonight (I’m incapable of objectivity at the best of times and no doubt anything I might write would be coloured by the above). My season ticket renewal arrived in the post yesterday. There is time to decide on that, but the chances of an early offer renewal from me are not good. I’ll miss Millwall and Bournemouth in any event due to a Lyon trip and see how the world looks after a break there and a Lyon Duchere game. To the best of my knowledge they are still a football club.