So there we have it. We’re in the bottom three and have disposed of/failed to retain three players who without question would have been on the pitch at Wigan come 3pm tomorrow: the first-choice goalkeeper (assuming of course that the manager picks the team), the main central midfielder, and the major striker (who just happened to have been the most popular and talismanic player at the club – was that ultimately his undoing?). My dictionary definition of progress is ‘forward or onward movement, advance, improvement’; the definition of lunacy is ‘great foolishness’. Only time will tell which of the two the changes, including of course the incoming players, will be the more appropriate label (from a purely pro-Charlton perspective).
All of this is entirely subjective, it has to be, we have to go on how we feel without knowledge and be prepared to be proven wrong. I feel gutted. The changes smack of someone believing he has bought a club that is failing (in the purely financial sense we were) and in need of radical change on the pitch. This season has undoubtedly been a struggle to date. But if someone had told us in August we would be without Solly and Cort, have disruptive injuries to Hamer, Jackson, Kermorgant, and, having said goodbye to Fuller, Haynes (I see his move to Notts County has not exactly worked out) and Obika, that the major striking replacement, Sordell, would barely feature (quite possibly for good reason), and that the owners were not able/willing to commit new funds, it would hardly be surprising to find us in a tough place. So with a new owner we looked forward to strengthening, the priority being retaining Championship status and nothing else.
Instead we have key elements of the team ripped out, in a fashion which at best amounts to a massive gamble, if – and it is a very big if – the priority is to stay up. Of course, nothing is a gamble if you are convinced you are always right, whatever you do has to be a sure thing. And the golden rule is don't gamble with what you aren't prepared to lose. If you are indifferent to the downside of losing, it really isn't a gamble. Selling Stephens and bringing in a replacement would be understandable (for me), selling Alnwick is purely to accommodate a new keeper we didn’t need for financial reasons (which isn't to purely ignore them), letting Kermorgant go – and I simply don’t buy the ‘explanation’ on the club site, which tried to give the impression that all was done to try to keep him – is just a poor decision. You can't get away from the feeling, based on what has been written and said, that Yann would still be with us if the guy who put faith in him (and was rewarded for that faith) had the full backing of the owner of the club.
We don’t want to revisit League One because we’ve seen it (recently), we know what it’s like. If Duchatelet believes that his actions to date (and we have to assume they are his) improve our chances of staying up, I believe he is wrong. If we find ourselves back in League One next season, we are the ones who will still turn up to support the team, because we are Addicks, and because we know the club will keep its identity, whoever comes and goes. If we survive and prosper, nobody will be more delighted than me - and I will very happily eat whatever is put in front of me, be it humble pie or cheese. This really is not to say I now feel we are likely to be relegated, just that what was confidence in us avoiding the drop has been replaced by a feeling that it's now in the lap of the gods.
Perhaps it does boil down to basics and gut reaction (most things usually do). I have no interest in the team I support being part of somebody’s network, for whatever ultimate purpose. I want us to be owned and run by people who care as much about the club – and what we value – as the rest of us and who prioritise what is in the best interest of Charlton, nobody else. Perhaps Jiminez/Slater didn’t truly appreciate what appointing Sir Chris did for us. It put in charge a guy who embodied values that epitomise so much of what resonates. The chant of ‘we’ve got our Charlton back’ wasn’t an accident, neither was the response of the crowd – and with this the team – in moments of adversity since.
Now Sir Chris is tasked with somehow gelling a new group of incoming players, individuals with no experience of Championship football (except for one) and who have to settle into a new country, plus learning to play with each other. If he succeeds, he (and his staff) will deserve enormous credit. If we go down, there is no question where the blame will lie. If he is replaced, for me, at least for a period of time, it’s over. It’s no sort of welcome for the guys coming in, they deserve better, but what will be the crowd’s reaction if they struggle early on? It seems to me that no value whatsoever has been placed on the character and team spirit that has served us so well over the past couple of years. To risk those qualities instead of building on them smacks of stupidity.
How can I be so negative when we’ve actually signed what in normal circumstances would be viewed as an exciting, young new forward (indeed potentially two)? Perhaps it’s because we go back to definitions of progress and insanity. It all depends what your priorities are.
Others have penned eloquent farewells to Kermorgant, all of which I'd echo (with one minor qualification; we were behind the goal when Kermit scored his first for us away at MK Dons and know that his header hit the post, came out, hit the keeper and went in). Suffice to add that some former players get a good reception when they return and some don’t. A quick ‘baramoter’ would a 10/10 for Robert Lee, 0/10 for Darren Pitcher. Yann is guaranteed at least a 9. A fellow Addick has already suggested the possibility of him turning out for Bournemouth in the rearranged fixture and scoring to send us down. May it not happen (please Yann, have a prior agreement to pretend to chip the penalty). He goes with all our best wishes for the future and our regrets about the circumstances of his departure. The same applies to Alnwick. Selling him was, in my opinion, cheap and cynical.
The post last night was ‘how does the world look tonight'?. For a brief period it was looking better. It ain’t now. For the record there is a formal downgrading of the Tintinometer, from 5 to 3, with the rating retaining a ‘negative watch’ status for a possible further downgrade to junk status.