Monday 12 January 2015

More Questions Than Answers

For various reasons I'm a bit late coming to the party this time around. A good deal has been well written on other blogs and in the latest Voice of The Valley, so I can't avoid some repetition/variations on themes, only outline what I think and feel while trying not to go over too much old ground. I did try to make a virtue out of necessity and wait for possible news from the club today regarding Peeters' successor, but from the statement from Meire posted on the club site it doesn't seem that a decision has been made or is imminent.

Let's first look at the statement. Sacking Peeters was apparently a "very difficult decision to reach". Fair enough. "We had been very supportive of Bob until the very last moment" and "had not considered this option until after Saturday's game". Just who is 'we'? I'm assuming that any such decision was taken by Duchatelet alone, with unquantifiable input/advice from others. Are we are left to conclude that, just as Sir Chris might not have been sacked if Harriott had slotted home to put us one up at Bramall Lane and we ran out winners to get a Wembley semi-final, Peeters got his marching orders because Solly's shot hit the bar and came out rather than went in (and that out of kindness the owner/board waited until after his birthday before ushering him out)? Fine margins indeed.

My only take on the purely footballing merits of keeping/disposing of Peeters is that there's no question it's tough on him. Irrespective of the fact that he came across as intelligent and personable, he had us hit the ground running in a decent way in the first quarter of the campaign, helping to gel and largely new group and playing to a style. With a thin squad and a team that ended up falling short against stronger/quicker opponents who adapted to our strengths and weaknesses, form and performances have suffered from injuries (Solly's rehabilitation has been very welcome but he has had to miss games, Wiggins has been out, along with Henderson, Vetokele has been playing while less than match-fit, Moussa and Bulot have been largely absent), the unfortunate manner in which we were deprived of the excellent Coquelin, more recently suspensions (Buyens and Harriott), the fact that some youngsters have proven at least not yet up to the task (Pope, Fox and Piggott), and that to fill vacant slots some have been obliged to play out of their best position etc. I'd agree with his recent comment that early in the season the breaks generally went our way and more recently they haven't. Peeters can feel hard done by and I wish him all the best.

Against that, we don't know what goes on off the pitch on matchdays. I was struck by the contrast between the final periods of the games against Cardiff and Brighton. At the finish on Saturday we did look a sorry lot and if the players' arguments are proving to be worse than constructive debate aimed at resolving problems, and/or some have lost faith in Peeters and his methods/tactics, an argument for change can be made. 

The statement goes on to add that "with the January window open it is an important time of the season for the club". The would imply that the board/owner are looking at bringing in new players and no longer had faith in Peeters to get the best out of them (I'm assuming that he would have little or no input in actually choosing them). We shall see. Clearly the addition of Watt is a plus, although he didn't look to me like a natural partner for Vetokele (if that was the selection criterion rather than 'he is a forward surplus to requirements elsewhere in the consortium'). On the other side of the coin, we had two players on the pitch on Saturday (Wilson and Church) who if rumours are to be believed we would be willing to let go. Was that a factor in Wilson's poor display?

The rather curious ending to the statement is "we know how important it is to make sure this next appointment is the right one because I understand that this club needs and deserves a Head Coach who can plan and take charge for the long term". Is this heralding a change of tack from giving a guy a one-season stab and sacking him after 25 league games? Here too we shall see, but I'd be surprised. We have been told that Roland 'doesn't do failure' (except of course in Belgian politics), so someone else will always have to carry the can. Quite frankly I fail to see how any head coach can be expected to plan for the long term unless he has a fair degree of responsibility for choosing which players come in and which leave, to suit his style of play.  

I haven't been writing much this season, partly because of other commitments but also because I genuinely don't take any pleasure in being negative - or worse casual - about the club I support. I've pretty much kept to match reports and these have generally been, well, dull. I've realised that while writing them, but if I haven't felt the passion during a game it's not easy to fake it in the aftermath, whatever the result. One relevant notion I disagreed when previously expressed by others, including seemingly by Meire/Murray at the club open day, was that if we were doing well on the pitch 'casual' supporters who weren't turning up would probably return and by implication all would be well. No doubt that would apply to some - and no doubt its only a small number who haven't come this season as a result of their disgust at what was done in the second half of last season (I almost numbered among them). I happen to think we're not in a good enough position to be indifferent about losing either group, would benefit from their return, and that any owner who felt the same would have made an effort to communicate his/her goals and ambitions for the club; we were told from the start that communication isn't Duchatelet's strong point, so we I guess should not be surprised.

I happen to think that the real enemy for a committed support isn't failure - of course when that comes we rant and rave at the injustice/stupidity of it all - but rather antipathy leading to indifference. Others have commented to similar effect, calling for something to believe in. I'm reminded (again) of that passage in A Man For All Seasons, when Sir Thomas More is cautioning his prospective son-in-law about the risks of cutting through every law in the land to get at the devil: when the devil turns on you where will you hide? Strip away key elements of what makes supporters believe (ie turn up and provide support) and you risk having little to protect you, especially if you are not willing to communicate with them, just as when a team risks losing a key strength (the character and commitment that Powell installed/oversaw/fostered and which Riga had the good sense to rely on) there had better be something else to fall back on.

For some - and I really don't knock this view - all will be well if we turn things around on the pitch under a new guy, perhaps with some additional players. As supporters, why should we care about anything else? Perhaps by contrast, I've said through the season to fellow Addicks that I would loathe it if we were in/around the play-off spots come January and a bucketload of consortium players were drafted in to support a push for promotion. Strange attitude perhaps and I guess it reflects my antipathy towards the consortium model for football clubs (let's not forget that we have been told that we must accept the possibility of the reverse regarding players being loaned out, depending on circumstances and the priorities of the consortium). I believe it involves too great a compromise.

I don't downplay the fact that Duchatelet funds the club, puts his own money into it - and don't have any reason to believe that there are some sinister motives involved. It is his club; just where we would be/go if he were to decide to sell up is entirely unpredictable. Fact is, for whatever real reasons, he decided to buy us, presumably well aware of the financial commitment that would probably involve.  

So why not see this as an opportunity? We didn't start off this season with strong hopes of a promotion challenge, we have good players, we are not at the foot of the table. As supporters I think we can all live with the prospect of remaining in the Championship for the foreseeable future and not carp (too much, too often) at an owner who puts (relative) financial stability above an all-out drive for the Premiership. We do, however, look for progression and improvement, plus ideally some clarity of purpose/goals, without which not many enterprises flourish.  

We will of course get pointers from the choice of the new head coach, how the players respond to him, and the squad at the end of January. I can't bring myself to put credence in the Curbs rumours; bringing him back would suggest a real Damascus moment (and would he really be prepared to take the post under similar constraints to those Peeters was ready to accept but Powell balked at?). But were that to happen I would, very happily, do a jig of delight on a rooftop and raise a glass to our owner. The return of Riga would prompt an only slightly modified reaction. If instead we are told, as last time around, that the appointment was made from a strong list of 'candidates' but coincidentally happens to be available and part of the network ....


Anonymous said...

As always a very refreshing view BA

Pembury Addick

Anonymous said...

Riga for coach, Curbs for Director of Football. Ok it's never going to happen. But if we are to have capable foreign coaches we need English guidance and oversight and the ability to also source UK players.

Swedeaddick said...

Excellent post BA