The outcome of the past two games was always going to condition how we approach Sunday's game and the TV cameras. Win them both and irrespective of attitudes towards the regime there's a strong desire not to upset the momentum or to do anything inside the stadium/during the game that might work against our slim chances of avoiding the drop (or to put it another way why provide an excuse for the assembled media to question how and why we are protesting?). As it is, having bagged the points on Saturday we were unable to follow up last night, which along with other results means that two rounds of games have gone by with no narrowing of the gap to safety - ergo it has widened in terms of what we need to do to stay up.
Of course we're not down yet, with 30 points still to play for and a need to make up 7/8 on the two above us. Stranger things have happened; but we are in the territory of very strange things being required. It's not as if Rotherham and MK Dons (or Bristol City and Fulham) are on a slide; and we're not on a roll (when you can't win at home that's pretty much impossible). Last night wasn't a six-pointer only because they didn't have to win. We did. You can get 16-1 on us staying up, which says it all. And whereas a fluked last-minute winner would have changed a lot, our focus today is on questionable team selection and substitutions (if you tinker it helps to be lucky, as Riga was last time around, which gives the 'Midas touch' impression), apparently miserable team spirit, individual and collective inadequacies, the injury list, and a truly inane act (from all accounts) and the red card - ie all negatives. Staying up is possible, but there isn't a single good reason for backing it happening.
Riga obviously has a tough task for Sunday, to put out on the pitch the team that he believes is best equipped to win the game. He doesn't need to consider preparing for next season. But this does mean looking hard and long at each individual and assessing who from those available is still up for it, who has at least the pride and character we would consider the bare requirement for 'our Charlton'. Anyone who doesn't match up on that front should be training separately or if on loan sent back.
The decisions facing CARD are not easy. I'm not privy to the thoughts and preparations so I'm not going to get into the realm of predicting what might be done, just to express some thoughts on the nature of the protest.
First, let's accept that coming down in favour of this or that option, and rejecting others, is not easy and the decisions cannot please everyone. These decisions with the benefit of hindsight may come to be seen as errors in judgement, either too strong or too mild etc. CARD may get the balance wrong. But decisions will be taken for good reason at the time, with no doubting the motivation, and as such deserve our full support right now (assuming of course that what is called for is legal).
Second, I'll have no truck with those who may suggest that the priority is to demonstrate to the world how angry we are at what is being done to our club, protesting for protesting sake. Of course we're angry and upset, if we weren't there would be no protest. I'm only interested in what is likely to have the outcome we want. And that is twofold. First, we want our owner to reach the conclusion, as quickly as possible, that it is in everyone's interests, including his own, for him to sell the club. Clearly easier said than done as we cannot know what if anything we might do to achieve that end. I happen to believe that the things already being done - the call for no season ticket renewals, the targeting of club sponsors/partners, boycotting purchases inside the ground etc - are more likely to work on Duchatelet over time than some more dramatic televised incident. He went through some lively Standard Liege demonstrations without being pushed into a quick response. What ended up working for them was time and an already partially integrated purchaser, such that Duchatelet could pretend, to himself and his entourage, that his stewardship of that club was not bad.
If someone can come up with a protest option that they had good reason to believe would work in favour of Duchatelet selling, I'm all ears (as no doubt CARD would be). Barring that, the focus has to be on the second protest objective - to keep media/football/popular opinion on our side. That for me means ensuring the protest(s) is as noisy (or silent), as committed and as disciplined, as possible. Those advocating dramatic protest should keep in mind that not all Addicks are in favour of CARD, which cannot speak for all supporters. There is a risk of further alienating genuine fans and giving an impression of disunity. And treating Sky viewers to a lengthy series of abusive singing is not going to win friends and influence people, especially as there are those who despite all the evidence to the contrary still look to portray protestors as xenophobic/racist/sexist etc (an accusation which I find personally totally offensive). That Ms Meire is a woman and Duchatelet is Belgian are just facts. Does anyone truly believe that an English owner who behaved as Duchatelet has done and/or a male CEO would not now be the focus of fans' protests? Let's just not give anyone the opportunity to misrepresent us. The pair have shown themselves to be utterly unfit to own/run our club but both have every right to walk to the ground (should they choose to do so) and around it in complete safety.
Nobody is pretending that the splendid Sint-Truiden 20 banner, or whatever happens on Sunday, is likely in isolation to prove decisive in Duchatelet's eventual decision to sell the club. We will be arguing for many years to come with the benefit of hindsight over just what it was that enabled us to get our Charlton back. Let us hope that the club is not in too bad a shape when that happens, and that the protests were in keeping with rather than compromised just what it is we will be getting back. That may sound bland and inconclusive to some. Can't be helped.
Now personally, I shall not be there for Sunday's protest. Just coincidence but I booked my next trip to Lyon some time back and shall be watching events unfold from France, where all being well I shall be getting a dose of football. Lyon Duchere on Sunday did indeed secure a potentially season-changing win (2-0) away at Grenoble. They are now four points behind them with a game in hand (a win would mean four points) and after that 10 left to play. I shall be there for the home match against Le Puy, currently in a relegation spot (third from bottom). It's been a long time since I saw Duchere win, since I saw them score even. If they don't do the business on Saturday I shall have to draw the obvious conclusion, that my partner Suzanne is some sort of Jonah.