Let's start with an idle thought: I know there's pride in performance etc, but I challenge anyone to name a more irrelevant match in the history of Charlton Athletic than this Saturday's game at Leeds? We've been relegated (and promoted) before with games still to play (even stayed up in the top flight with one to spare, but that final match was a great day to be an Addick even though we got spanked at Forest). Previously there was interest in who we would want to stay and go, thoughts of preparation for the next campaign. This time around nobody can think in those terms given that we are, for now, owned by football's equivalent of Dr Strangelove (and run by his weird henchwoman).
Of course it's not good news for our club that the news/rumour mill has gone from citing an (albeit ridiculous) price at which Duchatelet would sell and the entry of a second possible consortium, to him letting it be known that he is not considering a sale at this point. But that changes nothing. We were always set up for a long haul, while hoping for a swift departure, and if it's to be that so be it. It is a fight, not one picked by supporters, and it is one that we cannot possibly lose; after all, most of us have a decent chance of outliving him.
Saturday may mean nothing but the final match is a different kettle of fish. There's understandably already been a fair bit of speculation and suggestions about the nature of the protests and I'm sure CARD is actively working through the possibilities (and keeping the decisions - which I'm not privy to - quiet to keep the regime guessing). As was the case for the Middlesbrough game and Sky, getting the balance right isn't going to be easy and satisfying everyone probably impossible. I think the message then applies now too: let's not lose sight of the objective. We're not protesting for the sake of it, because we want to show the world how angry and upset we are, or because we especially like it (I'd much rather be having a glass with mates discussing and looking forward to the game). We're doing it because we believe - on the grounds of all the evidence - that our club can only prosper with new ownership. So in my book there are no prizes for being the most disruptive, the most outrageous; I just want us to be the most effective.
Nothing that we do ahead of, during, or immediately after the Burnley game is going to prompt Duchatelet to change his mind and either actively look to sell the club or to pick up any offer that may be on the table. Clearly his ego and pride don't allow that at this stage, barring as they currently are any chance of intelligence winning out (when one of your babies - or adolescents - runs around shouting 'I hate you Daddy' you can think it will be a passing fad, although we're not exactly the first one). He might decide to sell if an outrageous offer is put down, but that's not something that the protests can influence. As things stand, him actively looking to sell the club right now would look as though he had lost, failed, and been hounded out in a glare of media attention. The message is that this is not palatable for him right now; and if you want a rat to leave a sinking ship you have to give it a means to do so, not block all exits.
That doesn't mean we don't protest - of course we do - or in any way slacken off. Neither does it mean that we should think for a minute that the protests are failing and that consequently a change of course is required; they merely haven't been able to prompt a quick positive outcome. But I'd suggest that all this, plus the circumstances of the Burnley game, mean that the emphasis should be on dignity and innovation over outright disruption to the game.
It is surely important to keep the rest of the football world and the media clearly on our side. We can't tell how their support will help us achieve our objective, but at some point it might; and I think we are getting the message across that we're not protesting just because we've been relegated. If we do anything to materially disrupt the Burnley game and make a farce of the end to the season, even influence through disruption who gets automatic promotion and the title, not just Burnley fans will feel that we've overstepped the mark, putting our entirely understandable grievances above the interests of the game and the legitimate interests of another group of supporters. We are supposed to care about football in general even if the future of our club is the overriding priority.
I don't buy the idea that Middlesbrough and Brighton had to put up with disruption so it should be the same for Burnley. One of the reasons that all worked so well at the Brighton game was surely that the Brighton fans (perhaps the players too) knew in advance CARD's intentions and were comfortable with the prospect that only at the start of the game was there a planned disruption to events on the pitch (to the best of my knowledge the minor disruptions to the game later on were not planned and in my opinion achieved nothing). We surely have to afford similar treatment to Burnley and their fans, in our own best interests, including no desire to get the game called off or regularly interrupted.
I don't take this line because of feeling a need to toe the line (although anything the breaks the law or comes close to leaving us open to accusations of racism etc is out of the question), or in view of possible punishment from the football authorities. Rather it's because I don't think that serious disruption to the game would achieve anything positive for us - and would lose us a lot of goodwill, allowing the regime to portray us as hooligans (or spoilt babies).
The stress balls, beach balls and balloons have all been great and served their purpose (even though the balloons couldn't get onto the pitch they were terrific visually and lots of fun). But they have been done. Personally for Burnley I would favour (again, with absolutely no knowledge of CARD plans) a form of boycott. Imagine the effect for the cameras of a ground almost empty bar away fans, leaving the regime's representatives, stewards, and those Addicks who don't support the protests to watch the game. We could be outside singing to our hearts' content (or in nearby pubs doing the same), and then - perhaps after 30 minutes of the game or at half-time - slowly go into the ground, all singing 'We Want Roland Out' and continue to do so, building the noise inside as more come in (especially as under this scenario Burnley fans would probably join in). Alternatively we do the same in reverse, leaving with say 30 minutes to go and the noise progressively shifting from inside to outside the ground.
I'm sure the players at the club - the Jacksons, Sollys, Cousins and Hendersons - who actually deserve a round of applause would understand if this time there wasn't one. And at this point in time wouldn't it also be very welcome if Charlton legends and the like came out in support of the fans and the protests?
Once the season's over there's going to be plenty of protesting to be done. I'd imagine the focus will be on every one of the club's revenue streams: low-key but ultimately more likely to impact on Roland. Individuals will have to make their own decisions about season tickets but time to get across to sponsors that anyone extending current arrangements can be named and attract fan boycotts of their products/services; the same might apply to any company advertising in the programme. Would be good too to foster good relations with Greenwich council, to help block any regime plans to deform The Valley. With the probability of the regime looking to bus in schoolkids next season on freebies perhaps we can make contact with schools to try to persuade them not to play along, while I'd urge all those participating in the Fans Forum - a worthy grouping in normal circumstances but now just something being used by the regime to push the myth of meaningful dialogue with supporters - to follow the Trust and withdraw. And many, many more things. After all, so far CARD has not been short on bright ideas. For now, just look at the media coverage: Roland is toxic, let's not join him.