If our owner is correct, there will have been celebrations in the homes of some Addicks late on Saturday afternoon, when stoppage-time goals for Fulham and QPR saw the trapdoor all but closed on us. We know there weren't any, none of us want our club to go down or to fail in any way. There was instead a depressing feeling as the chances of a miraculous escape took another nosedive. I think that Forest not winning during the week means we cannot be relegated on Saturday (as they are up against Rotherham), but with another round of matches on Tuesday the axe could fall then, heralding the fourth spell in the third flight in my lifetime.
What could brighten the mood (apart from focusing on anything but football)? Top of the list of course would be news that our owner has decided to abandon his ill-conceived experiment and is actively seeking a buyer for the club. Then I could start to dream again of balmy autumn afternoons inside The Valley cheering on my team. Would I return with Duchatelet still the owner? Albury Addick penned a piece recently titled 'Roland Can Stay' and it made me stop and think. Yes, if there was a real U-turn on the part of our owner, a believable mea culpa accompanied by the obvious and necessary dismissal of Ms Meire (retaining her is sufficient evidence of a continuing refusal to face facts), a pledge that the one and only priority for next season is to secure a return to the Championship (over and above breaking even - which remains an elusive pipe-dream in any event - and getting young players into the first team, which is desirable but secondary), and a promise to engage seriously with fans (which would be tantamount to admitting that the repeated claim that this is already being done is a lie). As ever, I'm not holding my breath.
It would after all be nice to think that Meire's absconding on holiday was prompted by a need to get a bit of distance and perspective for the time needed to consider her options, rather than a sun tan and some duty-free. She must know deep down that she has no attractive future at Charlton. Perhaps she will learn that trying to be too clever by half rebounds sooner or later, that being feisty is not enough, and that her management skills are seriously deficient. Perhaps not. Either way confirmation of relegation is the obvious cue for her to be moved on (anywhere, I don't care, just out); no change would tell us all we need to know about our owner's plans for the next campaign.
If it is to be no change, of strategy, tactics or personnel, all Addicks will be left to personal choices over whether to renew season tickets and to continue to go to games. So how has staying away been for one lifelong, committed Addick? Fundamentally nothing has changed. I still consider myself a diehard supporter, will never contemplate switching allegiance to another club, and regard this as a temporary break. I can't say I've settled into an alternative pattern for Saturday afternoons as I still meet up with fellow Addicks for pre-match (and sometimes post-match) drinks, while the emergence of CARD means time given over to assisting with the handouts and more trips to The Valley than I had anticipated. I had intended to take in some Blackheath rugby matches to fill the gap, but just don't seem to find the time.
Of course it's weird at the moment to be at the ground before home games and to walk away. Weird, but obviously not impossible. I've considered whether 'support the team, not the regime' means going to away games, even returning for the relegation fight run-in (which is pretty much what I did after walking away in disgust for a while following the dismissal of Sir Chris for not agreeing to the terms offered to him). But every important decision involves rejecting something with attractions - and for me the priority is trying to contribute in some small way to the departure of our current owner, in the interest of the club. Ensuring no money flows from my pocket to his is, for the time being, the least I can do, in the hope that the combined effect of what is being done to squeeze revenues will persuade him it's time sell up.
I guess my message is that a season away hasn't affected my feelings for the club and I don't think there will be an issue about returning when the necessary changes happen, as they will. Whether that remains the case in the event of two, even three, seasons away I can't say for sure. Those who stopped going to games after the dismissal of Sir Chris could comment better than I. Neither can I say whether staying away is the best option. Of course in addition to actually missing games there is the concern that if many boycott games and end up not returning when Duchatelet has gone what sort of club will be left to rebuild?
It's a risk, one that I feel is worth taking but others may not. As ever, whichever decision supporters make does not make them more or less of an Addick. I do have to end this post on a downbeat note. When handing out CARD programmes before the Birmingham game one man came up and told me, quite calmly, that his wife was assaulted by Charlton 'fans' blowing whistles at the Middlesbrough game. I can't give exact details and this is all second-hand, but he (and his wife) sounded perfectly credible and described these whistleblowers swearing at other fans and threatening them. The guy concluded by saying that he wasn't going to renew his season ticket and wouldn't be coming back to football period. Two Addicks (probably) lost for good. Great work guys. Well, who needs supporters like them? Isn't that just what Duchatelet and Meire are thinking about us?