Friday, 10 June 2016

Reason To Believe

I sometimes tell my partner Suzanne things that are not true. She will usually react by suggesting that I’m lying to her. I will reject the accusation, on the grounds that a reasonable definition of a lie is ‘a false statement made with a deliberate intent to deceive’, whereas there wasn’t a bat in hell’s chance that she would actually believe what I had just said. So while untrue, what was said can’t be a lie. Now Katrien’s comments (and we all know the track record) really do seem to fall into a similar category as surely she can’t imagine that we (or anyone in football generally) would actually believe them. They, like the fact that she retains her job, come across as nothing more than a bad joke, at our expense.

So while I can understand Peter Varney being livid at what Meire said and to want to see a formal retraction, as demanded in his statement, I also hope that he needs no reassurance that whether or not he gets one, and whether or not there is litigation, will not influence any Charlton supporter as regards who and what is actually believed. We merely add Varney’s name to the list of those who have earned our respect and trust who now find themselves at odds with Ms Meire when it comes to the truth. We know from both deeds and words over many years that Varney is a Charlton supporter and wants the best for the club. Ms Meire has told us of her love for Charlton but all that she says and does run at odds with that notion. Such words consequently aren’t cheap, they are at best worthless.

In that context, wouldn’t it be insightful if we heard something from Richard Murray on this particular episode? He recently expressed his disappointment at the treatment he has received from fans. He is undoubtedly in a difficult position; he can only quit once and when litigation is in the air silence is perhaps understandable. But whatever their differences of late Varney is a guy who worked alongside Murray for many years and with the addition of Curbishley of course the three together can claim the plaudits for the most successful period in the club’s recent history. Whatever goes on behind the scenes, saying and doing nothing public risks putting Murray even more squarely in the Meire camp and in that event he could hardly complain if he is increasingly seen in that light by fans.

The following is taken from the programme for a game against Preston on 8 March 2008 (the season when we failed to bounce back to the Premiership), to cover Varney's decision to stand down as chief executive (for 'personal reasons'). Murray on Varney: "Every single director of this football club is disappointed with the decision that Peter has reached and will be disappointed to see him leave. He is without doubt the most impressive individual I have worked with throughout my business career." Varney on Murray: "... I must pay particular tribute to Richard Murray, who took something of a gamble when appointing me to the role 10-and-a-half years ago, and who has supported me enthusiastically in everything I have set out to achieve." Where did the love go?

As for Ms Meire, I’ve just seen the announcement from the Football League that clubs will from now on be required to hold at least two meetings with a representative group of the club’s supporters. I sincerely hope that Charlton, as represented by the Trust, will decline to take up any invitation to attend a meeting at which Ms Meire is present, on the grounds that she is not a real representative of the club. I hope that all those who have dealings with Charlton Athletic follow a similar course. Only Roland can sack her but we don’t have to deal with her in any way, shape or form. 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Perhaps Not So Dumb

I can't say whether Russell Slade was being refreshingly open and honest or craftily indiscreet at today's press conference, going on the reports and quotes that I've seen. Only time will tell but for me, for now, he has the benefit of the doubt. Many will conclude that he needs his bumps felt for signing a contract which apparently does not include "control over my players", instead relying on a "verbal agreement". I'd guess it's a little more complicated than that - and Slade may be boxing smart.

Assume that Slade wants the job but either knows or suspects he can't get full assurances over player transfers and team selection put down in writing. And to be fair it's not easy once you start going down that road to try to cover all possible eventualities, even if the club CEO portends to be a lawyer. No contract can do that. So instead Slade gets some words, words which he will remember but Duchatelet and/or Meire will no doubt remember differently. He must know that were he to resign on the grounds of these assurances proving to be lies, actually winning any case for compensation would be very much in doubt, his word against theirs (and they lie) - with nothing on paper. Pretty poor deal on the face of it, one which Chris Wilder did not sign up to (and which may not be far removed from the sort of contract that Sir Chris also rejected).

However, by answering today's question as he did Slade has put it in the public domain that assurances have been given. Consequently, if at some point in the future he walks away the world and his dog will believe him and not them. If the club was not toxic to potential managers before, it would be then, probably leaving Duchatelet with little option but to bring in either someone so desperate it would be laughable, or revert to a network crony, which in light of the latest U-turn (now we want a manager, not a head coach etc) would be absurd. So by my reading Slade is not without cards in the game, even if his only meaningful one would be to actually quit (meaning once or twice he could threaten to do so). Doesn't sound like the start of a relationship built on trust, but who in their right mind would trust this regime?

Otherwise it seems what Slade said was reasonable and fair; in other circumstances there could be grounds for optimism. Unfortunately for him Ms Meire could not keep her trap shut, so the conference will be remembered as much for her continuing defiance of reality as for our new manager's hopes and aspirations. And Richard Murray seems to be right beside her. "Fraeye stayed too long, that was probably the biggest mistake". I suspect most would suggest that appointing him in the first place was somewhat bigger, but of course Meire has said previously that every change of head coach has led to improvement.

Murray apparently said "I was disappointed with the treatment I got last year, considering what I've tried to do for this club". He has been called a lot of names on some sites and has had to listen to some unpleasant singing after some games. Can't be pleasant for sure, but the stage has been reached whereby we can't say whether his support for the regime is motivated by his sincere belief that they are good for Charlton Athletic or personal financial interest. I have no idea. If I remember correctly he was retained by the regime to provide a link between the board and the fans. Given what has happened since, it isn't just Meire who should consider whether the extent of their failings in the job should result in resignation, before any sensible employer gave them the push. It is fair to say that whereas when Duchatelet bought the club the retention of Murray was seen as a clear positive (including by me), when the next change of ownership comes (may it be soon) nobody will want to see him involved any longer. And the longer he acts as an apologist for the regime, the further away shift the memories of the good years under his stewardship.

There's a rule in logic/argument form that I remember (and may have used before), reductio ad absurdum. This states (if I remember correctly) that if you can take an argument to a contradiction you can go back and change one of the assumptions (on the grounds that at least one of them has to be wrong). Today Meire reportedly said both "I want to stress, we have the best intentions for this club" and that "the club is not for sale". (I'll gloss over the other one - "I'm very positive we made the right appointment and this will start to bring the fans back" - as it is obviously wrong, or at best wishful thinking.) I'd suggest the two amount to a contraction; if they were truly motivated by best intentions for the club it would be for sale (or at least they would be talking to potential purchasers/investors). But it's not her decision anyway.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Good Luck Russell

Russell Slade it is then. I couldn't get excited at the prospect of Chris Wilder and suspect that nobody, with the possible exception of Mrs Slade, has ever had their temperature raised by the approach of Mr Slade. He doesn't cut that sort of figure. But let's face facts: given the circumstances we can't be anyone's first choice and there would probably have been a shrug of the shoulders from most of us whoever ended up taking the post. Duchatelet hasn't left yet, the rest is secondary, especially as Slade's appointment cannot be said to either accelerate or postpone his departure.

Others have been doing a good job of late keeping up the appropriate criticism of the regime. Having celebrated the promotion of my adopted French team Lyon Duchere (who rounded off their season on Saturday by trouncing Olympique Lyonnais B 4-1), I've instead been reflecting on how I felt about all the speculation of recent weeks, and why. In a nutshell how can I be so indifferent about who takes over? And just what do I want going forward?

For the latter, over and above all else the departure of Duchatelet, for the good of our club (which also explains the former as no good can come of their remaining). And on that front it has to be said that recent developments have been disappointing. He is still our owner (quite simply no news is bad news), there is no indication that he is about to sack Ms Meire (which itself beggars belief), and with his formal reacquisition of Sint-Truiden he cannot be said to be on a path of extricating himself from football. And he is of course still daft as a brush ("it was not my intention to return to Belgian football ... I'm back but I've never been gone ..."). There's not even a hint of irony, let alone apology, from his partner and Sint-Truiden's new president when she declared that while she will handle the business side "Roland will focus on the sporting side". What a spring in the steps of all Sint-Truiden supporters that must have put; they have our sympathies and, like us, must hope that this period in their history will pass quickly. If they're lucky he'll pull on the shirt next season, that would save on the wages.

That means two things: first, the protests continue, hopefully intensify when the time is right; second, we are really still in the dark about plans for the season ahead and will be until there's some idea of what sort of team might take to the pitch. If there is a secondary objective for me, it is that Duchatelet spends every penny he has in trying to get us promoted - before selling us for a higher price than he could get now. I don't care if that leaves him/the club open to a financial fair play fine, if we have to endure him for another season (which I fervently hope we do not) it seems only fit and proper that he should pay through the nose for the privilege, give Slade everything he asks for, and don't interfere (other than to make the ridiculously long overdue change of CEO).

We know that's not going to happen. I can't help thinking that Daddy Roland thinks we've been a bad baby, that we deserve to sit in the naughty chair for a while under the auspices of Nurse Ratched. Same approach as before in the Championship: hope to be competitive, be ready to take a profit on any player sale, and, by setting the bar low, probably fall short. The degree to which Slade can alter that mindset remains to be seen. In any event, disunity is seldom a pointer to success and there is no chance of that at Charlton under the current regime, something which surely Slade realises.

Seems that Slade will be put through a press conference tomorrow and that probably won't be easy for him, especially with the fool to whom he will have to report sitting next to him (I hope for his sake Johnnie Jackson is on his hols and won't be required to provide moral support). He is bound to be asked about the protests and supporters' attitudes towards the regime. It would clearly be a mistake were he to call for the protests to stop, on the grounds of forging a united front to try to get us promoted. Simply not realistic and would only alienate Addicks. If I was him I'd probably go for something along the lines of: 'I've been brought in to get us back into the Championship and to progress as a club. All I ask of the fans is that when the team is on the pitch they given them their full support (and in return I'll do my damndest to put out a team worthy of that support). What happens outside of that is not for me to comment on'. Then if he's really lucky, Meire will say nothing. 

By taking the post Slade inevitably goes down in our estimation, as does anyone who opts to take the Duchatelet coin. But something along those lines would I think come across well, be not at odds with 'support the team, not the regime', and would be sentiments that CARD should be able to live with, while the protests continue.