Been trying to pen something for a couple of days now, to try to say something about our recent form, Karl Robinson’s outbursts in the wake of the Shrewsbury game, and the coming weekend events. But none of it came together, except that I kept coming back to one abiding thought: what’s coming up will be a test of the character of all of the main players in our own tragic-drama.
I don’t know whether or not a number of players haven’t been pulling their weight. My suspicion is that morale can’t have been helped by Robinson’s open dissatisfaction with the overall transfer window moves and then, with each passing game in February that we didn’t win further diminishing our outside chance of making the play-offs, everyone ended up rather tired and irritable.
Equally I still don’t know whether Robinson will prove to be the bright, engaging and successful manager with us that we all hope he will be, or whether he really is all mouth and no trousers. I may not like the fact that he talks gibberish but that’s irrelevant if he has the players busting a gut for him and the results come through. For me he deserves credit for talking to the Trust representatives, although we don’t know yet whether he learnt anything, while we still need an answer to the question of whether his financial interest in an agent’s company was a one-off. It does matter given the Duchatelet vision that he supposedly bought into.
As far as footballing matters are concerned I’d just draw a contrast between comments made by Kevin Nugent after he briefly took over from Russell Slade. He said then that “the dirty work has been done” and that “this is a great job to get now for someone”. Perhaps tellingly he added that “I love coming in to the football club every single day; I really enjoy working here ... the players we have in now, I enjoy working with them every single day”. Fast forward and we have “too many people have been getting away with things for too long and some of the players don’t deserve the Charlton Athletic shirt” and that “I wish I could be honest and speak about how big some of the problems are”. Then compare the results.
No matter, Robinson and the players have the opportunity to show their character. I don’t want to hear any musings about next season, comparisons with the situation that Sir Chris found himself in towards the end of the 2010/11 season (and if you're going to do that might help if you get the position we ended the season in right). Fact is we are in danger of getting relegated. Six points above the team fourth from bottom and a game in hand for sure, but one in the bottom four, Port Vale, has played two or three games less than the rest. If they were to win one of those, the real gap from the relegation places becomes much too small for a team on a dire run to be comfortable with. Sure, we have enough talent in the dressing room to stay up. But as we have seen through the Duchatelet years – with the exception of the second half of the first season, when the players that Powell brought in had the character and ability to keep us up despite the regime’s idiotic decisions - we perform less than the sum of our parts, for a number of reasons.
Getting relegated again is unthinkable for us but in the wider football world there would be just an acknowledgement that far stranger things have happened. We have the players and the manager that we have, they’d better start showing they have what it takes and can get the best out of each other.
The other players in our set-up are of course the fans and our owner. We know the former don’t lack character, it’s been shown in the past and it’s being demonstrated again this weekend. I didn’t manage to help in the clearing up of The Valley and now not going to Belgium will be the second event I regret missing. Their actions and the commitment and love for the club that they show are there for all to see.
What they are doing throws down a gauntlet to our owner, a challenge for him to show his character. He could choose to be absent and to say nothing, fuming in isolation about a ruined weekend and swearing not to be pushed around. He could choose to repeat previous insults and attempt once more to label protesters something that they are not. Or he could, if he wanted and had the character, rise to the occasion. The fans are going there to tell you something, Mr Duchatelet, so listen to them, even meet them. If I was an expensive PR person at the club it’s the advice I’d be giving. Of course, talking to them would be tantamount to accepting that they are stakeholders and an essential element in the success of the clubs that you own rather than customers, or representatives of an interesting social experiment.