It’s always difficult to post something after a long break. There’s an understandably desire to say something original, insightful, or at least funny. But perhaps it’s best just to dive back in and take things from there. So we have to start with thoughts on the season so far.
There’s no denying that the last result, before the international break, was a setback regarding hopes and expectations for the full season. But it’s still early in the campaign and far too soon to see it as anything more than that. Far too soon to be writing off any thoughts of promotion or to turn against the manager. There’s the opportunity of a home game up next to get things back on track. And for all we know Rodez may end up running away with the league - although the norm for this division seems to be for things to stay tight all the way through.
That certainly seemed the case a few games into the season. As was the case last season, a strong start saw Lyon Duchere top the league (National, France’s third division) as they rattled off wins in the first two rounds. They then stuttered a little with a draw and a defeat in the next two, only to arrest the decline with a 3-2 win away at Concarneau. Two 1-1 draws were to follow, then in round eight Duchere came through 1-0 winners at home to lowly Avranches. Along with other results, that set up a situation of five or six teams tied at the top, two being Duchere and their next opponents Rodez. With their game put back to Saturday (most games take place on a Friday evening) and none of the others at the top managing to win, both teams knew that a victory would send them a couple of points clear at the top. That proved to be Rodez (2-0), with Duchere left in sixth place on 15 points (from nine games), only one less than the teams in second and third (Laval and Beziers).
Now I say that Duchere have a home game coming up next. Strictly speaking that’s true, but it is listed to be against a team called Exempt. Before turning to Wikopedia to try to find which corner of France has a town called Exempt it was worth taking a look at their season so far: played nine, won none, drawn none, lost nine. But a goal difference of zero. So I’m inclined to assume that for some reason this season only 17 of the 18 teams in the division made it to the start line and that rather than promote someone else there is a blank space, with each team scheduled to play the missing one given the points (and lowly Avranches would be in an even worse position had they not been given three of their four points). So unless I’m very much mistaken Duchere will register a ‘win’ on Friday and sit back to see whether that proves sufficient to take them back to the top.
My next Lyon trip will be some time in November, but I’m going to struggle to take in a game. Duchere are at home to Grenoble (something close enough to a local derby) on 4 November, but I can’t be in two places at once and my partner Suzanne is scheduled to be in London then. There’s another blank weekend after that (internationals again I suppose) before on 17 November Duchere nearly come to the UK with an away game at Dunkerque. Might have to give that a miss. So unless my trip happens a good deal later than I expect it will be stocking up at wine fairs for me rather than braving the elements at Stade de Balmont.
And what about Charlton you may ask (if you’ve got this far)? For me, plus ca change. I think CARD has taken a sensible decision to hold off from any protests inside the ground for the time being. Balancing ‘support the team, not the regime’ has to involve a bit of ebb and flow so as not to alienate supporters and we all want to get out of our own third division asap (in the right direction of course). Yes, we’ve been here before but the yardstick is surely that in my lifetime we’ve never spent more than three seasons in the third flight. Roland apparently likes to think that he breaks the mould, but if he sets a record for seasons outside the top two divisions we will find ourselves in a truly desperate state, however many ‘stars of the future’ we have been able to catch a glimpse of in the meantime.
Nothing fundamental has changed, but of course some things have improved. Basically Duchatelet, having persuaded himself that he just doesn’t have the time to divert his genius in our direction, is at least staying out of the way. Meire seems to be gagged, which is to be welcomed. But they are both there. Duchatelet has not apologised for his insulting of the fans and for the failures under his ownership, most apparent in the retention of a CEO who should never have been appointed. Have they really learnt anything material? If they had one would be working somewhere else and the other would be actively finding a buyer at a realistic price.
The most important change, which is to his credit, is that Robinson is so far proving adept at keeping Duchatelet at arm’s length and at least getting in players he wants to have (albeit not enough of them). He may sound daft but these are achievements that have been beyond his predecessors. It remains to be seen whether results will deteriorate and he will end up like the others, whether he himself will run out of patience with our owner’s seemingly endless desire to pursue incompatible goals (breaking even and getting promoted). But for now he seems to have assembled a group of players which with a fair wind could be in the mix for promotion, while the elevation of Jackson has further sidelined the regime and its cohorts and seems to have strengthened team spirit.
Any rational person might, based on the evidence, draw the obvious conclusions regarding the reasons behind the improvement in our situation. But I doubt that Duchatelet is capable. If we go on to win promotion the praise will be rightly go to Robinson and the players, while there might be a grudging acknowledgement that for the first time the regime hasn’t managed to screw things up. If we don’t, the clock really will be ticking as we look ahead to that fateful third season and draw our own conclusions.
And here probably lies the real motivation for the post. Luzon always had a slightly crazed look about him and his suggestion in the News Shopper piece that Addicks will be won over and start to love Duchatelet if we are promoted puts him in the ranks of the absolute barking. Is he angling for another network job? Or did the regime’s PR team use him to test the waters now that protests have been put on ice? Suffice to say that there is more chance of Brexit, if it happens, having some positive results, or me having a drink is a Weatherspoon’s pub.