Leaving aside the very sad news that Ray Wilkins has died, today I’m not sure which is for me the more remarkable: that my three-month sabbatical in Lyon is already up or that I’ll be returning to London tomorrow (SNCF permitting) with the fool still owning our club. While the former has seemed all too brief, the latter was, at least until today, going well beyond a joke. We as supporters have been on the end of nothing but contempt from Duchatelet since he bought the club, so we shouldn’t really be surprised by his apparent indifference to us as stakeholders, to the well-being of the club, or even the standing of the only other current director, who had been made to look at best impotent and ill-informed and at worst – I’d assume unfairly - deceitful.
When the director of a company states that “the terms of the deal, including the price, have now been agreed between the parties and we are now just waiting for their respective lawyers to finalise the sale and purchase agreement” and over a month later nothing has been confirmed or made public, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that either something in the deal has gone wrong or one or more of the parties is not acting in good faith. So in that context at least the club statement released today provides some welcome reassurance.
Have to admit when I first saw the report in the News Shopper that the Lee Bowyer/Johnnie Jackson management set-up would be extended at least until the end of the season I was wondering how’s that going to work, if the sale of the club is still imminent such a decision would be down to new owners? However, according to the statement, “it has been confirmed that one of the conditions of the sale, agreed by both parties interested in purchasing” will be the retention of the two. The statement also quoted Murray as saying that “the takeover hasn’t moved as quickly as we had envisaged” but also that “there are still two parties looking to purchase the club and everything is close”.
Unusual for sure, to after all this time apparently still have two competing potential purchasers, with neither seemingly being treated as a preferred bidder, and with both prepared to go along with the retention of Bowyer/Jackson. And with still no idea why a deal is taking so long to conclude. Unusual but I guess not surprising given the seller. So if Harry Kewell – who just from what we see and read seems to have behaved perfectly correctly through the period of speculation – did indeed say his goodbyes to the players at Crawley (he probably didn’t), he’ll have a little explaining to do, as should whoever raised the notion that St Mirren’s Jack Ross had been having an ‘informal dialogue’ with Charlton over recent days. That seemed to make no sense at all. Last but not least, whoever was behind the shortening of odds on Sir Chris coming back (in the very near future at least) would seem to have lost out.
So, a clear path for the management team through to .... well, whatever awaits us over the next few weeks, either disappointment by 5 May and time for the summer hols, glory at Wembley on 27 May and an end to the purgatory of League One, or something in between. For me, what’s a self-respecting boycotter returning to the UK supposed to do?
The pros and cons are obvious to all: it’s been more than two seasons for me, a little longer and we can all party when we know the deal is done, the boycott was after all until he is gone, in the best interests of our club; against we all want to get promoted, the departure of Karl Robinson and the turnaround in performances and results under Bowyer/Jackson has been remarkable – and worthy of our full support;, return now, shout and sing to the rafters, and the double success of promotion and a change of ownership can be ours.
In light of Murray’s statements I had pretty much got around to the idea that I’d be back at The Valley for the final few games. That was predicated on an assumption that say by the end of March a deal would have been done; and in recent days I’ve been questioning whether after all it would be best to wait. Ultimately the departure of Duchatelet is the most important consideration - not that I’m suggesting for a moment that he will be swayed by what we do individually, it just needs to be driven home, if he were still in any doubt, that there is no possibility of his retaining ownership and the club prospering.
I’ve got until 14 April to make my mind up. Right now I’m inclined to get a ticket (unless of course they are still asking for pledges of ‘good behaviour’). Perhaps I’ve got a bit of a taste for it again (and after their very timely 1-0 home win over Boulogne Lyon Duchere only went and won 2-1 away at then league-leaders Grenoble, who had a player sent off in the first half; two wins and suddenly from a relegation place staring them in the face Duchere sit seventh), more than that as long as we are confident that the takeover is happening what is to be lost by going along for the run-in?
Sure, it’s possible that Duchatelet is having his own private joke at our expense and doesn’t really mean to sell the club (or is changing his mind over the need for a sale). Unlikely but possible. But even in this event, who would the joke be on? What has been remarkable through his stewardship is how little, if any, enjoyment he gets from football. He clearly has no real taste for it, no understanding of it (and no wish to learn). It’s hardly surprising he’s made a pigs ear of his involvement in football (as in politics). If it turns out the jokes on us, he might have a sterile chuckle to himself; we will enjoy whatever the rest of the season brings. I’m already laughing at the fact that of all the managerial changes under Duchatelet the only one that has worked has been the one he (and Meire) wasn’t responsible for.