Now we’ve got the internationals nonsense out of the way, can we get back to serious football please? For me this will involve a Lyon Duchere game tomorrow evening rather than a trip north to Blackburn. Having decamped to Lyon a week ago to avoid all the hubris of the England qualification games (and of course to see my French partner Suzanne), my own particular weekend treck (back to Blighty) should begin at sparrow’s fart on Sunday morning, assuming the alarm and coffee do the trick. I will have to content myself with texts updates and tracking the game on the Beeb, with fingers crossed for a happier outcome than Operation Ewood in another life some years ago.
Hopefully everybody’s rested up (knocking in a few against West Ham doesn’t really count, although for the record Suzanne is happy to hear we had another Frenchman featuring on trial), perhaps one or more of the injured will be back. Whatever, it really feels like the early skirmishes of the season have passed and now it’s down to the business of ensuring we don’t get embroiled in a relegation scrap. Five tough games (on paper) ahead before we rub salt into Doncaster’s wounds with the replayed game (no, don’t wish to suggest that one’s any sort of gimmee). Show a replay of the Forest game to serve as a reminder of what’s eminently possible, if minds as well as bodies are up for it.
Actually getting to watch the England games while in France has been a bit of a challenge, especially if for a Friday night you are booked into an hotel up a hill in a village outside Vaison la Romaine, one with a splendid view of Mont Ventoux but a restaurant that at this time of year stops newcomers at eight on the dot and which only has the basic TV channels in the room. So after traffic foul-ups and delays getting out of Lyon, instead of a slap-up feed washed down with something red and England on in the background, we ended up with a motorway service station ‘salad’ each while watching France trounce Australia (albeit with the head start of a real homer penalty for a handball; the replays showed that the ball didn’t even touch the guy’s hand). Catching the Poland game proved easier when back in Lyon (no ITV but enough streaming options).
Others clearly place a much higher importance on England games than I do (if it’s a choice between England winning the pot in Brazil and us staying up/getting promoted I’d have no hesitation in choosing the latter). Doesn’t mean I’m not pleased to be English, let alone in any way ashamed of the fact as the Mail might want to suggest (truth is it’s the Mail that hates Britain, which is why it rants so much, in a frustrated desire to turn the clock back 50 years to some supposed idyll that never existed).
I’m an Addick, a Londoner, English, British and European (I’d go on to suggest a global citizen, but then you kind of lose meaning if you’re defining yourself) and happy to be all of those things. I’m just not much of a flag-waver and cannot help but laugh at the suggestion of ‘English/British values’ (like ‘Christian values’ they don’t exist, they are just a set of labels for fairly basic habits and customs that are always positive and in essence exist anywhere you go). Seems that when Wiltshire was pressed on the matter his overriding characteristic of an English player is the ability to tackle hard, which led to the absurdity of Wenger being obliged to defend one of his players in public having complained for years of being stripped of decent players as a result of ‘tough tackling’. Then you had Rednapp making the daftest comment I heard, along the lines of ‘if they’re born in Britain it doesn’t matter where they come from’ (well Harry, if they were born in Britain that’s exactly where they came from).
I guess I’m just wary (to put it mildly) of any organisation, political or otherwise, the rationale for which is to emphasise division and separateness (ie ‘all our ills are their fault’) rather than focus on the far greater commonality of goals and aspirations and how to try achieve them. Tomorrow afternoon, thousands of people will flock to Blackburn’s ground and for a short period of time two different groups will want different outcomes. Once the game’s over, they will go their separate ways and then do pretty similar things (there’s a cheap joke in there somewhere about the habits of northerners but we’ll let it pass).
Which to try to get back to Charlton might provide some clue as to why Sir Chris gets the support that he does from the majority of Addicks (myself included). We loved him as a player, not because of where he came from (he did have a skeleton in his own past after all) but because he displayed consistently what are reasonable to view as positive and endearing characteristics. The goodwill generated has carried over to a strong desire to see him succeed as a manager, a feeling only intensified by what he has actually done since taking over, not just overseeing promotion but crafting a team that also displays positive characteristics (most of the time, except when we play Millwall it seems). Things can always change; of course there may come a time when the players don’t respond well to him and his staff, when the results and situation require a different approach and a new leader. But as others have said as things stand the far greater danger is that another club will come knocking on his door.
Those that might support a change of manager I’m sure don’t do so from any sense of mischief, or because they are any more or less of an Addick than me. Just amounts to a difference of opinion over what is best for the club we support, which is the overriding shared desire. Again, far more unites us than divides us. Blimey, even when I feel disgruntled about the owners I have to remember that in addition to them writing the cheques they did after all choose Sir Chris.
So, all that’s required for tomorrow is the car to work (so that we can get to the Croix Rousse market and back), the corkscrew not to break (I have a rather nice Barolo lined up for the afternoon), Suzanne’s new cooker to work properly (so that she can concentrate on rustling up something to accompany the wine), three points to come our way, and then victory for Duchere (they’ve made a decent start to the season, lying third with four wins, two draws and a defeat from the first seven; the match is at home to Jura Sud, while tonight the two teams above Duchere – Yzeure and Moulins – play each other, so there’s scope for ground to be made up). All those fall into place and Sunday can look after itself.