Monday 19 December 2016

Mr Bumble

Let's have a little sympathy for our owner. I'm reliant on others' translation for Charlton-related parts of Roland's latest attempt to educate the world via Belgian media. But it's still worth watching the interview without understanding a word, for the way Duchatelet speaks and his body language, the attitude of the interviewer, and the behaviour of the invited audience. What he says about Charlton, the protests and Sir Chris is of course complete drivel. We all know that. What I found illuminating is watching Duchatelet mumble and squirm through that part of the interview, looking decidedly shifty. Basically he knows full well that he's talking nonsense, trying to remember and peddle a line that he really doesn't believe himself and which nobody is buying; and he's not a very good liar.

Equally revealing, once Duchatelet gets off football his demeanour changes. His replies are more confident, he talks at greater length without hesitation, seemingly intent on convincing his young questioner of the merits of his arguments and the depth of his insight. Only problem is the interviewer looks like he's only barely suppressing laughter for much of the time and the members of the audience are quite clearly bored out of their minds, hoping desperately that this irrelevant old man is shuffled off the show as soon as is decently possible. I can't comment on what he actually said on non-footballing matters; what is apparent is that nobody is listening, which must be tough for any visionary to take.

No doubt Duchatelet will believe that the interview went well; no doubt that is what the sycophants around him will say. All is well in the world of Roland. But you can tell it isn't really. His insults are getting more desperate and will only give fresh impetus to the protests, fresh ammunition. And there's enough in what he said and the way he said it to infer that he is closer to giving up the ghost than before. He owned Standard Liege for four years, soon it will be three years for us and he talks in terms of legacy, having done a decent enough job etc. He is deluding himself as before, he was and is an unmitigated disaster for our club. But if that delusion shifts him towards selling, more power to it.

In the interim, I'd been putting this together before CARD began its advent calendar. Might as well get it finished and out anyway, it is that time of year after all:

On the first day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the second day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the third day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the fourth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the fifth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the sixth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the seventh day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the eighth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
George Tucudean, Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the ninth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Karel Fraeye, George Tucudean, Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the tenth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Relegation, Karel Fraeye, George Tucudean, Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
Endless lies and insults, relegation, Karel Fraeye, George Tucudean, Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, Duchatelet sent to me:
One decent pitch (thank you and goodbye), endless lies and insults, relegation, Karel Fraeye, George Tucudean, Reza the Poser, Anil Koc, Oh, Polish Pete. Loic Nego, Thomas 'Boy' Driesen, Pinocchio and Yohann Thuram-Ulien.

Friday 16 December 2016

Heroes v Villains

Johnnie Jackson's splendid, heart-warming act for Kyle Andrews has had the response it deserves (see Chicago Addick). Perhaps the best testament for the skipper is that none of us are really surprised by the gesture, we already know enough about the man for him to have earned our admiration and affection. But it did send my mind off at a tangent on a quiet Friday morning: who would be in my Charlton XI for pure commitment to the cause? And perhaps also who would be in the team to face them, those who quite clearly didn't give a monkey's?

Now we're not talking outright ability here, rather some base level of contribution to the club and evidence that for good reason the fans took them to their hearts, that they truly cared (or for the other team even when it was clear the player had ability but was just looking after number one). I've tried (a bit) to balance out special cases with pure longevity (it would be easier just to pick the players with the most appearances for the position), and to distinguish between commitment to the cause and just a liking for kicking the opposition (which is why Phil Warman and Paul Miller are edged out) as well as commitment to our cause over commitment to any (eg Andy Peake). For sure there's a bias towards players I've actually seen, so with one obvious exception apologies to any player pre-1960s.

There are some tough calls - and given that my teams have been put together rather quickly and off the top of my head no doubt I've missed out some who merit inclusion. So please help out with suggestions for improvement, with reasons why your guy should be included instead of someone listed.

With those provisos, here's my heroes team (managed by Curbs rather than having Sir Chris as player-manager):

Powell (Sir Chris)
Brown (Steve)
Powell (Colin)

Subs:  Kiely (apologies to Charlie Wright and Bob Bolder), Curtis (just ahead of Humphrey and Reid), Kishishev, Morrison , Jones (Keith), Walsh (Colin), Hales, Horsfield (with apologies to Matt Tees and Carl Leaburn)

Tough on Deano to not make the first team (and Bob Bolder and Charlie Wright not to be on the bench) but even though I never saw him play how can you not select Bartram? Firmani over Hales? No question that Killer is in every Charlton legends team. But in a team chosen for true commitment to our cause I'd opt for Firmani and Kermorgant as the starting front two (forget whether they could actually work as a pair), with Hales and King Arthur on the bench (even though this meant no place for my boyhood hero Tees).

The Villains? Again, I've tried not to just pick the duffest players but rather those who stood out for their attitude (which is why there's no place for Lepoint; just not really his fault). But sometimes you just have to choose the useless one, beginning with ... (actually beginning with the manager, one Roland Duchatelet; it's a job he seems to think he's qualified for and with the help of his Boy Scout he does have a good knowledge of some of the players in his team, albeit mostly ones on the bench as they were so bad they couldn't even make this team):

Mills (Danny)
Johnson (Roger)
Jones (Andy)

Subs:  Uytenbogaardt, Koc, Nego, Sarr, Tucudean, Crawford (Ray), Makienok

Now Uytenbogaardt may for all I know have been the most committed Charlton player in history; and you can't criticise just because he was always second-fiddle to Bartram. But come on, six years at the club and six appearances has to be some kind of record for extracting the Michael. And I have to have a reserve keeper. It was either him or Lee Harmsworth, which would have been a tad unfair. Danny Mills? I could be wrong here but, while there was nothing wrong with his full season for us (and no, we'll never forget the free kick at Villa Park), when he came back on loan I'd swear he got himself deliberately sent off, ensuring he'd be banned over the Christmas/New Year period and able to put his feet up.

Pitcher would make everyone's team I'm sure. Maurice Setters features not least as I've still got a newspaper cutting (from my scrapbooks of the era) covering his arrival headlined 'I'll raise the Jolly Roger at Charlton', talking of what he will do for the club in their fight against relegation. Played eight games, the last of which was 0-5 against Leicester, Firmani sacked, end of story. Eamon Dunphy was a decent player, but anyone who is responsible for a book and TV dramatisation where having signed for us from Millwall he tries to console one of their released youngsters by saying 'things could be worse; I've got to go and play for Charlton' has to be included.

Thursday 15 December 2016

The Sound Of Silence

Sometimes you have to stop and ask yourself 'is it just me'? We can all agree that our new manager is engagingly enthusiastic, hopefully with that optimism spreading through the club to good effect. And just going on accounts of performances to date it would seem that the players have reacted well enough to what Karl Robinson is looking to get across, with no good reason to view the FA Cup exit as anything to be concerned about. Just that when people suggest that he talks well, that they like what they are hearing, I am, so far, rather more sceptical. In general I find much of what he says to be muddled, confused, and potentially misguided. Given that the waters he is wading into have been decidedly muddied by the regime, I hope - for his and our sakes - that he considers carefully what he says and does on some matters.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't much care if a manager borders on the inarticulate, loses it, jumps up and down on the touchline and screams, or sits in the stands showing no emotion. Just as we really don't care about the nationality or gender of those who temporarily run our club. There's no ideal formation in football (this may sound like sacrilege to some who have studied the computer models, or who consider themselves to be visionaries), nor is there a correct code of behaviour for a manager. If it works in terms of results and getting the best out of the available resources, that's all that matters; and on that front it is of course far too soon to be drawing any conclusions about Robinson. For the time being he quite rightly has the benefit of the doubt and our support, just as Duchatelet did when he came in.

So what concerns me? First, there was the notion when Robinson arrived that he would miraculously repair relations between the regime and the fans. I found that slightly offensive, as if the protest movement was the result of some tantrum, that our owner might just have been a bit misunderstood, and that all that was required was a likeable guy to mediate. Sorry Karl, you haven't been sent from on high to solve a problem that ultimately has only one solution. Decisions regarding protests were not taken lightly and the protests themselves are not going to stop because of your arrival, just as your arrival is unlikely to prompt the sort of actions that would mend fences, such as the dismissal of Meire and an apology from Duchatelet for the insults and lies he is still trying to spread, as well as his unbelievably inept stewardship of our club.

Second, leading on from this was Robinson's stated desire to meet the fans and to learn more about the protests. Fine, nothing wrong with that. But the Trust sent him an invitation to talks and so far in response there's been that weird ramble on the radio about wanting to meet the oldest season ticket holder, the youngest etc. The Trust has posted a comment today to the effect that it has received no formal reply from Robinson but has the expectation of meeting up when he gets the time.

You see, Karl, it's on issues like this that the waters have been muddied. After the buffoonery of January 2014, when supporters started to voice their concerns, Meire released a statement on the club site to the effect that she wanted to meet the fans to discuss a 'shared vision' but of course that wasn't the right time. The end-result? After we'd stayed up, in spite of the actions of the regime, a Q&A at the open day in the summer coupled with the pretence that the Fans Forum, worthy as it is, might along with occasional staged events amount to genuine engagement. When Meire gets upset about being called a liar it's because of issues such as this (and many others, especially when disgruntled ex-employees have their say) where her slant on events just doesn't stack up. It is being polite to say she is used to being economical with the truth.

So, Karl, if your desire to meet the fans ends up being a few encounters in a pub, an event or two organised by the club, even the occasional exchange at a petrol station, you will end up being bracketed with Meire. We are well aware that you meeting the Trust would be difficult for the regime to accept. After all, the Trust has nothing to say to Meire, would speak to Duchatelet but he doesn't want to, and now does want to talk to you. There's no mystery here, the Trust is doing what it is supposed to do: represent the expressed views of its members (and to those Addicks who don't support the protests I would ask if they are Trust members - and if not, why not?). The Trust cannot hope to represent all supporters but it is the most representative group around. So why no reply to the invitation if you genuinely want to learn more and engage with fans?

Silence, as they say, can, according to the circumstances, speak. Your silence on this matter will lead supporters to conclude that either you are not genuine in your desire to learn more about the protests, or that you are but have been told by the regime that your meeting the Trust is out of the question. If you are lucky most will assume the latter and will be sympathetic towards someone who has only recently accepted the regime's shilling. Of course an actual meeting with the Trust will mean you'd have to face questions like 'what exactly is the plan around which Duchatelet sold you the job?' But real dialogue involves answering real questions, rather than trying to brush them aside with silly, off-the-cuff platitudes (ie the Meire approach, which inevitably results in her being labelled a liar).

You see Karl the events of the past few years have heightened most Addicks' bullshit detectors. We have been fed far too much, by a regime which is priming itself to deliver a better quality of BS by employing yet more BS-spreaders to try to pretend that black is white. "In his new role Tom will devise the club's integrated communications strategy and manage the communications department's implementation of that strategy". Welcome to the mucky and distasteful world of PR, where large sums are wasted by people trying to come up with solutions rather than being open and honest.

And Karl, you can't say that some of the things you tend to say don't come under the heading of BS:

"What I am finding difficult is the rudeness of some people that think we’re going to spend millions when we are a League One club – they inflate prices when Charlton come calling. This is not from the top of our football club, it is what I have found hard. There is one price and then because it is Charlton it becomes another – that’s not right. Agents see our name mentioned and the figures suddenly go up. We’re not even interested in some of them. But we are used as a benchmark, the same as Sheffield United. I don’t think that’s fair. A player should be worth what a player is worth." Oh come on, you can't be serious. A player is worth what someone is prepared to pay for him, just like any asset, and if the seller thinks he can get more from one particular buyer so be it. Are we going to sell Lookman for what he is worth or the best price that we can get?

"There is a lot of transparency within this football club on the recruitment side. People asked would you be told who to sign? I think that me and my staff driving in convoy up north that it proves it will be a club decision to make the club go in the right direction.” Karl, I don't know what you think that a trip to watch some players proves but I'll tell you what it proves to me: bugger all.

“I’ve only been here for two weeks but the fans can see I love being at this football club.” OK, just about, but don't push it. If love is turned on that quickly it can easily be turned off. Maybe I've never been a 'love at first sight' type of guy, but don't forget Karl we had Ms Meire saying she was ready to swing from the crossbar at Bramall Lane alongside Sir Chris if we beat Sheffield Utd in the cup. We lost, he was sacked.

So in conclusion (finally) I guess the message Karl is: meet the Trust as soon as possible, or if you can't explain honestly why not; don't even try to bridge the divide between the fans and the regime, it's an impossible task (and not because we want the club to fail etc); just focus on matters on the pitch, what is possible with the players we have now and after January. Do the last well and you will enjoy our continued support, even though the protests will continue; we'll even forgive the occasional bit of BS.

Wednesday 30 November 2016

So, What Is The Plan?

I've only so far had the chance to listen to the YouTube video posted by the club, some sixteen-and-a-half minutes for our new manager Karl Robinson to make what he would of a series of bland questions patted his way, with his interviewer going out of his way not to mention the elephant in the room (in truth it's not just an elephant, it's Dumbo along with all of his mates, plus an orchestra playing the theme tune). I've no idea if the questions were prepared, or if the answers were in any meaningful way edited. All I can say is that the recording left me completely confused, on a number of fronts.

For sure, we can't expect at this stage clear answers to the big questions. Is Robinson naive or arrogant to evidently believe that he might succeed where others have failed, or is he just so desperate for a job or cynical enough to take this one in anticipation of a decent pay-off? Should we place more weight in his remarks about our club and its potential, or the previously reported comments (if accurate) to the tune of Charlton being a basket case? Only time will tell - and for now quite rightly he deserves the benefit of the doubt and our support, just as Duchatelet and Meire did when they arrived. Nor is it reasonable to expect Robinson to say anything critical about the regime having just taken its shilling, or anything meaningful about the protests.

However, there are some things he has said which I think merit closer inspection - and not just the bit that any decent video editor keen to present a positive profile would have edited out or had him reword. Early in the interview Robinson talked animatedly of 'hating' any description of a player's performance as 'hard-working', which he said should be taken as a given. When asked later what had gone wrong for him at MK Dons Robinson struggled for an explanation and reverted to saying that he had 'worked as hard as he could'. Perhaps the requirements for players and managers are somehow different in that respect, or perhaps Robinson is still at a loss when it comes to why his often successful and promising time at his first managerial position ended with him being sacked.

Robinson outlined that he was sold the job by Duchatelet and Meire, commenting that they had approached him with "a plan, a clear plan" which he obviously found attractive. He also commented that Charlton is a club "going in the right direction". Some obvious questions arise. Just what was the plan as sold to Robinson? If it is a clear plan/vision for our club, could we, the supporters and stakeholders, please hear what it is? Is the plan a variation, or refinement, or restatement of Meire's conference talk of Charlton being a fish farm for young players? If not, why not share it with us? Something that apparently sold Robinson on our club might help to persuade some supporters to reassess their attitude towards the regime. In a subsequent BBC piece Robinson is quoted as saying "it wasn't a financial decision (to join us), as the owner sold me something I wanted to do". OK, just what was that?

Of course, this assumes that the regime does actually care a little about the opinions and actions of supporters rather than just paying lip service and at the same time being willing to try to spread disgraceful lies about the nature of the protests. It also assumes that Robinson is not just putting a positive gloss on having been sold a pup. If the plan is 'our priority is to get back to the Championship as soon as possible' it is meaningless, just empty words, especially when set against Duchatelet's track record: invest some but not enough and hope to get lucky and outperform as a result of the regime's great insight into choosing managers and players. Let's not forget Richard Murray's previous description of Duchatelet's goals when we were in the Championship: to get promoted and to break even, which at the time were obviously incompatible. Robinson may have the benefit of the doubt, but the regime lost it a long time ago, for good reason, so in the absence of any elaboration we may well be inclined to assume the worst.

Robinson's reported comments on the protests are just disingenuous, arguably for good reason, but he skates on thin ice. "There is a support element that feel that is what they want to do" (ie to protest). Wrong, on two counts. First, the protesters and tacit backers can fairly claim to be the majority of Addicks, not an element. That there are Addicks against the protests is also evident. Second, I don't think there is one protesting Addick, myself included, who wants to be protesting; rather we want our club to thrive and believe, rightly or wrongly, that this requires a change of ownership. "Something has happened before me ... As fans, we will always have our problems and arguments. Some say they are right and some say they are wrong". Sorry Karl, but if you've nothing sensible to say best keep it buttoned. The protests did indeed happen before you and they will continue with you - unless CARD opts for a break - as you are not a sufficient reason for them to stop; and please don't go along with this notion that the protests are no more than well-organised grumbling over results and relegation; you must know it runs far deeper.

And if as he says Robinson needs to learn more about the protests, just check out CARD posts and the recent Getting To Know The Network podcasts. I haven't yet had the chance to listen to the latter in full but just looking at the emails (which say all that needs to be said about Duchatelet's knowledge of football) should be sufficient to conclude that disgruntled ex-employees of the club tend to tell the truth and the regime does not.

Thursday 24 November 2016

'... Look Around You All You See Are Sympathetic Eyes'

We now have official confirmation of the appointment of Karl Robinson, like his predecessor afforded the title of manager but unlike Russell Slade not apparently given a three-year contract, rather one for two-and-a-half years. Perhaps the regime is working around a three-year plan which commenced in the summer. Slade lasted for six months of it, so Robinson gets the remaining term. Presumably the next in line will be hoping that Robinson doesn't last much longer than Slade, if he/she is to have any hope of a reasonable term for his/her own post-dismissal pay-off.

I know, let's not be too cynical, even though all the evidence we have supports such a stance. There has been no reversion to a network appointment - although as raised elsewhere just what the thinking is behind bringing in Chris O'Loughlin, as an 'addition to the club's coaching staff', remains to be seen. So does whether Robinson will want to bring in some of his own men as assistants, or whether he has agreed to work with those in situ.

In other circumstances it is an appointment which would have us feeling cautiously optimistic. For sure the jury has to still be out over whether he is the exciting, innovative and successful young manager suggested by much of his time at MK Dons, or whether he has flattered to deceive and came up short when the pressure was on. We would, quite rightly, give him the benefit of the doubt (obviously the fact that the regime considered him to be the most suitable candidate means nothing) and hope that it proves to be the former, for the good of our club.

However, I'm always a little wary about someone who has been in the same job for some time and leaps straight into another at the first opportunity; good for the bank balance but perhaps not optimum when it comes to learning from the previous experience and taking a little time to recharge the batteries. He was only sacked on 23 October and in managerial terms Robinson is, so far, a one-club man, having been at MK Dons for six years as manager (before that assistant manager, before that coaching at Blackburn). So it remains to be seen whether he has the range of skills and qualities to bring us success on the pitch, against the obviously difficult backdrop he will face.

There is no question of the anti-regime protests being halted, temporarily or otherwise. Given this, what Robinson says in his press conference - and he is bound to be asked - will be examined closely. We've all seen the reported aside at the Bristol Rovers game to the effect that supporters' protests now have to stop. Hopefully Robinson either didn't make such a remark or has learnt quickly that it was inappropriate. Any suggestion that his coming to the club is grounds for a rethink would be the height of arrogance on his part and would display a lack of understanding of the actual nature and rationale of the protests, rather than the deceitful version offered up by the regime.

After all, the mere fact that our owner has recently disgraced himself again - if the reports are accurate - by insulting us once more should be sufficient to keep up the protests momentum. If Duchatelet did indeed say to the Belgian media that the protests are the work of some disgruntled ex-employees backed up by those unhappy with a female CEO he is an outright liar as surely even he isn't so self-deluded as to believe such nonsense. Meire tried to taint us with her racism allusions and that was equally disgraceful - and utterly at odds with the evidence.

So two splendid victories, a cautiously positive welcoming of a new manager, and no let-up in the protests. Translating 'support the team, not the regime' isn't an easy balancing act. But it is the best way forward for the good of our club. 

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Neither Rhyme Nor Reason

We should remember that English is not the first language of our owner, so when he spouts nonsense it is always possible that he simply doesn't understand the real meanings of the words he uses. I can make myself understood in French, but make all sorts of errors when speaking the language, much to the amusement of my partner Suzanne. Sometimes when together we have to pause and ask if the other really meant what was said (even sometimes when there is no alcohol on my part involved).

So when our owner sends a message to talkSPORT's Jim White concluding with "these protests have nothing to do with reason. Therefore, whatever we do or say, the core actors within that group will always criticise" it would be unfair simply to conclude that this is the latest batty outburst from a misfit who is living proof of Von Clausewitz's advice not to confuse stubbornness with strength of character, one who having failed to win any sort of argument or to browbeat his babies now feigns indifference rather than facing up to and learning from his evident failures in football and politics. We might instead start with the meanings of the key word he uses.

In case our owner is unaware, 'reason' can be considered to have two broad meanings in English: cause (ie motivation or justification for action) and logic (whereby reason is a substitute for argument form and rational thinking). And there is scope for confusion. Suzanne not long ago was the lucky recipient on her birthday of a little sign which read, in French, 'I must remember, Nick is always right'. I had no end of trouble getting the translation correct, as in French to 'be right' is to 'have reason'. So when Duchatelet claims that the protests have 'nothing to do with reason' he could mean that there are no good reasons for supporters to be protesting, that the protests are illogical, or simply that the protesters are wrong and he is right. Only he can say for sure, but let's take them in turn.

I think all would agree, perhaps even Duchatelet, that the first option, that there are no good reasons for supporters to be protesting, is a non-runner. It's not necessary to detail every avoidable error and misguided strategy which have led to our current situation and outlook and the efforts of the regime to blame anyone but the two key players.

The second option, that the protests are illogical, requires a little more thought. There is a line of argument to support Duchatelet's claim, namely that all Addicks want Charlton to thrive yet many are acting in a fashion which works against that. Most if not all would agree that the strong backing of fans is a necessary requirement if a football club - especially one which has an owner and top management hoping that bare minimum investment will prove sufficient - is to outperform. Whether or not the protests have been a material factor behind our current position is a rather sterile debate. As a protestor I would accept that they haven't helped in the short term - but would balk at any suggestion that they resulted in our relegation.

So if you state the argument simply - all supporters want the club to thrive; some supporters are behaving in a fashion which might not be helping the club to thrive; therefore some supporters are not behaving reasonably/rationally - it has some merit, or at least is not obviously irrational. However, we all know this isn't the full story, or the only line of argument. The other one reads: all the evidence since Duchatelet bought our club points to the conclusion that we cannot thrive as long as he remains our owner; we as supporters want our club to thrive; therefore we need to do all that we can - within the bounds of what is acceptable - to encourage and engineer a change of ownership for the good of our club. There is nothing unreasonable or illogical in this argument, it is quite consistent and rational. Duchatelet may not like it, even may not agree with it; certainly it doesn't suit his interests. But he cannot on this basis claim that reason is on his side.

That does leave the third option, that Duchatelet believes that he alone 'has reason' and so anyone who disagrees with him is 'without reason'. He may believe this. But if he does, you'd have to conclude that he is living proof of Von Clausewitz's advice .....

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Questions Answered

As I was going about my business over the weekend after the Swindon game there were two Charlton-related questions on my mind: first, how does CARD take the protests closer to our owner's heartland?; and second, would the manner in which Russell Slade was appointed - ie the hollow claim that the regime is capable of learning from its mistakes - get him a longer stay of execution than others? Didn't have to wait long for the answers.

The 'Taxi for Roland' stunt is splendid, fully in keeping with the wit, intelligence and effectiveness (in terms of positive media coverage, not yet in terms of getting rid of the regime) of the protests, and the accompanying fortuitous encounter with birthday-boy Duchatelet for the banner-wielding fans at Sint-Truiden, the 'Live Feed' recording, will go down in Charlton history, when the sorry chapter on the regime is written. It must have been upsetting afterwards for an elderly owner of some football clubs to have been told by some PR upstarts that it wouldn't be a good idea to deliver another lecture to his errant babies about his birthday burger being sacrosanct, so the pompous ire had to be directed elsewhere: sack the manager, for it cannot be Meire, or the Boy Scout.

I was out last night and only saw the news on a late return. And when you're late out of the traps you struggle to find anything original to say. I spent a bit of time Googling around a theme of when does farce become tragedy (or vice versa) but there's just no point in trying to be clever (it's never worked for me in the past). Fact is nothing going on at our club can really be considered tragedy and I'm not sure for most involved it even stacks up as farce.

Slade will presumably keep his mouth shut about events off the pitch, at least until the cheque has cleared (does that phrase show my age?). He can't be that surprised, given the league table and our owner's track record - and if the emerging reports are to be believed the undermining presence of his successor at recent games. He may not look back on his time at Charlton as the highlight of his career, but having signed a three-year deal in early June when he looks at his new extension and patio doors he might reflect on a good decision to take on an impossible task and get paid off asap. That is of course deliberately too cynical, I'm sure Slade took the job in good faith and did his best. Just that few if any in the football world will blame him for the failure of his tenure and when he moves on to his next lower league appointment, perhaps after a bit of a holiday to get away for a while from winter and Brexit blues, I'm sure he'll be feeling fine. (Have to say though, when it comes to being damned by faint praise the epitaph of being thanked in particular for "the processes and disciplines he has instilled at the training ground" takes some beating.)

The fact that the regime statement doesn't mention anyone taking charge of the first team even temporarily, plus the reports from others that the next guy already had one foot in the door, suggests that an appointment will be confirmed in good time for Saturday's game. Clearly no need this time to have to pretend to go through an application and appointment process. That in turn points to no good reason to go against the reports that one Chris O'Loughlin will be next on the conveyor belt (whether or not as manager or with a reversion to head coach remains to be seen). I know absolutely nothing about the guy, would just warn for what it's worth that getting embroiled in and identified with a Duchatelet network at this stage of your career doesn't look very bright, however hard you've found it to get a job in Northern Ireland. You could end up like Meire. Sorry no, no possibility of that as you will be out of the door long before she has the self-awareness to walk or her employer the common sense to sack her.

Meanwhile, the 1.5% owner can't have any sense of tragedy, let alone failure. If the price for Lookman in January doesn't prove to be high enough to keep the loss at an acceptable level, add in Konsa. Leave it to Meire and the PR team to peddle the nonsense about promotion being a 'number one priority'.

The only people for whom this situation comes close to a tragedy are those who care about our club. That includes some of the players, most obviously Jackson and Solly (and I really can't blame many of the others for not giving a monkey's and going through the motions), but primarily of course all Addicks. It does not include the regime and all its cohorts and hangers-on, including those companies daft enough to recently sign deals. They will not be forgotten when it comes to consumer boycotts, even after the regime has left the building.

In the face of never-ending farce, most Addicks are doing all that is possible: support the protests and inevitably care less and less. There have been some great pieces recently from others outlining with some despair how they are becoming increasingly indifferent to our fate on the pitch. All I can say is be of good cheer, put the emotions on hold. I'm into my second season of boycott but don't (yet) have any doubt that once they have left I will be back, whatever division we are in, and I'm confident that the passion will be rekindled. The response to the latest events is really just a shrug of the shoulders: it's what these buffoons do because from the start they didn't know how to succeed and without the backing of the fans success - in the sense that we understand it - is near-impossible. If the efforts of our guys in Belgium spoilt a certain man's birthday lunch I am absolutely delighted. The ridicule is only going to intensify and Christmas is coming soon. 

Thursday 27 October 2016

De Weg Naar Meer Netto Binnenlands Geluk: Het Verkopen Van Onze Club

Sorry to say I won’t be able to make my own contribution to the Saturday banner parade in support of free speech arranged by CARD; I’ve been slumming it in Lyon for a week now and won’t return until Sunday. For what it’s worth my effort would have read ‘De Weg Naar Meer Netto Binnenlands Geluk: Het Verkopen Van Onze Club’. I am ready to receive the prize in absentia.

The main reason for something in a language that our owner might understand is that surely the focus going forward needs to be on the root cause of our problem. Ms Meire we all know is in the wrong job and repeatedly brings our club into disrepute (and that were there any element of self-awareness she would have resigned long ago). Whatever nonsense and deception she spouts in the imminent Talksport expose is ultimately meaningless as she lost any semblance of credibility many moons ago. Our club is being slowly strangled because of the actions of our owner (admittedly one of them being keeping Meire in place).

We welcomed him when he bought our club but were quickly alienated by his actions and behaviour. We were told at the time of the takeover that Duchatelet knew nothing about football and all the evidence since supports that as he veered from one daft strategy to the next, interfered in areas beyond his capabilities, and apparently still takes advice from people whose ineptitude only serves to drive away from our club capable (and honest) employees. Through this time there has been, I think, a notable shift in his attitude towards us. The image of the benevolent parent looking after his babies rather went out of the window with his petulant rant. As in his eyes the blame for relegation can be laid squarely at others’ doors, and as he is incapable of recognising his own failures, we now have feigned indifference. ‘Ha, it is a little sad that the supporters of Charlton are not capable of recognising and embracing my wisdom and vision (we did tell them early on that they just had to accept how I did things), they now don’t even seem to like me (strange, the same thing happened at Standard), so I have to leave them in the naughty corner for a while as I am far too busy to devote much time to educating them’.

We’ve shifted him to indifferent/alienation. The only problem with this is that as long as the regime can flog off a sufficient number of young players to cover losses he can remain indifferent. We now have to shift him to believing that his net happiness will be increased by getting shot of this troublesome club. It’s possible that this will happen just through time and continued protest, or that something on his own front might change his priorities. Just keep the faith, keep up the pressure, and support CARD.

After the resounding success of the joint march and flying pigs, we can’t hope for the same degree of media coverage, even social media. But there will be some. Makes it all the more important that there are no offensive banners, nothing to give regime apologists any grounds to try to misrepresent the nature of the protests. I’ve no doubts the vast majority of Addicks don’t need any sort of reminder on that front, but in this post-referendum world perhaps you can’t be so sure, given the continuing stream of vile bilge spewed out by the Daily Mail and Express. Those rags bring shame on our country.

But I’m not going to get into all of that, especially as I have a rather nice Lyon wine fair to attend tonight. It will I hope make up for the ordeal that France put me though getting here. I prefer the Eurostar/TGV to flying, as long as the price is right, even though this does often mean a large element of Marne la Vallee travellers. Just when you think you’ve got rid of them at Disneyworld of course there’s another batch joining the train there to go home. No matter, I can always divert myself with wine and a good book. My masterplan recently has been to carry a corkscrew with me and when changing for the TGV at Lille buying a reasonable bottle of red for the three-hour trip to Lyon, to arrive relaxed and refreshed. I did notice last time around at Lille that the selection of wine at the Relais was a bit thin but thought no more of it. This time around the shop was closed. Merde. But no matter, I will just have to revert to the wine from the buffet car. And after we pulled out there was the fateful announcement: ‘Due to a strike by personnel we regret to inform you that the buffet will be closed for all the journey. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Desole.’ Or words to that effect.

So tonight I have my revenge. I shall sample everything I can and, unless something is truly outstanding (or more likely unless I get so addled that the credit card comes out irrespective), I shall, regrettably move on. Desole. I guess we just shouldn’t expect perfection either side of the Channel, just enjoy the good bits.

Friday 7 October 2016

Genuine Offer Or More Cynical Manipulation?

What to make of the apparent offer by Meire and cronies to CARD - and the response, not being privy to the thoughts of either side? Was Meire's offer a genuine attempt at finding common ground with CARD, or a PR stunt aimed at getting the regime a better press when it comes to coverage of the coming protests and perhaps to try to divide supporters? We can't know - and ultimately it doesn't matter.

Start by assuming the former and question whether it makes sense. CARD, by its name, exists to pressure and campaign for Duchatelet to sell our club, asap, on the grounds that all the evidence since the takeover points to continued failure on and off the pitch under his ownership. So what is the possible point of CARD talking to Meire, when as I understand it the offer was based on the following: "The manager and the players need all the support they can get to give Charlton Athletic the best opportunity to challenge for promotion to the Championship this season. With this in mind, we have requested a meeting with CARD to look at how we can potentially begin working with them on a process of rebuilding this great club."

Again, consider CARD's reason for being. How can CARD respond positively to an invitation to work together, unless that is on the basis of some pledge from Duchatelet to sell the club? Perhaps such an offer might have been forthcoming at an actual meeting, but without an indication of such from the invitation the only logical reaction from CARD was the one it so eloquently delivered. In short, the offer of a meeting as delivered was doomed to failure.

So was failure intended? Here too we can't be certain but it is indicative of the mistrust - which is the result of experience, not prejudice - that we are inclined to believe it was. The other aspect, if I'm correct, was the sending of the invitation on Wednesday evening and the appearance of press reports of the offer before any response had been made. If the offer was genuine and if the leak deliberate, the person who leaked it should be dismissed and an apology published, because the leaking clearly worked against any chance of a positive response. If the offer was genuine and the leak accidental, then an apology to CARD is in order. There hasn't been one that I've seen. If the offer was not genuine, the leak was necessary since otherwise the regime couldn't be sure it would make it to all Addicks and the media.

So it seems to me that the balance of probability, in the absence of further information, is on the side of the offer not being a genuine attempt at constructive dialogue. Just consider another line from the reported offer. 'A Charlton spokesperson said: "Everyone at Charlton Athletic, whether staff or fans, have the club's best interests at heart." Leaving aside for a moment whether the regime's apparent latest strategy for Charlton (to be a fish farm for young players) is really in our club's best interests, fair enough. But how does that square with the Duchatelet statement, published on the club website, which said that some fans want the club to fail? Are we to take the spokesperson's comment as a de facto apology from our owner? An apology from Duchatelet for that statement is in order and any indirect, half-arsed implication of one is not adequate.

In previous posts I've suggested that if the regime had any sense it would have used recent months as an opportunity to try to establish meaningful communication with supporters. That opportunity was not taken. Instead, as CARD has outlined, it focused on more of what it delivered before, ie stage-managed events to use well-meaning individuals to create the impression of better communication (let's face it, better communication for the regime means working harder to tell us where they are going, not actually listening to and taking on board fans' opinions and interests on issues more weighty than the price of Bovril inside the ground). There was an obvious opportunity during this time to invite the Trust to talks on the basis of the offer apparently made now. Such an offer would have put the Trust in a difficult position. Its current position of being a part of CARD and not engaging in dialogue with the regime is after all the result of canvassing its members, so technically a change would have required a fresh 'referendum'. Some may say that the Trust doesn't represent all Addicks. Of course it can't, but aims to do so and is the most representative organisation that all supporters have. I'd urge all Addicks, including those who back the regime, to join and express their views.

Anyway, no such initiative was made and the time for it passed. Whether or not the timing was right for CARD to resume outright protests is now a moot point, the decision has been taken and I'll be going along with it. My only decision is whether or not to buy a ticket for the Coventry game, or just - in my normal fashion - turn up to assist with the protests. I'll give it more thought, but currently feel that just adding one more voice inside the ground calling for Duchatelet to go does not outweigh handing over some money to the regime. Perhaps there's an element, for me in my second season of boycott, of FOLI (of course I wasn't the first out, others just stopped going before me).

If the regime's meeting offer was intended to deepen the divide between Addicks supporting the protests and those who do not, let's make sure it fails. Differing opinions among Addicks is unavoidable and usually healthy. After all, this isn't some referendum where there's a right answer and a wrong one (we got it wrong, first time around anyway). All Addicks want to see Charlton succeed and to be progressing towards what we would consider success (at least being in the Championship). We all want a full and vibrant Valley, both because this is a vital ingredient for our club to succeed and because this considerably enhances our matchday experience (a sparse, quiet Valley and we might as well just be at a social club, or a local rugby match, which might please our owner but not me). And while we might grumble, we all accept that from time to time we will fall short of our goals and suffer setbacks. We are not protesting because we were relegated, let alone because we might not want us to get back up.

To those Addicks who are against the protests, and don't fall for the reprehensible suggestions that the protests are motivated by any sort of xenophobia or hatred, perhaps bear in mind one thing. You want a positive and enjoyable matchday experience, with a full and happy Valley. We all do, I miss that. But you've had no real protests so far this season and have you enjoyed the matchday experience? Is that positive experience simply going to come back of its own accord with the regime in place, even if performances on the pitch improve? Perhaps, over a decade or more, if the regime succeeds in bussing in enough kids on freebies. Our owner has further distanced himself from Charlton (as he doesn't do failure he has to dissociate himself from direct involvement with anything that is failing, to perpetuate the self-deception), probably views us as naughty children who need to be punished for disobeying daddy, perhaps only (apparently) refuses to consider selling out of spite and stubbornness. I don't know and don't care. We all want our Charlton back.

Thursday 29 September 2016

Full Circle

Rochdale at The Valley always seems a little poignant to me, but never more so than now. I was still knee-high to a grasshopper (OK, a nascent, probably spotty with daft hair, teenager, albeit not one being employed by a batty old owner of football clubs to find players) on a very cold 6 Jan 1973 evening. We'd been relegated to the third division for the first time in my life the previous season and now I was one of 5,048 lonely souls in a vast stadium trying to keep warm as we hosted Rochdale. Bloody hell, 43 years ago. No shortage of water under the bridge since then but - and no disrespect to Rochdale intended - that night always stayed in my head as a real low point, for the crowd and the mood. A King Arthur goal gave us victory but we were to have two seasons of third flight mediocrity before a combination of the emergence of Killer and the installation as manager of Andy Nelson saw us promoted at the third time of asking.

A low point indeed, but now an impression of things having come around full circle, as all Addicks struggle to come to terms with life back in this division (yes I know, for the fourth time in my lifetime) and real concerns about the future of our club. Back then expectations were lower and without social media all we could do was grumble with mates over a pint (I was of course too young for that and with no laptops I couldn't spend the time devising ways to persuade daft old football club owners to make use of an adolescent's services). It was a time of questioning whether Charlton could survive on such low attendances, rumours even of a move to Milton Keynes. Fast forward to now and it seems eerily similar.

A longstanding fellow Addick now living outside London decided to take in Tuesday night's game, giving some of us the opportunity to meet up. Five in the pub and another two who couldn't make it. Go back some years and we were all season ticket holders. Sure, one is no longer in London. But not one of the other six now have season tickets, I'm into my second season of boycotting games, another has stopped going this season, one more who has been attending on a game-by-game basis decided at least this time around he'd prefer to stay in the pub as, in his words, this dreadful regime is sucking all the enjoyment out of going. He currently plans to switch to going to away games, like many others. So three of the seven went to the game.

One sent me the following comments today. "The only good thing about last night was getting the chance to catch up with .....  Rarely (if ever) have I spent so much time chatting at a match rather than watching the game. Probably only about 6,000 in the ground despite the official attendance. No atmosphere at all - like a pre-season friendly.  Thoroughly outplayed by Oldham for about 75% of the match."  The non-Londoner replied with: "Yes an awful match in an atmosphere which wasn't hostile but just resigned to failure. Only one bit of class and that was Lookman's effort which hit the bar. But good to see you all. Let's do an away match and not care about the football."

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but one of the stated goals of the regime in its early days was to improve the matchday experience. Does it sound as though they're succeeding? Of course we have had the cheerleaders and the sofa, but perhaps they didn't quite balance the utter ineptness of the regime and its contemptible arrogance, resulting in lamentable and completely avoidable failure on the pitch. There are many aspects to owning a football club and being a supporter that the regime just 'doesn't get'. But in this context one of the most striking, for me, is the idea that they can happily kill off dreams and ambition, for many the very rationale for being a supporter. We are offered by Meire the 'unique experience' of being able to see stars of the future, for a short spell, now Duchatelet muses about why football can't be more like rugby. Going to the game then becomes an opportunity to meet up with friends (undeniably a major element) and to stroll along to enjoy watching a bit of a kickabout as the youngsters hone their skills, perhaps josh the ref a little if he makes a mistake, to applaud if we win and collectively shrug our shoulders if we lose, then everyone goes merrily back to the bar for another glass or two. A sort of local social club. I don't need to outline why this is complete cobblers; every supporter already knows why.

So we've had something of a stand-off of late, a period of phoney war. The regime pretends that attendances are not as dire as they are by giving away freebies and not caring whether or not the tickets are used, pretends that it values supporters (it was embarrassing to hear the stadium announcer at half-time in the Wimbledon game declare 'great support in the first half ...' when everyone there knew it was poor), and pretends that it is communicating with the fans, even that it wants to improve communication (if they were serious they would know what to do). CARD for good reasons had suspended protests inside the ground. And with more protesters staying away and fewer inside for the home games, of course the balance of regime opponents to at least tacit backers has shifted.

This period offered the regime the opportunity to take the initiative and to win over more supporters. It was always going to fail to take it. The unwanted brief visit by Duchatelet was only notable for his disgraceful attempt to justify why he fails to meet his responsibilities (it really sounded like another attempt to shift the blame for failure without addressing why, if he cannot spare the time, he keeps in place an incompetent embarrassment), the absurd comments made by Driesen in his press interview only serve to show how well he fits with the regime (he does lie/distort/mislead like the best of them) but not the real world. So CARD has announced a resumption of protests, starting with the Coventry game. This is bound to annoy some Addicks but the status quo is unsustainable, the regime is slowly squeezing the life out of our club and is incapable of changing its spots. 

Saturday 17 September 2016

Missed Chances, Points Wasted

I had no plans to actually go to the game today, just intending to turn up for the CARD photo, suitably attired. Turns out we missed the first shoot, which had been brought forward, but made a repeat effort put on for us late arrivals, then a ticket for the match found its way into my possession. Let me just stress that no transfer of money to the regime was involved in the manufacturing of this post.

The game proved to be a criminal waste of three points. After 20 minutes I'd pretty much come to terms with just how empty The Valley is these days, we were 1-0 up, looked perfectly capable of adding to that, Wimbledon didn't look as if they carried a real threat, and my thoughts were just nothing silly at the back and we should run out comfortable winners. At half-time we should have been two or three goals to the good but no particular reason for concern, given the way the game had gone. After 60 mins I remember thinking we'd gone off the boil rather but were still comfortable, just hadn't put the game to bed; I also wondered why Wimbledon seemed so content to be carrying on with one up front and seemingly just going through the motions headed for defeat. After what proved a pretty material substitution by them, two goals, and a lame response from us, by the final whistle my mind was turning to just how we'd lost a game that was there for the taking.

That may seem a little unfair on Wimbledon. Perhaps they had a game-plan all along (although the substitution that they made, which involved the introduction of a second forward, one with considerable physical presence, came as a result of a clash of heads at a corner and their guy going down poleaxed and getting stretchered off). Truth is that with that change Wimbledon looked a different team going forward, scored two decent goals, and ended the game in the ascendency.

The team was unchanged from the Fleetwood game, with Solly and Fox either side of Pearce and Konsa in front of Rudd, Crofts and Ulvestad in central midfield and Holmes and Lookman occupying the wide positions, and Magennis and Ajose up front. And after Konsa was a little fortunate not to pick up a yellow card after an early slip prompted a clear foul the first chance came the way of Lookman. He was given far too much time, moved inside onto his right foot, but put the shot wide of the far post. Really should have at least tested the keeper and you felt at the time that surely it can't be that easy for him, surely Wimbledon wouldn't give him that much space again. Wrong. Seems the clock was only showing eight minutes gone when the ball was played square to Lookman and he took it forward to the edge of the box. Again he cut inside, shaped to shoot and their defender obligingly fell to the turf, allowing Lookman to take it further to the right, then to direct his shot unerringly inside the near post. It was a calm and effective finish, a goal all his own work, but the defending was shocking.

It looked like the first of many. Magennis was doing a good job of bullying their two centre-backs and laying it off, Ajose was buzzing around with intent, Holmes was threatening, and there was also Lookman. Crofts and Ulvestad didn't seem to be getting forward to provide support, but quite frankly it didn't look as though they would be required to do more than feed the others and protest the back four. Wimbledon did produce an early scare or two but nothing clear-cut, with Pearce in particular cutting out most balls forward, whereas the chances for us were to come with regularity through the first half.

Holmes had a decent shot beaten away, Ajose was played in, not really a one-on-one as he was further out than that but he was clear and failed to test the keeper, then the one that was laid on a plate for him. Down the right Ulvestad and Solly worked to create space for a cross, eventually Ulvestad floated one up to the far post, Magennis headed it down invitingly, but Ajose blazed it over the bar. It was a bad miss as finishing chances like that are the reason he is out there. Instead he'd been well placed twice and hadn't put in an effort on target.

There may have been other chances in the first half but no more come to mind. At the break we were ahead but really should have been out of sight. There was no strong feeling at the time that the failure to score more might come back to haunt us as we seemed in control of the game, but you did feel that a team looking to be around the top six needed to be more clinical in front of goal - and that if we ended up failing to beat a team that looked as limited as Wimbledon we will have problems.

The second half carried on in a similar vein: us in control, Wimbledon sitting back despite being behind, and just the need for a second goal to make it safe. It didn't come. We probed, threatened, still had the weapons. One squared by Magennis almost provided Ajose with a tap-in but didn't quite find him. When we did get one on target, a good header from Magennis I think, their keeper dived low to his right and pulled off a stunning save. That was a turning point. So was the injury Wimbledon suffered from a corner. There seemed to be some confusion as their guy had been on the ground for some minutes with a stretcher called for, yet when the guy was carried off nobody was ready to replace him. The pitch announcer said someone else was coming on, but eventually a big guy pulled on a shirt and prepared to enter the game. He moved alongside their lone forward and suddenly the game seemed different.

Slade seemed to sense that Wimbledon were now a different kettle of fish and withdrew Ajose, sending on Novak with around 20 mins left. But he didn't change the shape, didn't look to the available Jackson to help close things down (and perhaps pop up with a goal). Instead the next material event saw their left-winger force or take advantage of a slip from Solly to cut in on goal, only for Konsa to save the captain's blushes with an excellent block. Like our goal, it was to prove a portent of things to come. Not long after the ball was worked to that same guy. Lookman seemed to realise the problem and doubled up, only this time the guy knocked it between the pair of them and was suddenly in, rifling the ball past Rudd.

Still more than 10 minutes to go, plus stoppage time, so their equaliser really should have made it game on. But by then we'd lost momentum and the chances were not coming along so frequently, while they knew that they were back in a game they had no right to be. It was at this point I thought Slade should have made a change, probably to bring on Jackson, as on the pitch we looked in need of drive and leadership. Nothing happened and with five minutes left on the clock we were to concede again.

To be fair, this goal was a peach. Former Charlton youth player Fuller hadn't looked the most comfortable right-back playing football this afternoon, up against Lookman, but he moved forward down the line and onto a ball, to curl in a superb cross. It was curling away from defenders, came in just behind their sub, he twisted his neck and directed it like a bullet past Rudd, who again had no chance.

With five minutes of stoppage time we still had around 10 minutes left to get something out of the game. We didn't. Wimbledon not surprisingly chased everything down, we looked desperate (especially when Solly found himself in space at the far post but was unable to square it to someone in a red shirt), and although Magennis nodded one down for Novak to finish he was clearly in an offside position. Instead their sub proved pretty adept at running down the clock and the game ended with them in raptures and us ruing both missed opportunities and an inability to respond to a change in circumstances.

As this is the first game I've seen this season I can't compare with what has gone before, only give my impressions. I hope the manager and the players are annoyed with themselves and use that anger to positive effect next time around. Today they came up short. It was a case of Shankley's 'the best team always wins, the rest is just gossip'. They took advantage of our failures.

Player Ratings:

Rudd:  7/10.  What rating do you give a keeper who made no saves and had no chance with their two goals?

Solly:  6/10.  No lack of effort but got outmuscled by their guy twice and the second time it cost us a goal.

Fox:  6/10. Nothing decisive at either end of the pitch, no problems but no great contribution either.

Pearce:  7/10.  I was impressed with him, a classic 'no nonsense' performance. For most of the game our defence was untroubled, for which he took much of the credit. But that changed with their substitution.

Konsa:  6/10.  One excellent block, some good tackles. Clearly an excellent prospect, just question whether he is ready to deal with the sort of sub they threw on.

Holmes:  7/10.  Always a threat, even towards the end when he carried the ball half the length of the pitch only to not get the curled shot right. Another shot beaten away.

Crofts:  6/10.  Pretty anonymous for most of the game, but for most of the game we were in control and all he needed to do was shore things up.

Ulvestad:  7/10.  He wasn't exactly box-to-box today, still finding his feet. But showed glimpses of what we hope is to come in giving our midfield more guile and energy.

Lookman:  7/10.  Should have been the match-winner but wasn't.

Magennis:  7/10.  Really overall did his job, was effective in leading the line and keeping their defenders unsettled. Just didn't make a decisive contribution.

Ajose:  6/10.  Has to be judged on whether or not he takes the chances that come his way. Today he didn't.

Subs:  Novak (6/10 - made no real impression, went offside when might have been played in).