Wednesday 31 August 2016

Protesters Are The Positive Ones

I realised over the weekend - and my first trip of the new season to The Valley, to help hand out CARD programmes - that it had been some weeks since I'd posted anything. There have been good reasons, including a working holiday in France (the task was to improve our knowledge of the wines of Burgundy and I'm pleased to report that, with a lot of effort and consumption, good progress has been made). There's also been the feeling that all roads lead to 'you are destroying our club, sell up and leave' and there's only so often you can say this without sounding boring. No matter, let's say it again, in the form of a ramble through recent events. Because it needs repeating, at a time when it isn't easy for the protest movement to square supporting Slade and the team and wanting success on the pitch (which every Addick does) with the firm belief that for our club to prosper in any real sense we need new owners.

For sure it's pleasing that on the pitch a wobbly start has become a respectable one, with every indication that the players are behind the manager. It's impossible for us to say for sure how the transfer system at the club operates (ie the extent of Slade's influence), but from a distance it would seem that, for now at least, he has a strong say when it comes to signings - and at least he isn't getting stiffs dumped on him from a Poundland network. Equally it would seem that he has next to no influence - other than his one trump card, ie a threat to walk away - when it comes to sales.

I'd say that so far Slade's made only one error: not ensuring that the issue of the comments apparently made by Johnson was put to rest. If Johnson made the remarks to supporters as reported, a full and well-publicised apology was appropriate, as the Trust called for. We all say things in the heat of the moment and, even though the guy is never going to feature on a list of popular players past and present, a full act of contrition would have been the end of the matter. Without that - if there has been one I missed it, just saw a remark from Slade to the effect that Johnson had apologised - there's an unwanted issue of how supporters will respond if he is selected and perhaps in turn a factor in whether he is picked. Doesn't do the player or the team any good.

While we're dealing with matters on the pitch, it's worth remembering that our absent owner is now occupying himself (according to his partner) by focusing on the sporting side at Sint-Truiden. No surprise then that after a fluked win in their first league game of the season the Roland influence has come to the fore and they've since lost three and drawn one. No doubt in Duchateletworld the glorious victory and the plucky draw were the result of his faultless leadership, while the three defeats were down to ... (just fill in the gaps, any excuse would be accepted). Roland doesn't do failure as we know; he - and his minions - consequently just don't do truth either.

I digress - not completely as at the time in history Burgundy did extend to include what we now call Belgium (and the Netherlands) - but did thoroughly enjoy while on holiday a French whitewash of history. Dijon - which I shall forever remember fondly for a sumptuous tasting afternoon - makes a good deal of the glories and good works of the four grand dukes of Burgundy - Philip the Bold, John the Fearless, Philip the Good, and Charles the Bold - during the time of their split from the king of France, before the amicable reconciliation. What you won't find there is a single mention of the fact that during that time they allied with England and fought against the 'French', or that it was they who handed over to the English (albeit for money) Jean d'Arc. A glance at their legacy and you might propose Philip the Spendthrift, John the Murderer, Philip the Serial Shagger, and Charles the Ugly and Totally Crap as more appropriate titles. Ah well, just more reminders of the facts that we are all Europeans (that what we refer to as nation states are modern inventions) and that, as they say, history is written by the victors.

My source for this (and much else) is the obviously accurate '1,000 Years of Annoying the French'. They really should rename it '1,020 Years ...' as my partner Suzanne would suggest that I've been doing a good job of continuing the trend. We were having a lively exchange later in the holiday in the heights of Jura, prompted by her wasting valuable time ensuring that the apartment of her sister that we were leaving was totally devoid of any speck of dust. My constructive complaints were not being taken well. 'What are you going to be like when you are even older?, she inquired. 'Difficult', I suggested. 'Ha! What do you imagine you are now?' (I should point out that this came from a woman who'd just thrown a wobbler over my trimming a bit of facial fuzz in a bathroom that she'd just passed as clean for purpose, and had suggested that 'we are going to have a problem if we live together if you don't do things my way'.)

I had been trying to explain to Suzanne the latest example of utter stupidity on the part of the regime, the laughable (were it not so utterly reprehensible) hauling in of an Addick looking to renew his season ticket and being called to task for being OTT in his criticisms. I told her that we are now being widely known as the club that hates its fans. She replied that I'm so difficult that now that the regime wouldn't want to sell me a season ticket I probably want to buy one. So to be on the safe side, please just select any insult and you can confidently assume that I've used it privately or publicly to describe the regime. They have deserved every one for what they have done/are doing to our club.

In fact for the record I received a CAFC email back in mid-July inviting me to buy a season ticket. Curiously it went on to claim that 'last season we can see you spent more than £150 buying tickets on a match-by-match basis'. Now I didn't spend the proverbial penny last season, so either they have me mixed up with someone else or - more likely - they just sent out a junk email in the hope that for some the contents might be true (working from home I most enjoy the 'our records show you were involved in a car accident which wasn't your fault ....'; as I've never owned a car and haven't driven one since passing my test decades ago - first time please note Suzanne - it is a long shot). So just in case there is any doubt, in the theoretical instance that I sent in a season ticket application and was offered a code of conduct agreement, I trust I would adopt the Cantona approach. He (if I remember correctly) was accused of calling one (or more) of the French football selectors an idiot. When called in to answer for his actions, he went up to each of them in turn, said 'idiot', and walked out.

They have been idiots from the start. And how do we know nothing's changed? The evidence. Duchatelet obviously hasn't changed as Meire unbelievably remains at our club. He is still the dictatorial buffoon who gave those crazed interviews and released those revolting statements. Meire hasn't changed, although she keeps trying to suggest that she - or at least the club management in general - has. Again, the evidence. Just take those 'programme notes from the senior management team'; they can't help themselves, they are snide, divisive, cheap, and deceitful. "We'd like to begin by thanking all of those that stuck by the club last season" - in other words not those who protested and who, by their protests, clearly did not 'stick by the club'. We have "a change in strategy by the club", nicely glossing over the fact that previous strategies have been doomed to failure, as everyone with any understanding of football said at the time. "We have lost players ..." Exactly how do you lose one? Did some wander off after training? You've sold them to offset losses and ended contracts to save on wages. Ah no, "the players we've lost all wanted new challenges". Are they really trying to suggest that if 'they' had wanted to stay there would have been no sales? Utterly ridiculous.

Most obnoxious was "we haven't been maximising fully the passion, energy and effort that our fans have" and "we want to communicate better and more frequently with our fans". Presumably a change, therefore, from the 'Charlton fans have to accept ...' approach and the false promises before of meaningful dialogue. The regime doesn't want to 'communicate', let alone have a real dialogue, that much is obvious. It does want an end to protests, more season ticket/matchday ticket sales/spending inside the ground and to that end is seemingly prepared to endure some time wasted on a few selected meetings. Too cynical? Easy enough to prove me wrong. If the regime/senior management had any sense it would take advantage of the relative lull in protests and take the initiative by inviting the Trust and CARD representatives to enter into open-ended discussions. It would be hard for them to turn down such an offer at this point in time and such an offer just might incline some of us to question whether something has indeed changed. Of course there will be no such offer, since that would be risking the facade of change off the pitch being exposed.

Most laughable was "the new era is about positivity". Protest by its very nature is in a sense negative, a reaction to something deemed unacceptable/undesirable. But it is also positive, a call for a change for the better, for a brighter future. Those calling for new owners are not mired in negativity (and of course they are not xenophobes), they are the positive ones.

I was going to go on to cover the absurdity of Meire and the FA, bringing in the exchange of letters that I had with the Football League following the reprehensible statement made in the wake of the Burnley game by chief executive Shaun Harvey. But time marches on, Suzanne arrives from France this evening and there is a property to be cleaned (as best as I can), and that may be enough ranting for one day.