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. 


peterS said...

Amusing yet always fair minded post BA. You have my admiration that you forced yourself to boycott last year which in retrospect I wished I had!
It was in the end a surprisingly easy decision for me not to buy a season ticket this year, even though I have only missed a handful of Valley games since the 1960ies for the same reasons as you I believe.
However I will be going to the £5 Rochdale game on Saturday (don't seem to be able to get hold of one of those 'free' tickets that I hear of on CL and Roland won’t make much out of it, although I hate to give him anything) just to be in the Valley and I am not too bothered as to the result as I cannot see if staying in this division or being promoted is more likely to lead to a change of ownership......
Go to this cheap match BA and assuage your conscience like I will by donating £5 to CARD.
Desperate Pete

Anonymous said...

Nobody can deny that the club is going to the dogs. If we don't protest now we will all be sorry that we hadn't when it finally all goes tits up. It may not have any effect on the thick skinned and ignorant people that run the club currently, but that is not the point.

Unknown said...

Dear Fellow Addicted

Where do I start?

I agree with you post 100%. At 61and three quaters and a supporter of 53 years I like you have been through everything you have.The lows,like you I was also at that Rochdale game all those years ago.

The heighs The Freight Rover Trophy Final v Blackburn at Wembley ,my eldest sons first game watching Charlton the only other memorable thing that day was the coach broke down and we all had to get out and push.

The Play off final v Sunderland,my youngest sons first game watching Charlton after which he thought every game would be the same, bless him :)

The only difference from that Rochdale game way back then was that I was young and naive with low expectations and high hopes, unfortunatly all these years later both are the same now, no expectations and no hope. Both my sons were with me on Tuesday night for the Oldham game and spent most of the game catching up rather than watching the game, it was truly dire.

The current owners and I say current as I hope and pray that there is a fairy godmother who will wave her magic wand and come and save us all from this appalling regime is out there somewhere. That KM will get a better job offer as its clear thats exactly what she is looking for and lastly that Roly gets bored with his little adventure and moves on.

Still a season ticket holder (just) I sit a couple of rows down in front of the now sparsely seated directors box and even Kieth Peacock seems to be missing !! I thought he was planted there? (apologies to Kieth if you are there you must have moved ) but I wouldn't blame you as you are normally in close proximity to Ms Meire and so far its just a banner or two directed at her.
Additionally of course you have people like Mark Bright and others who seems to have become a frequent visitor to Charlton games presumably taking in the talents of Lookman and the very up and coming Konsa who I would be surprised were still both with us after the January transfer window.

One thing is clear we do have a few very decent individuals unfortunately they are the few. Balance wise well there is no balance in the team. Midfield wise we have been light all season RS new that from day one and has not addressed it. Is he the right man for the job ? He talks a good game and seems more in tune with supporters than any of our previous managers since Chrissy Powell who was a one off in this day and age. Someone that despite a few dodgy results you could not fail to like and easily forgive.

Will RS be allowed time remains to be seen. I would say if we don't get 3 points on Saturday he will be gone. Who will replace him if he goes? These are truly worrying times at Charlton.
RS I am sure is a very nice guy but we are not looking for a nice guy who makes the right noises between games but stands with his hands in his pockets most of the time and looks devoid of ideas. Im not sure what the Leeds lad has done to upset him but like me I expect his wondering why he is in SE7 at all.

"Into the Valley of Death strode the 600"'6000 !! Now I'm being overdramatic but its starting to feel just like that and we all know what the outcome of that was. Someone wake me up pleeeeese:(

Keep doing what you do
All the best

Anonymous said...

I hear Jose Riga is available...

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks for the comments guys. I really do wish our owners would, even now, recognise the passion and commitment that comes through from each of them and instead of treating fans with contempt to look to turn these things to the advantage of the club - and consequently themselves. We care, deeply, and want Charlton to succeed. Our owner calls us liars when he claims otherwise.

a2c said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.