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.