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.