Friday 2 November 2018

Give Lennie His Due

It really has come to something when there's so little inclination to comment on our aged owner’s latest deluded utterings. We know he’s talking nonsense (yet again), everyone else in football knows it too (blimey, even Simon Jordan can see through him). I suspect Duchatelet knows it himself; even he can’t be so self-delusional, just not brave enough to acknowledge the truth and do something about it – ie sell the club. But we live in an age when truth and facts sometimes count for little and perhaps even a little publicity which isn’t entirely negative might for him make taking the time to give the interview worthwhile.

I haven’t listened to the interview. Just don’t have the time to waste; and quite frankly we’ve heard it all before. TalkSPORT have an obvious interest in playing up the piece, but just how it can be presented in the fashion it has been is laughable. “After many years of silence ...” The silly old codger doesn’t actually know how to zip it, just look at the stream of embarrassing interviews over recent years (and throw in his various insults to Charlton supporters published on the club site). ‘... to discuss the ongoing turmoil at The Valley and the backlash from angry fans since he purchased the club in 2014”. Let’s get it right, the fans became angry not when he purchased the club – just look back at what was written then, he was almost universally welcomed – but in response to what was done subsequently.

That’s already too much time wasted on him. The days when we were anxiously awaiting takeover news are long passed. We applaud those who are behind ROT and back their efforts, stand ready to support any fresh protest(s) organised by CARD, and in the interim would suggest that if the words are anything other than ‘I have sold the club’ there’s nothing we are interested in hearing from Roland, just keep writing the cheques.

That pretty much sums up my feelings at present as I flit back and forth between London and Lyon. Certain more pressing events on two Saturdays ensured no appearance from me at The Valley in October and as things stand I can’t see any change on that front.

On a happier note, I had been thinking about recent comments by Chris Solly covering his opinions on the difference between this season and recent years, and others’ thoughts on what Lee Bowyer has brought to the squad (this was before our recent blip in results but of course still stands). Then by chance the subject of Birmingham cropped up: basically for my sins when back in the UK I’d been coerced into going there for an event on a Saturday and mentioned to a colleague this would mean that having managed to avoid the place since 1987 I’d have gone there twice in the past year (I’ve since remembered that’s not strictly true - I nipped there and back for Birmingham v Charlton in 1998, before the play-offs, when Sasa was immense and got us a point with a 0-0 draw – but no matter).

The colleague made the fatal mistake of asking me what was the event in 1987? And like Arlo Guthrie I proceeded to tell him about the play-off play-off against Leeds in four-part harmony with tales of Peter Shirtliff and the others including John Sheridan, the free-kick that never was and the seven minutes of extra time to go with us one down and the glorious ending and shouting and howling with delight. That led to me watch again the Yorkshire TV coverage of the game.

I’m pleased to say that it’s still not possible to watch those highlights without reliving the emotions. But that’s not really what I was going to talk about. What struck me now was the team that Lennie Lawrence had compiled. If you wanted a dressing room full of guys with character and determination you could rely on when the chips were down could you do better than one containing Bolder, Humphrey, Reid, Shirtliff, Miller, Peake, Walsh and Gritt (add in Melrose for good measure)?

That in turn got me thinking about the Charlton teams that have truly succeeded in recent times – Lennie’s team which won promotion and stayed in the top flight that night, Curbs’ play-off heroes, Sir Chris’ record-breaking promotion team, now just possibly – and hopefully – a side put together by Bowyer and Johnnie Jackson. And if that proves to be the case you can make a strong case for a chain that runs through the whole time – and the person who can claim some responsibility for starting the whole process.

Lawrence was in charge when Curbs was first brought to The Valley in 1984 and when he was brought back again in 1990. Only Curbs himself can say to what extent he benefited from watching at close quarters how Lawrence selected players he wanted for the situation the club was in, putting an emphasis on hunger and character. But he learnt that from somewhere and was something that he carried through as manager of our club. During that time, while back at The Valley but before the Premiership years, Bowyer was coming up through the ranks and, although it isn’t evident that he always benefited from wise counselling at that time, perhaps some of the lessons learnt then are standing him in good stead now.

Of course some years later Curbs brought in Sir Chris. Fortunately he had already had some years at Southend and Derby to rid himself of the bad habits he would have picked up early in his playing career and then had the opportunity to see at close hand what Curbs had to teach to an aspiring manager. And when his turn came one of the players brought in to turn things around on the pitch was of course JJ, who has now taken a place in the Charlton managerial structure.

Now for sure there have been others before and since who would deserve a special mention in any account of our recent years (and plenty who would get a mention for less positive contributions). But in terms of a clearly-defined Charlton baton being passed on you involving players to managers I think have to start with Lawrence and continue with Curbishley, Powell and now Bowyer/Jackson. The first three won promotions, may the fourth do the same.

And on that note, it’s right and proper that the 1998 Play-off Final is commemorated and those players and manager honoured, as mentioned in the latest CAST email. But we seem to have allowed the 1987 Play-off Final to have gone unnoticed. Better late than never, I’d like to see a suitable gathering for Lennie and as many of his promotion and Play-off teams as possible. When you add in the fact that Lawrence was in charge when (thanks to Killer) we staved off relegation on the final day of the 1982/83 season, at a time when relegation then could have finished us off, and through the subsequent bankruptcy and closure of The Valley, it would I think be a good opportunity for us to recognise in particular his contribution to our club, not least since his legacy may well be continuing.