Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Empty Inside...

 
Down the years there is nothing I would rather do than spend an evening under the Valley lights supporting my team. I'd look forward to midweek fixtures above any other, regardless of opposition.
 
But last night I didn't have it in me to make the journey.
 
I had a ticket - annoyingly bought only the day before when I was trying to convince myself I was up for it. For over two decades I've done the 90 mile round trip to the Valley on my own and more often than not loved the solitude it brought me. A chance to listen to my music without the kids or the wife moaning. But as the clock ticked closer to the time I needed to leave the enthusiasm drained from me like water from a leaking bucket.
 
A night in front of the TV more favourable than the Valley under lights. 
 
For a while I stood in my kitchen, staring aimlessly out the window, desperately wanting to find the faintest flicker of a flame inside my belly, but I just couldn't force myself out the front door.
 
Charlton lost on a miserable night, but that alone doesn't vindicate my decision. As I climbed into bed my missus said "I bet you're glad you never went". But the truth is I'm not. I feel deeply sad and ashamed to have turned my back on my club. I'm gripped by a sense of detachment that is growing at an alarming rate.
 
I just want Roland gone before I reach a tipping point...
 
The official attendance was announced as 9,101 but gauging the response to those in attendance it seems more likely the true figure was closer to 6,000. The image above taken by Louis Mendez after around 8 mins paints a very bleak picture. Quite what goes through Katrien Meire's head looking out across the Valley I'd love to know. This, remember, a lady who when questioned on live radio about the 40% drop in season tickets blamed it on the inevitable result of relegation. 
 
As usual, Karl Robinson's post match interview was a mixture of sound bites and nonsense, but in fairness to him, what else can he say, he's on a hiding to nothing. Whilst lamenting the lack of cohesiveness in the team Robinson suggested "some people want to play, some don’t want to play and we have a mishmash of players". Describing perfectly the characteristics of a typical squad assembled under a Roland Duchatelet regime, perhaps the penny has finally dropped for our street-wise manager and he realises he stands at the base of a very tall, craggy mountain with flip-flops on! In the next breathe  he suggested "they’re a good group and an honest group. They work hard every day". You don't sound convinced to me, Karl, and I'm certainly not.
 
Instead of misguided play-off ambitions, Charlton's season is far more likely to end fighting to avoid being drawn into a relegation dog-fight.
 
The reality is, despite his commendable enthusiasm, Karl is trying desperately to finds the answer to a problem he is not in a position to solve. The cancer running through the core of the club has transcended way, way past the fillip that comes from a few positive results alone. The empty, bleak, soulless Valley will not return to it's former glory until there is change at the very top. The apathy that has gripped Charlton is as deep-rooted as the stubborn nature inside the man who owns the club and the lady he employs to mismanage it.
 
Ultimately there is one man responsible for the heartbreaking regress at Charlton, on and off the pitch, and if you think otherwise then you're part of the problem. This tweet below from an Oxford fan struck a cord with me last night. Sums things up perfectly for me.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Bang Average...

It's been a while since I've dropped by this blog. Work and general Charlton apathy have kept my mind elsewhere, but a train journey this morning has given me a chance to reflect on things a little, particularly the post-match opinion following Saturday's disappointing draw at AFC Wimbledon, when, for the second game in a row, we conceded a stoppage time leveller.
 
4 points dropped in two games. All very mid-table really.
 
It never ceases to amaze me how easily some Charlton fans get carried away with what has been, in my opinion, a pretty unconvincing campaign to date, even taking into account the recent 7 game unbeaten run. You'd need to go back to mid-November for our last back-to-back victories, neither of which our current manager presided over. A few bright moments aside, I've not seen enough this season to suggests Charlton deserve a play-off place.
 
If you can look beyond the fact that a club of our size and history should not be operating in this league (not arrogance, just an observation regarding the mismanagement of Meire and Duchatelet) then we are what we have become; a bang-average, mid-table League One team.
 
I get the fact that we are all clinging desperately to the hope of brighter days. I also get the fact a great many Addicks are fed up with the constant doom and gloom and want to concentrate on the positives, no matter how scant they are. It is disheartening seeing the all-too-frequent squabbles between the Duchatelet apologists (yes, they do exist), the Back the Boys mob and those who see no future of any kind under Duchatelet. The later just can't get excited about anything, even the thought of promotion.
 
Whatever view you have, this divide is yet another lamentable aspect of Roland's ownership.
 
I align myself with those who remain completely apathetic about Charlton under this current ownership. I'm still attending home games, but out of habit more than desire. I suppose I'm biding my time, waiting patiently for when Roland's gone, desperately hoping something can relight the fire in my belly.
 
The football is slightly better under Robinson, but one consistency remains throughout every managerial appointment under this regime. The squad is way too thin and too reliant on loanees and youngsters. Charlton face a gruelling fixture schedule that see's Saturday / Tuesday games from now until late March. Hard to see how this current squad will cope.
 
And what of Robinson? His passion is undeniable, but all-to-often manifests itself as an embarrassingly poor impression of David Brent. He should talk far, far less. The media boys must love him as his eagerness to get in front of the microphone and spout sound bite after sound bite are a dream to a department that has suffered more than any other under Duchatelet's dark cloud. 
 
Ok, I get it, I shouldn't be so negative and cynical. I actually like Robinson, it's just that I don't think he's quite gets the fact that action speaks far louder than words.   
 
After a period of reflection for CARD, the anti-Duchatelet protests start up again on March 4th with a very different approach. I think it needed to be. Teaming up with the Belgium 20 and newly-formed Women Against the Regime groups, the protests will be taken directly to Duchatelet's home town of Sint-Truiden, Belgium. I doth my cap to anyone who's parting with their hard earned money to make the trip (as I do those who will be at Northampton away on the same day). I have often wondered if Meire has quite cleverly managed to shield Uncle Roland from the true extent of the discontent at Charlton, preferring to portray it as a few, bitter ex-employees and lost sheep. In taking the protests to Duchatelet's back yard, he can see for himself. I considered making the trip, not least of all as I fell in love with Belgian beer 20 years ago, but alas my mind has been on work and now that boat has sailed.
 
I hope there is a huge impact in Belgium that day as well as a good win in Northampton, because, you know, it is possible to want both things...

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Best Of Luck, Foxy...

Farewell, Morgan. Best of luck on your move.

Often a scapegoat for the disgruntled, frustrated fan, Fox got his fair share of stick, much of which, in my opinion, was harsh to say the least. I can't deny that I've slumped in my seat or shook my head more times than I can remember standing to applaud Fox in a game, but then again, I also recognise a lad who gave everything for a club he clearly cared about.

In that respect he is a loss to Charlton at a time when characters you can believe in are sadly lacking. One must also remember some of the bang-average or out-of-position players he regularly had to operate with on the left.

But the truth is, after a little over a century of Addick appearances, he definitely needed a change, and I really hope he makes a success of the move to Sheffield. Some people are already bracing themselves for a repeat of the 'Simon Francis' effect, and I for one wouldn't be surprised if Fox goes on to become something we never quite saw regularly enough at Charlton. The transfer fee, reported to be £700,000, would suggest there's something there. Time will tell if it proves to be good value to Charlton or Wednesday.

As a Charlton academy graduate departs before he reached his full potential with us (yet again), a West Ham academy left-back is bought in to replace him on a two-and-a-half year deal. I know nothing whatsoever about Lewis Page other than at the young age of 20 he's got well-kept hair and has managed to cover himself in tattoos already! He looks like the modern footballer, but can he play?

Robinson said of the new man "He's quick, likes to get forward and is a good crosser, I really like that in a full-back". Hard to imagine there's anyone out there who doesn't, Karl, to be fair. More proven quality additions are required if we are to believe there's genuine ambition to grab a Play-Off place. Either way, I remain completely apathetic about Charlton these days, and my wish remains for Duchatelet to go above anything else. With Fox gone, that leaves Jackson and Solly as the last men standing from better times. Times I deeply miss. I doubt for one minute this will bother Meire, who seems to be making it her priority to dilute what being 'Charlton' really means.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Goodbye & Good Luck, Ademola...

 
From the moment he burst on to the scene at Charlton he looked too good for us. No surprise then that Ademola Lookman has finally been sold. Uncle Rolly's pocket's are bulging once again, and coupled with the sale of JBG and Pope in the summer, Charlton's much-maligned owner has pretty much recouped the amount he paid for the club three years ago!
 
As encouraged as I should have been about an obvious talent, I never allowed myself to get excited or attached to Lookman, so I would be lying if I said I was disappointed he's gone. His departure was inevitable and under this current ownership it's hard enough to feel any attachment to the team, let alone when you know the young stars are only passing through once they break out of the academy.
 
But who can blame them for aiming higher? 
 
Whilst it is always tempting (and very easy) to stick the boot into Meire and Uncle Rolly, can they be criticised for this sale? £7.5m rising to 11m (according to reports) is far too much money to turn down regardless of who owns the club, and is it fair to stand in a young man's way when a Prem team comes knocking? Perhaps not, but the fundamental question here is how much of the sale fee will be reinvested into the squad. Given the undeniable lack of ambition to date and Uncle Rolly's recent comments (if they are to be believed) regarding promotion as being 'not essential', then I won't hold my breath, but this sale does provides the Regime with an opportunity to shake off some of the negative opinions regarding ambition, and perhaps most importantly, intent.

In this regard, the next few weeks could be hugely important for Charlton's short and long-term future.  
 
Unsurprisingly Katrien Meire managed to muddy the waters with contradictory comments on the OS. This time last year she sat on a sofa in that infamous seminar video proudly stating through her trademark grin that she hoped Charlton would cultivate the Premiership stars of the future. Today, she said “Our intention was not to sell Ademola, we are very sad to see him go and our long-term ambition is that we get ourselves into a position where our talented young players, even when there is interest from Premier League clubs, want to stay with us.” Hmm. It can't be both, Katrien. You need to make your mind up or you'll end up looking silly yet again.
 
In all, Lookman made 49 appearances for the Addicks, scoring 12 goals (which coincidentally is comparable to Lee Bowyer's spell with the Addicks). I wish the lad every success in the world at Everton, and hopefully England.
 
As news of this departure was announced, Richard Cawley reported that Charlton have signed Jake Forster Caskey to bolster our midfield. It will be Karl Robinson's first permanent signing, and hopefully the first of many new faces.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Stupid People...

 
You'd have thought with the appointment of a new Head of Comms, and the apparent abundance of outsourced P.R, Uncle Rolly could be persuaded to keep his mouth shut to avoid further embarrassment to our club. Clearly not the sharpest tool in the box with regards to football matters, Roland's opinion is worth about as much as a great many of the players he's bought in over the years.
 
In case you're one of those who is choosing to stick your head in the sand and ignore the immense harm caused by Duchatelet's regime, let me direct you to a few of my fellow Addick bloggers here, here and here.    
 
Yes, as if explaining to a former England international with well over 600 games as a player what a diamond formation is isn't enough of an insult, Uncle Rolly suggested in a Belgian TV interview over the weekend that the hugely-respected Chris Powell is "not a clever person". The opinion based on the fact Sir Chris chose to ignore woefully substandard players bought in by his woefully substandard scouting network. Ironically, Duchatelet has chosen to ignore the fact Powell's replacement, Jose Riga, himself overlooked the same players as Charlton successfully avoided relegation. 
 
He went on to suggest those protesting (or activists, as he calls us) are "just stupid people too".
 
But my personal favourite Uncle Rolly comment was 'advising' the coach of STVV that he needed to "stop letting in goals or we'll never win a match". To be fair, it's very easy to dismiss Duchatelet as a naïve, stubborn megalomaniac, but we shouldn't discount such progressive-thinking football ideas. Wonderfully insightful, it is a wonder that the idea of not conceding goals to give yourself a chance of success has not been thought of before... 
 
I'd be very curious to know what messrs. Rubashow and Bevington think of their employers comments. Perhaps even Meire - herself more than capable of embarrassing public speaking - might be forgiven for planting her head in her hands this morning. 
 
All this serves only to raise the question once again as to exactly what Roland is getting out of football club ownership in general, let alone Charlton. Surely, no matter how pig-headed he obviously is, you'd reflect on things enough to accept there's a negative trend going on here and a common denominator to it all. I would imagine Mr. Duchatelet enjoys exposure, but surely not this type of press?
 
My only hope is this latest outburst is the beginning of the end. The interview gave cause for encouragement with Duchatelet suggesting he was "not planning to be doing this forever". Keep dreaming fellow Addicks; could there at last be the very dimmest of lights visible in the far distance?

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Getting To Know The Network...

 
Today saw the release of the 1st and 2nd episodes of the much-anticipated 'Getting To Know The Network' podcast, which looks to shed some much-needed light on the dark and secretive world of Roland Duchatelet's highly-controversial network model. The man behind the podcasts is former Charlton media man, Jimmy Stone, who certain people within the club would like us to believe is nothing more than a 'bitter ex-employee'.
 
In the first two episodes, Jimmy has managed to gather together some very respectable figures who, significantly, were at the very sharp end of the last year or so of Jimenez and Slater's reign and could form credible early impressions on the impact of Roland Duchatelet's ownership. Without any motive to suggest anything other than the truth as they saw it, we are left with a version of events that contradicts so much of the continual narrative we regularly hear from Katrien Meire in particular.
 
It's a tricky one, but I'm inclined to trust Chris Powell's version of events more than those currently in charge of my club...   
 
I won't go into anymore detail; you owe it to the tireless efforts of Jimmy to listen and judge for yourself. I listened intently on my drive in to my office this morning and nothing changes my opinion of who is responsible for why Charlton are in this current shambolic and heart-breaking mess. All I would say is that it is painfully clear that mistakes that could otherwise have been excused and maybe even forgiven in those early few months were not learnt from. In fact, the stubbornness, lack of experience in key positions and in some cases, a brazen arrogance has left Charlton a soulless shell of a club. 
 
The first two episodes are available on the links below.
 
 
 
Episodes 3 and 4 will be released early next year, which gives plenty of time to digest the first two. It will be very interesting to see the fall-out from this, especially from those who have decided to stick their head in the sand and ignore the immense harm caused by Duchatelet's ownership.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Karl's Short Stay?

 
"I am honoured to have been appointed Manager of Charlton and can’t wait to get started"
 
Hmm, sooner you start the job, Karl, the closer you are to the end, I guess.

Probably closer than you'd think...

Anyway, as easy as it is to not give a single ounce of shit who manages this shambles of a football club at the present time, I genuinely welcome Karl Robinson to Charlton. Quite what his motivation is to take the poison chalice remains to be seen. Perhaps he is a man confident (or arrogant) enough to believe he is the answer to whatever he perceives the problems to be, or maybe he's skint, naïve or just plain stupid? Who knows.

I feel totally indifferent about Robinson the manager, but even so, I will back him from the outset. That is not something that will be afforded to Roland and his hapless side-kick. You do understand why, don't you Karl? It is the reason the protests can't and won't stop, by the way.

Ok, I admit it, I am surprised we've not reverted to one of Duchatelet's network flunkies. Sacking Slade so soon devalues the argument Roland has changed course, but even so, we haven't reverted to type, and that's worth something. Whilst not without his critics, Karl has a promotion from this division under his belt, even at the age of 36, so on the face of it, and under a clear blue sky, this wouldn't seem such a bad appointment. Sadly the dark clouds continue to gather, and whilst the root problem remains, there is no obvious break in the gloom.

Robinson's appointment will undoubtedly create further unwelcome divisions in Charlton's fanbase. Already I'm seeing a decent amount of people who believe we should give Karl the same protest moratorium afforded to Slade. CARD have said otherwise and I for one back them. Despite the hard evidence suggesting otherwise, some people still believe the protests are having an adverse effect on the team, whilst others think they are killing the matchday atmosphere. Personally I think the three games won by Charlton at The Valley following notable protest action provided by a country mile the best atmosphere.

As I've said a number of times, if I had just one wish I'd rid my club of Meire and Duchatelet in a flash before I ever considered the option of Charlton winning promotion. Therefore Robinson instantly becomes a subplot to a horror story so depressingly gut-wrenching it's hard to see a happy ending. A story in which Robinson might just prove to be a hero, but the real villain of the piece must be stopped first.