Thursday, 19 February 2015

Public Meeting...

It's painfully obvious there's been a serious decline for years. Neglect through lack of funds, I suspect, rather than a lack of heart or desire. The sorry sight of the Woolwich Grand Theatre stands in desperate need of serious investment. I doubt it's short of love, but how it craves attention.
Stark parallels with the subject matter of those 400 or so Addicks that gathered together, shivering away within it's tired walls.
Roland is not short of money to invest, but what is his long-term plans? Sadly we don't know and the concern grows as a result. 
I won't dwell on the events of the meeting as two of my fellow bloggers have covered matters perfectly well:- Kyle at Chris Powell's Flat Cap & Dave at Drinking During The Game. Both excellent summaries. I'm sure CAST will post the minutes in the next day or so.
All I will do is add a couple of quick observation. Firstly, what I did find interesting was that one or two chaps were brave enough to take to the floor to offer a balanced view of things. It would be very wrong to say there was Duchatelet apologists in that room last night, but there is undoubtedly some who are concerned for very good reason, but don't necessarily want Roland out. I enjoyed a couple of pre-meeting beers with Rob from The Wrong Side of the Thames and I did play devils advocate and suggest to him that perhaps we wasn't actually that far away from a 'happy medium' here. Let's face it, with Roland's wealth comes stability, which we all want for our club, so all we would need going forward is to believe without skepticism that Roland cares about our opinion and actually values them.
It was also obvious that the demographic last night was more 'aging stalwarts' who'd been there and seen it all many times over than 'new young rebels' prepared to carry the fight. If anyone out there is expecting a Standard-style revolt against Roland then it won't come from CAST and it's members. I don't think that's a bad thing.
Last night was a very gentle step in the right direction. Action, if and when it happens, will not come about quickly. The overriding feeling from the meeting is that CAST should continually and respectfully press for dialogue with Meire and Duchatelet. Their voices, on our behalf, will get stronger as more Addicks join the Trust.
I faced a 5 hour round trip after a tough days work yesterday to attend the meeting, but my rationale for doing so is that unless you're prepared to do something about it, don't complain.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Strength In Unity...

The Charlton Athletic Supporters' Trust takes place in the Woolwich Grand Theatre tonight at 7:30pm, and for the good of our football club, I hope as many fans that can attend do so: Public Meeting. 
There is huge concern felt by the overriding majority of Addicks about Roland Duchatelet's true intentions for our club going forward, especially in the face of lies some very na├»ve and poorly thought-out decisions. We seek immediate clarity and better transparency. We can't expect to be told everything, granted, but there is a lack of regard for our feelings and that has left myself and many, many others feeling alienated with a club we have invested so much time and emotions with down the years. Unsurprisingly, matters on the pitch have suffered, adding to the woes. 
The football club needs to understand the depth of concern and why it has come about.
I wonder if it is just coincidence that the moment CAST began the process of bringing together concerned fans, Katrien Meire is involved in a rather strange publicity stunt Q and A with a young Charlton fan (who carried himself very well, I might add) as well as the charm offensive on show at last night's VIP meeting.
I won't dwell on things too much as I need to get some work done, but whilst I will give Meire credit for at least recognizing the concerns, I think she has some huge work ahead to regain her credibility amongst Addicks, let alone the trust of the fans she serves.   
If you are searching for a clear incentive to head out into the freezing night to attend the meeting then just take a few moments to read this from my fellow blogger, Chicago Addick: Why Wednesday in Woolwich is so important. If this doesn't make you puff out your chest in defiance and start singing 'Valley Floyd Road' with everything you've got inside of you then nothing will!
I'll see you there tonight. Remember, there is strength in unity...

Sunday, 15 February 2015

First Step...

Charlton head coach, Guy Luzon, referred to this long-awaited win against Brentford as "the first step" and he is correct. As much as he should rightly enjoy the feeling of a good victory, the real hard work remains convincing us all that this level of performance can be maintained and, most importantly, relied upon as we fight for Championship survival. Three months without a win and some of the worst Charlton performances I've seen in over two decades have left me completely numb in recent weeks, and the cynical side of me remains unconvinced that yesterday was the product of whatever Guy Luzon brings to the club.
Trust me, I will be delighted to proved wrong about Luzon, but one good victory will not change my opinion just yet. None the less, credit where credit is due, Luzon sent out a team that had good shape and he was brave enough to make some big decisions. Henderson was back in goal after a lengthy spell out through injury, Cousins was moved into the middle at the expense of the underperforming, Buyens and Bikey was dropped to allow Johnson to make a decent Charlton debut. Up top, the effervescent Tony Watt partnered Vetokele. The balance throughout the side looked so much better.
The return of Henderson for Dmitrovic was, for me, a small-but-significant sign that perhaps Luzon does have the freedom to choose his preferred team over a player from the 'network'.   
Pre-match, our skipper, Johnnie Jackson, had publically called for the fans to back the players and despite the shit we've had to put up with in recent times, the supporters that somehow found the will to head to the Valley done just that. For now an indication the fans will still back the team if not the regime. After the game Johnnie took to twitter to thank the fans for playing 'a huge part in that win' before reassuring us all they 'wouldn't keep you waiting another 3 months'.
In truth, all you can rightfully expect as a football fan is total commitment from your team, and yesterday we got it. Backing the team in that circumstance is easy. Thankfully we were rewarded with three vital points.
For me, the three chaps noted in the image were the stand-out players, with Bulot the real surprise. My annoyance of Bulot in previous games is that he's looked disinterested; like a player unwilling to take responsibility, especially going forward. Until yesterday he'd made no positive contribution to Charlton's season and I wouldn't have cared if I'd never seen him in a Charlton shirt again. The Bulot we saw yesterday was unrecognizable to the one seen drifting through games previously. Keep that up, fella, and you'll have my backing.
The fact I made Bulot my Man of The Match proving how football can change in a flash and make an arse of your opinions. As I said before, I'm happy to be proved wrong. Perhaps if Bulot had not capped a fine performance with a neatly taken goal, my accolade would have gone to Watt, who's passion and desire spread throughout the team. The unselfish way in which he set up Igor for Charlton's second, when he could have gone for goal himself, hinted towards the improved unity in the team. A great moment.
So, despite huge trepidation pre-match, and without any sensible cause to be optimistic, it was a good day. I enjoyed a nice pint with friends pre-match, Charlton finally put in a shift that we could be proud of and we all got to enjoy our Saturday night for a change. Let's hope we can continue in the same fashion on Friday and beyond. This cannot be a one-off.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Getting Desperate...

Things seem pretty surreal to me at the moment. Nothing is making logical sense. Following Charlton can be testing at the best of times, but this feeling of utter hopelessness is something very different. A sense of despair born out of the never ending stream of stubborn, ill-judged decisions made by Roland Duchatelet. If, on the face of it, it made no sense whatsoever, I could easily believe he is trying to get Charlton relegated. The evidence to the contrary is harder to find than the justification for Bulot as a professional footballer.
Perhaps in some bizarre parallel universe occupied by Roland and his deluded Yes Men, failure is rewarded. There's evidence of that being the case stood in the home technical area at the Valley on a matchday. Roland's moribund network model is destroying our club. Things are getting desperate.
Last night, Norwich should have blown us out of the water well before half time. Luzon response during the break was to warn the players they "wanted it too much" in the first half (no really, that's what he said - see link below). If that abject, passionless, shameless performance is Charlton trying too hard then I clearly know nothing whatsoever about football.
Yes, for a 15-20 min period in the second half we upped our game slightly, but that is relatively speaking from a starting point of indescribably shit.
If you wasn't there, do not be fooled by talk of a 'fight-back'; it was never once convincing enough that you actually thought we'd be able to pull it off. Moreover, it would have been totally undeserved.
As odd as it may seem to say, in many respects the two goals we did score could have done more harm than good as they served only to paper over gaps bigger than the Mariana Trench. I never celebrated either in the way I should have; in the way I deserve to as a loyal supporter. This could have been Cardiff all over again, except we don't have the players anymore and Johnnie cannot do it all on his own these days.
Watching our Skipper's frustrated and angry figure out on that pitch is heartbreaking.
What is evident is that Tony Watt MUST start, if only because he looks like a bloke who feels our pain and gives a shit. Bulot should never be anywhere near Charlton's team ever again and Buyens needs to be reminded about personal pride. I'm told Henderson is fit again, and whilst I can accept the club may be cautious with his reintroduction he can't come back quick enough. Sadly, I have no faith he can dislodge Dmitrovic from a team heavily influenced by our delusional owner.
Luzon is so far out of his depth it is embarrassing. His post-match comments laughable (except they are not funny). Even when we faced low moments with Powell you had faith his players would have ran through walls for him, whereas I doubt any of the current squad would hold the door open for Luzon. He will fail, because he doesn't have it in him to succeed. Nothing personal, Guy, as I'm sure you are a nice enough fella, but I want you out of my club before you play your part in destroying it.
Just three points separate us from the relegation place currently occupied by Millwall, and four point from the 'relative safety' of mid-table. On the face of it, to a logical thinker, all is not lost yet, but I have no doubts whatsoever we are going down. Not a single doubt.
Absolutely buzzing for Brentford on Saturday... 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Britain's Best-Run Club?

I bumped in to an old friend yesterday evening. It must have been over 20 years since I last saw him. Mid-conversation he turned to my boy and asked whether he was obsessed with football like his 'old man'. My lad nodded and smiled. He then asked whether he was an Addick. Without hesitation my boy answered "yes, but I also like Arsenal as Charlton aren't very good at the moment". My friend laughed but then told him quite forcefully that he needs to stick with Charlton as "they are a proper football club with good values". My lad smiled again. Inwardly my heart sank.
We used to be. Doesn't quite seem it at the moment.
I was instantly reminded of a link I saw in Twitter a few days ago (apologies for not crediting whomever posted it - I've tried to find you on my stream but couldn't). This article from December 2002 harps back to better days when Charlton Athletic was the 'model' club that appeared to have a blueprint for success that everyone with dreams of progression against-all-odds wanted to emulate: Britain's Best Run Club?   
That BBC report came after a two-zero home victory against Liverpool and a week later we'd draw two-two at the Valley against Manchester City. Seems light years away now. Good times. Memories I hold dear.
I've tried very, very hard to keep my powder dry and remain open minded on what Roland Duchatelet is doing with my club, which has been especially hard in the absence of any credible dialogue between himself, Meire and us fans, but it seems his 'model' goes against everything you read in that article and everything that makes sense to me. Nothing at all is making sense to me at the moment. 
A proven ethos discarded for one that, when you weigh up the evidence, appears destined to fail.
I read last night that the Charlton Athletic Supporters' Trust are calling for a public meeting to discuss the 'growing anxiety amongst supporters about the direction of the club'. Follow this link to their site here. I have to wonder about the up-hill task they face trying to get our concerns heard by the club, let alone getting Mr. Duchatelet to accept the grounds for the unease and act upon it. One thing is for certain, we cannot just sit back and let Roland do as he pleases. He doesn't care, but we do.
I do not support the idea of a boycott matches (I might cover that in greater detail at some point) as I firmly believe that in union there is force. Not least of all, this is my club and I will not allow Roland to drive me away as he won't notice I've gone. I may well endure dark times ahead rather than enjoy, but then what's different than the last two decades? You can question my sanity, but I will hold firm on this.
Surprisingly, there appears to be people out there that are actually happy enough with the way things are, almost entirely based on (from what I have seen) the argument that Duchatelet saved us from certain administration. That may well be true, and rightfully deserves recognition, but that does not give him the right to treat this club as he pleases and certainly not as an on-going, weird personal experiment. Charlton Casualty's latest post summed up this sentiment perfectly: After The Love Has Gone.