Walking to the Valley yesterday I was met by CARD volunteers handing out anti-RD stickers and flyers detailing the flash protest. This involved not spending a single penny on official club merchandise or refreshments. It underwhelmed some who clearly wanted something more dramatic (that may come in time, of course), but it was clearly effective with programme sellers standing idol and the kiosks on the concourses distinctly quiet. Nearer the ground more volunteers were handing out black and white scarfs (750, I believe), and the effect inside the Valley would be clear for Meire to see later that afternoon. Well done to all those people behind CARD.
I bumped into one of Charlton's brightest young wordsmiths outside the media entrance pre-match and as we lamented the demise of our club one of the main protagonist, Katrien Meire, breezed past us and into the media suite. She was flanked by a few
goons heavies, but even so, she showed no signs of being intimidated by walking freely amongst the peasants. It's hard to tell if her ever-present grin is a nervous front to the immense pressure she must be feeling, or blatant arrogance. In hindsight, I wish I would have grasped the moment and challenged her myself (not in a confrontational way, you understand). One finger-waging fan who invited her to 'get out, get out' was simply told to 'have a nice day' by our smirking CEO.
The game itself was pretty dull. Sadly, for me at least, football has almost become secondary to a greater battle. The crowd played their part as our skipper had requested, and the team at least looked more organised and solid, particularly at the back where new signing, Jorge Teixeira, made an impressive, immediate improvement to an otherwise leaking defence. Tony Watt was back and lifted the Valley with a few driving dribbles, particularly in the second half, but chances were scarce once again. Creativity and verve remains as illusive to the team as the owner. Reinforcements need, but will they arrive?
In the first half, Charlton's public relations took a further hit when a fan displaying a non-offensive banner was ejected from the crowd. It was an incident clearly picked up by many in the stadium and the Club would do well to put out a statement explain exactly what happened. Some have suggested the banner (simply suggesting 'we want our club back') was removed because it covered sponsorship boards, which, however ridiculous this policy appears in isolation, does not explain why the fan was forcefully ejected.
At half time I couldn't help but notice the irony of seeing a few chaps clad in their black and white scarfs ordering their half-time beers. Even those opposed to the regime were unable to abstain for 90 mins.
Jordan Rhodes got his customary goal for Blackburn to cancel out Lennon's deflected strike, so a draw the fair result in the end. Charlton's winless run extends to 11 and the home attendances continue to drop (just 13,500 yesterday). The battle to stay up looks increasingly unlikely, but at least a tiny glimmer of hope returned when Riga replaced Fraeye. Hope is all we have left at the moment.
Just another thought; didn't Roland say after Fraeye's departure that the club had taken steps to address the mistakes by bringing in reinforcements early in this transfer window? Are those the same reinforcements that were left on the bench yesterday, presumably not fancied by Riga?
Remember, every decision better than the last one...
After the game it was a short walk to join the protests behind the West Stand. The numbers are growing dramatically, that much is undeniable, and this time around the Club had taken steps to curtail the encroaching mass with barriers, extra security and police. Shame they address the effects of the protests but not the cause. My best estimate is around 2,500, but it could have been much higher; it was very hard to gauge numbers when amongst it. The excellent image below shows the sheer depth of fans, young and old, male and female, stood together for a common cause that means everything.
|Photo credit: @pedwards72|
My own video of the protests yesterday can be found here.
I sincerely hope that it won't be long before I can enjoy my Saturday afternoons at the Valley and go home to enjoy my early-evenings with the family rather than spending some of it stood at the rear of the West Stand in the cold. But for now, it is a cathartic release, and one I will repeat again and again with thousands of like-minded fans until we force change.