Thursday, 24 March 2016

My Desire Is Different To Yours, Roland...

I was dreading it's arrival, and today the season ticket renew forms dropped through my letterbox, tugging at my heart strings like lead weights. I picked up my young son's letter first. He would have been made up to have received something addressed to him, especially with Johnnie roaring away triumphantly on the front cover, flanked by two legends he's heard loads about down the years from his old man. But after I took the image for the benefit of this piece, had a quick read through out of sheer curiosity, both pamphlets were put into the recycling bin.
Remember that emotional letter sent by Mr. Slater that accompanied the 2011 renewal forms? None of that this time. No reflective or apologetic words from Meire following an utterly atrocious, lamentable and deeply harmful season that will end in relegation. No attempts to make amends and rebuild the bridges she has destroyed through breathtakingly poor management over the last two years.
Nothing too from Roland following his demented outburst a week or so back. He's shown just what he thinks of the fans when they threaten the application of his grand plan: whatever that might turn out to be.
For the first time in nearly two decades, I'm not renewing.
The opening line suggest "Next season we want fans like you to get behind the team more than ever and make a difference". Well, Roland and Katrien, do you know what I want? Do you know what I think would make a difference? For you two to leave my club forever. Until you do I won't allow myself to get treated like a customer or a mug. I will not renew, but I will not walk away either. This is my club and I will not give it up easily. 
Sadly, everything coming out of Charlton at the moment is met with cynicism, and the 'My Only Desire' mantra is no exception. Clearly Roland's desire for Charlton is a lot different to mine. 
Never has the chasm between club and fans been greater, and it will not improve under this management. So much so, early figures suggest those taking up season tickets are at an all-time low at comparable stages to other years.
And all this on the same day that CARD brilliantly took the protests to a new level by targeting a meeting between club and potential sponsors based at both Sparrows Lane and The Valley. By all accounts, the event was poorly attended with just four of the twenty potential sponsors showing up, and two of those were clearly disgruntled and looking for answers. One Addicks who gave up his time to join the picket line was fellow blogger, Brian, and he explains how the day went here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Is Roland Cracking?

Oh Dear! On Sunday evening Charlton issued this very poorly constructed statement suggesting they were 'deeply saddened by the situation which has led to supporters demonstrating ahead of, and during, the match against Middlesbrough'. The piece, which was not attributed to anyone (and so quite who was 'deeply saddened' remains a mystery) went on to say 'we are determined to do everything we can to work together with supporters to build our relationship with them and make sure they remain at the heart of this club'. All well and good if it was remotely believable rather than the reality of it being a half-hearted release intended to deflect negative press attention after a very high-profile day of Anti-Duchatelet protests. The club could have continued along those same lines (the same promises have been made before, of course) and nobody would have been surprised or expecting anything more than empty words. We certainly wouldn't have held our breath for improvement...
Except Roland clearly felt the need to express his true feelings, and yesterday evening this abomination of a statement appeared on the official website. At first glance, I laughed out loud, fully expecting it to have been the work of hackers. Again, posted without being attributed to a specific writer, word soon came about from very well respected sources that the post was allegedly wrote by Roland himself, and against all advice from within the club, he insisted it was posted.
The club's own Official Twitter and Facebook accounts make no reference to it, suggesting they hoped it would slip under the radar, but also maybe a sign of embarrassment. The national press will be all over it this morning. It doesn't go down well attacking your own fans, then finishing up by asking for their support.
Let's be absolutely clear about this, Mr. Duchatelet, the desperate situation our club is in both on and off the pitch is as a result of the mismanagement of your ownership.
Presumably, after pouring petrol on an already raging fire, our megalomaniac owner went off to bed, happy with his latest wonderful contribution to Charlton Athletic. It beggars belief that there can still be anyone out there (other than KM) willing to back this man.
I wonder what Katrien Meire made of it all? Roland's continued defence of her is misguided and astonishing, but I can understand, and in part respect, his strong sense of loyalty to someone he obviously thinks a lot of. Outside of football I don't doubt for one minute she has a very bright future, and I hope that happens for her very soon. There can be no doubting that Meire's untenable position has been born out of her own naivety, repeated mistakes and lack of ability to deal with the fallout of each and every gaff. She has to face up to the reality of her situation and do the decent thing regardless of what Roland is telling her.
This whole thing is beyond parody. Insulting is an understatement of seismic proportions. Duchatelet might not be on the ropes quite yet, but I can only hope that it is a sign that he is cracking. We will not go away, we will not give up. The fight to get our Charlton back must go on at a greater intensity now.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Early Departure...

I've had far better days at The Valley, but today was up there for an experience that will be remembered for many years to come. Just like that time the fans threw those merchandise brochures onto the pitch in protest at Steve Brown's red card whilst being carried off on a stretcher, or that incredible rendition of 'Floyd Road' soon after we were condemned to relegation by Spurs' second goal in '07, today will be remembered for the actions of the fans more than the action on the pitch. Sometimes wonderfully spontaneous, sometimes choreographed superbly, Addicks should be rightfully proud of themselves tonight. Support and protest delivered effectively, decisively and with relentless passion.

Before the game CARD had set the tone with a superbly executed mock funeral procession that was observed by hundreds if not thousands along the route to The Valley. I followed it down Floyd Road alongside a group of Boro fans who looked genuinely somber at the emotion of it all. They're having a mini-crisis themselves, although I'd settle for their problems right now.

Within seconds of the kick off a barrage of black and white beach balls rained down on the pitch and bought the proceedings to a sudden halt. As the ground staff frantically tried to clear the pitch the Charlton fans stood as one to sing anti-Duchatelet songs in front of a live TV audience. Unsurprisingly, Sky images showed Meire sniggering away, presumably finding the customer unrest weird. The chasm between her and the fans cannot get wider. Her position long-since became untenable and totally unacceptable. Unbelievably there are people out there willing to give Roland the benefit of doubt, but can there be anyone who thinks Meire is doing a worthy job?

The first half came and went without drama other than a mischievous rogue whistler based somewhere in the Covered End. On one occasion, the unofficial referee appeared to stop a dangerous looking Boro attack by blowing up, confusing everyone but Teixeira who cleared the ball away.

And on 57 minutes the most rarest of sights: a Charlton goal! Teixeira scoring a powerful header from a corner. The Valley erupted and for the first time in a very long time I found myself celebrating passionately like the old days. A couple of guys ran on the pitch and eagerly beckoned their fellow Addicks on with them. Nobody followed, thankfully. Meire would have loved it if they did, if only to provide an opportunity to discredit the otherwise peaceful protests.

The clock ticked towards the 74th minute, although we had to guess as much after a suspiciously-timed warning about invading the pitch appeared on the big screen just beforehand as if to distract or confuse the masses. I'm not going to lie, getting up and walking out was very, very hard. Every single bit of me wished I didn't feel the need to make a stand, but I do, so I did. Even if we agree on the harmful effects of Duchatelet and Meire, I know opinion is split on the walkout, just as it will be on the boycott of season tickets. I don't blame people for staying put. Not one bit. The whole thing still doesn't sit comfortably with me even now, and I hate Meire and Duchatelet for putting this on me.

Just as I turned into the West Stand car park, Harriott doubled our lead. Rest assured, despite what some might believe, missing our second goal meant absolutely nothing to me. I won't lose any sleep over that. I'd have happily missed 2 or 3 goals safe in the knowledge they were going to Charlton. 

My reluctant early departure was not a sign I cared less about the result, but all about my grave concerns for the future.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Maximum Exposure...

So Charlton's 2014-15 accounts have been published and it would appear to provide all the evidence you'd need that our absent Belgian owner is loading us up with huge debt by virtue of personal loans rather than actual investment. I know of a few Addicks who, even now, have kept their powder dry on Duchâtelet under the pretence that he 'saved us' from administration. Hopefully this will finally provide the proof to one and all that Duchâtelet's business model is a selfish vision to the complete detriment of our Charlton Athletic.
In many ways, the timing could not be better. News of the accounts comes just before Charlton's latest appearance on Sky TV for this Sunday's game against Boro. Normally you'd have every right to dread a live Charlton game, but this is a little different. This is a great opportunity to provide as much exposure as possible to the on-going protests against the owner and his hapless sidekick.
With this in mind, CARD have organised a mock funeral procession from the Charlton Liberal Club in Charlton Church Lane from 2.45pm and they are inviting supporters to line the route to 'pay their respects' to the dead soul of the club. Amongst other protest initiatives that will be announced nearer the time, a mass walk-out is also planned on 74 minutes, withy fans invited to reassemble in the west stand car park. 
Some will favour more direct and aggressive action, but I continue to applaud CARD for creating effective and innovative protest ideas that will gain national sympathy and positive attention rather than condemnation for angry, unlawful scenes.    
I know there will still be a good number of people who will not support the walkout, or even a focus that may well be more on the protests than the football. I can respect the view, but I consider it to be woefully short-sighted when set against the real and undeniable fears for the very existence of this club in the not-too-distant future. 
Under the full glare of the Sky cameras, now is the time act, not in the summer when nobody will be around to hear our voices.  
I totally get the view that despite the desperate situation we are in on and off the pitch, some still come to watch a game of football and won't compromise that. My view is the football is dead. Simple as that. There is nothing on that pitch that remotely excites me any more and the otherwise perfectly reasonable 'Back the Boys' mantra is completely undermined by too many players who simply don't give a shit. You can convince yourselves otherwise all you like, but if, like me, you braved the cold on Tuesday night to witness an utterly gutless display against MK Dons, you will know the players have given up as well.
That said, it's not necessarily their fault. They may well have come into our club with all the best intentions to do well but Duchâtelet's flawed and ever-faltering vision, actioned by the astonishingly inept Katrien Miere, has spread apathy and disillusionment across Charlton Athletic as a whole, and it will only get worse unless we act.
If you want change then please support the initiatives outlined by CARD here.