I doesn't matter how much I'd braced myself for it, pretty much since the turn of the year, the confirmation that Charlton will drop into League One still hit like a sledgehammer. The feeling of relegation is not something you get used to, after all. Last night Charlton were relegated for the 9th time in their long and proud history and I've had the misfortune of witnessing first hand four of those. Some have been easier than others to swallow, but this is by a country mile the hardest to accept. In fact, it is totally unacceptable.
If ever a relegation was avoidable it was this one.
Avoidable but for Roland's stubborn and selfish ownership that has ignored the most obvious signs of a serious and aggressive cancer that has ripped through my club. Obvious at least to everyone with an ounce of care and consideration for Charlton Athletic, but brushed off repeatedly by Duchatelet and Meire. If left the cancer will become terminal.
The official site published this statement soon after relegation was confirmed, attributed to Katrien Meire, but more likely penned by one of her minions whilst she was sunning herself in Dubai. Much like the statement post-Middleborough, I suspect it's sole intention is divert the gaze of the national press who would have expected something. In reality, it is about as hollow, insincere and meaningless as a statement can get, full of relegation response clichés, and only adds insult to the heartbreak.
"This is not the time for excuses. We apologise for our mistakes and now need to learn from them", says our hapless CEO. I assume she refers to the same 'mistakes' that have been made time and time again in shameless and arrogant fashion under Mr. Duchatelet's ownership? The same 'mistakes' that have been pointed out to this regime by Charlton fans and the wider football and journalistic community. Those mistakes. Never ending mistakes.
And I'm supposed to have faith next season will be different...
Actions speak far louder than words, Ms. Meire, and your actions to date are embarrassing, insulting and breathtakingly inadequate. I wish to God Charlton showed the same level of consistency in winning football matches as you do in getting things wrong. Your position has been completely untenable for far too long and I will celebrate the day you and your boss are no longer associated with my club. In fact, I dream of that day.
Yesterday I spent the money I'd set aside for next year's season tickets on a new set of garden furniture. I've never done something like that before and it hurts deep inside so much more than I can ever articulate on this blog. There has been absolutely no effort made by the club to convince me (or anyone else) to renew, which leads me to draw the conclusion they arrogantly think I will out of tradition or that they don't care. Both are perfectly believable. I will not be taken for a mug and will not support this flawed regime by providing Roland with a vital, guaranteed up-front income. He'll have to find that shortfall himself over the summer, along with the financial implications associated with the relegation he's caused.
But I will not walk away either, and next season I will revert to a pay-on-the-day 'customer'. I will continue to add my voice to the on-going protests, which I expect to be very well supported this Saturday for the visit of Brighton.
If I had just one wish right now it would be Duchatelet's immediate departure over instant promotion for next season. The former more important for the long-term future of my club.