Friday 23 January 2015

Same Story, Different Man...

I sit here on a train heading into Liverpool Street, feeling totally and utterly deflated. That's what taking a brief look over Charlton's twitter hashtag can do to you. After witnessing the debacle at Vicarage Road last Saturday, I'd forced myself into a self-imposed exile from anything Charlton-related for much of this week. Naively, I'd hoped that when I returned things would be marginally better. After all, surely they couldn't get much worse. I was wrong, by a country mile!
First, Luzon acquired his work permit. I will be bluntly honest here; I'm a fair-minded man who typically gives everyone a fair chance, but Luzon should be nowhere near my club. It will be through gritted teeth that I will back him. I hope to God he proves me wrong.
Then today, reading the interview with Bob Peeters in the South London Press has left me feeling more dispirited than at any other time since I slowly fell in love with this great club as a young lad.
A couple of heavyweight quotes that stood out...
"We'd spend hours and hours with Phil Chapple and the technical staff on signings and then the answer would be no"
"Even after a game it was always about those players [those supplied unrequested from Duchatelet]. Why did they not play? Why did they not come on?" 
"If people want me to be a puppet on a string, I'm not a puppet on a string"
Even taking into account Big Bob is obviously disgruntled at his dismissal, it would appear that the consistency in those stories told by Powell, Riga and now Peeters (even Mircea Rednic, who was sacked by Roland at Standard Liege) is frighteningly consistent and appears to confirm that Roland wants nothing more than a puppet to manage his club. In Luzon (who Duchatelet has sacked once before, don't forget), he may have found his man. Time will tell, but I will not waste my time hoping for anything different.    
The club owe us a response to this, but we all know we won't get it. Roland Duchatelet doesn't care what you and I think, and he has surrounded himself with people who won't challenge the obvious.
This is an all-time low for Charlton; the heart and soul of my club is being willfully disregarded by a man on a misguided mission that shows no obvious signs it can succeed. We have a demoralized, split and woefully understrength playing squad and an angry fan base.    
What an awful realisation all this is.
Thankfully I am off to Copenhagen this weekend with friends to indulge in the one love outside of my family that never lets me down; drinking good quality craft beer. I will check in on the result at Wolves, but I am more determined than ever not to let Charlton ruin my weekend.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Down & Detached...

Only on one other occasion can I remember feeling this detached from those players wearing the Charlton shirt after a game and that was on the 19th of December 2006 when we lost to Wycombe Wanderers one-zero at the Valley in the League Cup. If you was there, you'll know exactly what I mean. That night, Matt Holland aside, not one player gave a single ounce of shit. Nobody cared. Our season was already doomed. 

Today was worse. Much worse.

The body language across the entire team today spoke volumes. These players have given up. Don't kid yourself otherwise. Roland has ripped the heart out of this club and it's reached the dressing room in the most inglorious fashion. There is a sizable argument to say the players should always play for the fans if nothing else, and there was 2,000 of us at Vicarage Road today after all, but they couldn't even manage that. How we missed Johnnie, if only to have someone we could believe in.

There is not one single positive sign they are prepared to dig deep and fight tooth and nail to get us out of this shit. Not one. It pains me massively to be this negative.

It is normally the case an incoming manager will create a 'bounce' to a flailing team, but Guy Luzon is not kidding anyone. Addicks are not impressed one bit whilst numerous well-respected Belgian journalists give absolutely no hope whatsoever of Luzon's ability. After today it is painfully obvious the players are not convinced either. I don't know if Luzon was in attendance (I would imagine he was) but I doubt there can be a better example of players failing to make any effort to impress a new manager.

What are you doing, Roland? Yes we're grateful you offered us financial stability; undoubtedly saved us from administration. Yes you gave us a spruced up Valley, a new pitch and some pulled pork burgers, but why can't you see the immense harm you're doing to the one thing that really matters? How can you really be convinced that what you are doing is right?

After Watford scored their fourth a young lad in front of me (perhaps 7 years old) burst into tears. His dad consoled him. His old man will have seen it all before, but I wonder if the boy will fancy putting up with that sort of shit much longer. Attendances will go down; revenue with it. But it's OK, the pitch at the Valley is holding up well and the burgers are nice.

I left Marco and Martin to it and sneaked out 5mins early to beat the rush. As I headed back to my car I heard the cheer from the Golden Boys as they celebrated their fifth.

Charlton are in big, big trouble.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Luzon All Hope...

Charlton confirmed this evening that their arduous, painstaking quest to find a replacement for the likeable Bob Peeters had reached a conclusion with the candidate list finally being whittled down from one to, A remarkable turnaround from Sunday's dismissal to today's announcement, don't you think? In what must go down as one of the worst attempts ever to pull the wool over the eyes of the Addickted, Guy Luzon was unsurprisingly named as Charlton new manager head coach. This appointment absolutely stinks, as does Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Miere's ridiculous attempts to convince us this wasn't pre-planned weeks, or maybe even months ago. It's an absolute joke, although it is in no way funny.

Looks like Big Bob never stood a chance, as was the case for Riga and Powell before him.

Luzon was fired from the head coach role at Standard Liege by Duchatelet only last October after a run of poor results that left the club just 3 points off the relegation places. The Standard fans were so disillusioned with Luzon that they took to demonstrating and even rioting to get him removed from his post. The players were seemingly no keener on the 39 year old Israeli, with relationships breaking down all over the place. Some players ended up at Charlton to 'escape' Luzon. They must be really looking forward to training tomorrow.

And yet, the man who sacked him re-hires him; considering him good enough for my club. As I said, this appointment stinks.

When Powell was shafted I immediately said I would back Riga, as behind the disappointment I knew in my heart it wasn't Jose's fault. Riga was a good man. Even when Peeters came out of nowhere to land the job I was happy to give him the benefit of the doubt as his reputation looked decent for an up-and-coming manager and a few credible voices from Belgium spoke well enough of him. But in Luzon, I cannot find a single person that has anything positive to say...other than Roland.

For all the good Duchatelet has undoubtably done to stabilise the finances of our club and improved the Valley and the pitch, he continues to carelessly rip the heart and soul out of the club and each and every one of us who care so much more than he will ever understand. This club may need to be run like a business off the field, yes, but not on it. Moving players and coaches around 'the network' like troublesome employees in the workplace has left the strong stench of apathy lingering heavy in the air. It will take something special to clear it now.

I guess there's an outside chance this might prove to be a brilliant appointment over time, but the more Roland carries on without any consideration for what it is to 'be Charlton', the more any success will feel hollow. Not that I'll be holding my breath for any.

I can't even bring myself to welcome Guy Luzon. I don't want him at my club.

I'll be at Watford on Saturday. I doubt Roland will bother. He'll have better things to do. I doubt he'll even bother to look at the result; and why should he, he's not a fan after all. His work is done for 5-6 months until he fancies another reshuffle.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Big Bob Gone...

Disappointed, but far from surprised. Whatever has caused such an inharmonious atmosphere around Charlton's team of late has ultimately cost Bob Peeters his job after just 28 games in charge. Whether it is entirely fair on the likeable, sizable Belgain to carry the can for our woeful form I don't know, but it has been painfully obvious for a good few weeks now that things weren't right. 

Perhaps most worrying of all, the form showed no signs of improving and as much as I was happy to back Bob Peeters from the outset (and I would have continued to do so for a while longer I'm sure) my honest gut feeling is that this is the correct decision. Something had to change and an influx of new players (no matter how much they still remain essential) didn't strike me as the complete solution to Charlton's current problems. 

I'd heard strong rumours that Bob had lost the dressing room and the body language of the players done little to dispel the speculation.

Correct it may well prove to be, but this sacking is undoubtably embarrassing for my club. Once again, bad press will surround Charlton as Mr. Duchatelet looks to appoint his fourth manager inside a year. The anti-Roland mob will be out in force again with their opinions based on speculation rather than known fact and that will serve only to make a depressing period for the Addickted much worse. As I say, perhaps this decision is the right one for Charlton and not just a way for Roland to piss us off because he 'doesn't care'. I will reserve judgement until more on Big Bob's departure is known, and I expect the truth will out eventually.

That said, as much as I keep an open mind and continue to give Roland the benefit of the doubt, it is hard to imagine why anyone would want to come to Charlton with what appears a very defined vision from an owner who is a businessman rather than a lover of football. It's a vision that Roland appears to stubbornly back no matter what, unfortunately.

As far as replacements go there's no point in wasting any time wishing for an established British manager. We can expect another relatively unknown face from inside the 'network'. Both Guy Luzon and Karel Fraye have been mention already, with both supposedly being 'seen at the Valley' recently. Neither men will lift the fans gloom but I expect one of them to get the job until the end of the season when the process will start all over again.

Farewell Big Bob. Thanks for giving us hope in those early dozen or so games. We enjoyed feeling optimistic as we know it doesn't last long. I genuinely hope you wasn't served a bum deal.

Once again I brace myself for a rocky road ahead. Life as an Addick, eh?

Brighton Shock...

My Saturday couldn't have started better. Despite wind and rain that drove in from every angle I stood proudly watching my boy's under 8's academy team tear their opponents apart. My pleasure at watching those young chaps follow their coach's instructions to the letter was well worth getting soaked to the skin for. A team unified. Success. What a wonderful thing that is.
I drove on to the Valley hoping for much of the same. I was asking too much.
In the west Stand a fan had set out a flag wishing Big Bob a happy birthday. Our struggling boss must have used up all his birthday wishes hoping for a break that would never come. There is little question Big Bob has a very limited deck of cards with which to shuffle, but I'm absolutely convinced the problems run deeper than available personnel and, once again, Charlton looked woefully unconvincing.
The first half was so forgettable I found myself daydreaming of being back on the rain-soaked touchline of my boy's game earlier that morning. I was happy there. Below me, Charlton players went through the motions without the bravery required to make something happen. Brighton looked very average. Two poor teams.
Where exactly has Wilson's smile gone? It is painful watching such a popular player so out of sorts. His normal cheerful and positive demeanor replaced by the appearance of a man who has had enough. He's not alone. Why?  
As the game entered the second half with all the grace of a fat ballerina our new young hope, Tony Watt, came on and looked enthusiastic and determined on his debut. I can understand his desire to be the instant hero, he really should have squared the ball to Igor rather than trying to beat Stockdale from a tight angle. Vetokele stood on the edge of the 6 yard box unmarked and ready to side-foot home...or at least, you'd like to think that's what he would have done. In my eyes, that was a match-winning chance lost because of the wrong decision. Those fine lines between success and failure. The crowd applauded Watt for his powerful surge into the box, but Igor stood despondent and I slumped back on my seat. Chance gone. 
But there would be a far better example of those fine lines...
Solly, forced into the middle of the park after Johnnie's injury, sent a rasping shot goalwards on the hour mark that surprised everyone in the Valley. It struck the underside of the bar when just a few centimeters lower and the Valley would have erupted. It was our best effort in our best spell in the game. Our bad fortune ensured the rebound fell kindly to the visitors.
And within two minutes Brighton had grabbed the winner from yet another set piece. The impressive Rohan Ince heading into an empty net after Etheridge missed the ball mid-air. It was a weak goal to concede and is becoming an unwanted habit. The steady, rock of a defence that gave us an encouraging platform at the start of the season a shadow of its former self.
Our response to conceding was just nowhere near good enough. I expect far more. No, I demand it. Brighton were nowhere near good enough for me to accept this defeat and yet in many respects we deserved it for not being brave enough.
It is a very sad reflection on Charlton's faltering season that Bikey is forced up-front out of desperation in the last 5 minutes time and time again. I've had enough of seeing him up top, and I imagine he feels the same.
Oh, how I miss watching the victorious tunnel jump.
Once again, I had my boy with me yesterday. He's got it now, even at the tender age of 8. He understands that being an Addick is not going to be easy but it hurts me watching his face drop when he knows hope is lost. His best mate supports Chelsea and the contrast in what they can relate to as 'fans' of their respective clubs could not be further apart. I fear I will lose my boy to the bright lights of the Premiership. I cannot tell you how much that worries me.  
I'll be at Watford next week when I can only hope the football doesn't spoil a good beer with friends. By the time Charlton play at the Valley next we could quite easily be hovering just above the relegation places. Charlton desperately need a spark from somewhere. Something has to be done quickly. Whatever has happened behind the scenes to leave our team so despondent and disinterested must be sorted out now. This is not just about injuries and a run of bad luck; that much is painfully obvious.
Mr. Duchatelet has to back Big Bob or pull the trigger and try something else. Without fully understanding just what has gone wrong, I'm confused as to what one of those two I want. 

Monday 5 January 2015

The Cards You're Dealt...

If reports are to be believed, when Bob Peeters was recently asked about the imminent arrival of Tony Watt he responded by saying that "if he must come then I'm sure I can work with him". Must come? If Bob really did say that, it would appear to be further proof of the strained harmony surrounding the first team at Charlton.
Of course, it may have been lost in translation, but there seems little question that Peeters should have selected his words more carefully. I can't imagine Mr. Duchatelet liking that response.
It's got me thinking about whether it can ever work that a manager or head coach is handed players to 'work with' by whomever is selecting them in the background. It may surprise you to hear that I think it can work, but as long as everyone in the process understand their role perfectly. The key to all this is what Peeters believed would be the case when he signed his contract. If he was told player recruitment is not in his remit then I don't think he has much cause for complaint. If we assume that this was the case, then we could also assume he would have been made aware of the process for recruitment - something Katrien Meire has referred to as a 'profile' in the past - and bought into the philosophy. You have to assume this or you'd have to wonder why he joined.
The alternative view is he has been dealt a bum deal; perhaps promised an input and opinion that hasn't carried weight in reality or, worst still, has been completely ignored. I can't see that being the case, but even if it was, perhaps it's because the club have questioned Peeters ideas as they have got to know him better. 
Unlike the skeptics, I don't believe Mr. Duchatelet is sat at his desk plucking names out of hat and nor, by the way, do I think he's only interested in the 'network' players. Whether you like it or not (I'm not convinced) moving players between clubs he owns is considerably easier than buying in from another club and it's no wonder he's keen on the idea. I'd like to believe that whatever budget he has assigned to improve our depleted squad it is being carefully managed to ensure the right players are bought to the club, even if that does take time. Most irrational football fans, if given half a chance, would go out and buy the first player to come up on a Google search as available, but that is a short-sighted view and a recipe for disaster.
Without knowing the reality, I would imagine it is far, far harder than some people think to attract players to a club, especially with so much competition. And despite being linked to promising players, there may be very good reason why the club do not get their man as opposed to 'not enough effort' as some fans would have you believe. Furthermore, we may ultimately have dodged a bullet by missing out of some deals (think Andy Delort). 
Of those players bought in last summer, there can be little doubts that Ben Haim, Bikey, Gudmundsson, Buyens, Vetokele and to a certain extent Henderson have all been worthy additions. Tucudean has a great heart but whether he will eventually be added to that list only time will tell. The jury is out on Moussa for me and I'd send Bulot back to the mothership in a flash to free up funds.
I don't think it will be a surprise to anyone that Big Bob is not driving his preferred list of his transfer targets. Likewise, I wonder how much influence Big Bob has on any current player leaving, whether by virtue of a loan or a permanent deal. I wonder also whether Big Bob will be the man in charge of the any new faces we may have. 
Time will tell.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Charlton Apathetic...

I got back from a family Christmas holiday in Lanzarote in the early hours of Saturday morning, and if I'm honest, I could have well done without a trip to the Valley yesterday. Trading sunshine and 22 degrees of heat for grey skies, rain and freezing temperatures done little to lift my spirits. None the less, as always, I took my seat at the Valley hoping that the 'magic of the cup' would efface my apathetic mood. I should have known better. It was obvious even before Blackburn scored their opening goal after just 4 minutes that Charlton were not up for it.

I've been watching football long enough to recognise an inharmonious team, and it's my view that Charlton's current problems run deeper than a dip in form, tired legs and a growing injury list. Sometimes there's just no hiding the obvious and from the outset Charlton looked worryingly disinterested and not so much disorganized but rather a team not convinced by the system they were being asked to play. The body language of the players spoke volumes at times as they looked to quickly shift blame for each individual mistake. Our talismanic leader, Johnnie Jackson, looked the most frustrated as if he knew he had been thrown into battle surrounded by players who didn't care as much as they should have. I felt sorry for him; he deserves better. We all do.

Gudmundsson's brilliant free-kick equaliser on 55 mins was the only plus of a woeful performance. We celebrated the goal whilst quietly fearing a replay as I doubt anyone really felt we would kick on for the winner. Unsurprisingly, just 4 minutes later Blackburn got their winner and hit cruise control for the remainder of the game. At times the manor in which Blackburn passed the ball around uncontested was nothing short of embarrassing and yet it evoked no reaction from Charlton whatsoever.

Charlton accepted defeat far too easily. I can't accept that.

In the league our form is more relegation than promotion and we are now worryingly closer to the bottom 3 than the play-off places. I'm looking down nervously rather than up and I resent that after such a promising start to the season when Peeters new-look Charlton filled us all with hope.

We are a poor reflection of the team that started the season so brightly. Why? Yes we are short of squad  numbers, but you might have thought that would have created a siege mentality rather than a group of men who look like they would much rather be somewhere else.

Speculation that Big Bob has lost (or is losing) the dressing room gathers momentum and yesterday's performance has done little to quell those rumours. Why that would be the case I just don't know, but Big Bob strikes me as a man who hasn't quite grasped when to speak and when to keep his thoughts to himself. His press conferences lay testament to that. Perhaps his style of man-management might be rubbing one too many players up the wrong way. Who knows?

Of course, I could have read this all wrong, and God knows I hope so. Maybe yesterday was simply a very bad day at the office and come Monday morning the players will be focused on putting it right against Brighton. Nothing would give me greater pleasure if I'm left feeling that I might have over-exaggerated the extent of the problems come 5pm next Saturday.

Above all else I want to believe that when a player puts on a Charlton shirt he does so with a desire to fight tooth and nail for my club. That never happened yesterday. It needs to happen against Brighton or I will begin to brace myself for a very nervy end to the season.