Monday 30 November 2015

Meire's Faulty Abacus...

If I didn't know any better, I'd think Meire has been tapping away at her faulty abacus again (the same one that calculated that just 2% of us had the hump). One thing is for certain, if you exclude the 2,500 odd traveling Tractor Boys, then there was never 13,500 odd Addicks in the Valley on Saturday. I'd hazard a guess that it was well below 10k in the home areas, and with 10mins to go, I'd put that figure as low as 8k.
Sorry, Katrien, can you run through Target 20,000 again?
It was very disappointing to see Johann's comments in News Shopper this morning. If you've not seen them, they can be found here. Whether he misunderstood (or wasn't fully aware) of what the protest was for, my view is that it's an embarrassing reflection on Johann if he can honestly say that a peaceful protest staged in the 2nd minute of the game that lasted no more than a minute adversely effected his (or Charlton's) performance. It's certainly true that the stadium was drowning in a tsunami of apathy, but rather than criticise the fans for taking measures out of sheer desperation, how about looking up at the directors box for a change of attitude.
Might I also remind Johann that it is as much his job to produce a performance to lift the fans? We can' always rely on Johnnie...  
Ironically, I didn't actually feel the protest had quite the effect I was anticipating. It was actually very difficult to make out the posters (see image above) and gauge it's impact, but one thing is for sure, it wasn't supported by many. The chap behind me, for example, put a very good case forward to support certain aspects of what Mr. Duchatelet was doing, although he did accept he needs to address his approach to the playing side of things and that Meire was woefully out of her depth and far too dismissive of genuine issues. Both of those points, by the way, form the bases of my concerns. Beyond that, we could be closer to a happy conclusion than you might think.    
But sadly it's obvious that Mr. Duchatelet has no intention of picking a manager / head coach without whom there is already an established working relationship, and as such, I fully expect Fraeye to be given the job until the end of the season under the pretence that 'after a carefully considered search and detailed recruitment process, no suitable person has been found' followed by some ironic nonsense about 'stability during a difficult period'.
I like Fraeye; I think he speaks well and there is no question he's throwing his heart and soul into the job. I'll back him all day long for that. The big problem is, when wily old managers like Mick McCarthy roll into town with a team that is, on paper, no more impressive than ours, there is a high probability we'll get turned over. With all due respect, has Fraeye got the depth to his tactical nous to compete in the Championship long-term? Maybe a good addition to a back-room staff. Imagine him and a Mick McCarthy together and you're not far off, right?  
Therefore, it appears we will continue to amble aimlessly, winning the odd game here and there, but will inevitably lose more. Mid-table is a distant dream at the moment. Once again, I am left hoping there are three teams worst than us come 5pm, Sat 7th May.  
Nothing to suggest the apathy will lift any time soon then...    

Wednesday 25 November 2015

A 'Proportionate Protest'...

This blog is intended to provide a chance for me to air my own personal views, but you'll have to forgive me if I bang the drum for what I believe is a greater cause.
Full credit to the Voice of the Valley and those behind the 'Spell It Out' campaign for joining forces to get what they have sensibly called a 'proportionate protest' underway this Saturday. Full details and the poster (as above) can be found here. It's a great idea that, in front of the Sky cameras, should provide maximum exposure to the legitimate concerns of Addicks. It should also encourage the otherwise clearly intelligent Katrien to calibrate her calculator and redo her sums. Whether she wants to believe it or not, 2% is not representative of those unhappy at certain aspects of the way the club is being run.

It is also right that the initiative encourages the full support of the players. I will extend that support to Karel Fraeye as well. I can't agree with the nature of his appointment, but like the Network flunkies deemed worthy enough to coach manage before him, he is not to blame here.

In many respects, I would favour this form of protest over the mass gathering behind the West Stand, which always has the potential of descending into primeval sexism or racial abuse, which detracts from the intended impact and plays into the hands of Meire. I'll stand alongside my fellow concerned Addicks all day long, but I won't entertain that sort of approach.      
I guess Katrien will have hoped the recent fans' meeting and the subsequent update that followed a few days later will have appeased restless fans. To her credit, it's a tentative step in the right direction and two back-to-back wins will have helped her cause still further (and those of the interim manager she has employed). Football fans are a fickle bunch, so I'm sure it has placated some, but not me. Not just yet.

Actions speak far louder than words.

My feelings on this matter are not a petulant rant against a regime that has undoubtedly done some good, but more about the concerns of what I'm slowly losing: the identity of a club I fell in love with many years ago and one that is intrinsically linked to my heart and soul.

Oddly enough, despite all this, I actually believe Katrien's intentions are good (regrettably I can't say the same at this point regarding Mr. Duchatelet), but for me, the fans' meeting highlighted just how detached she is from the true feeling of so many Addicks. She spoke in detail, but her words lacked any form of genuine depth and were, for the most part, woefully short of a credible, achievable conclusion that I can believe in. Perhaps nothing represent this better than her Target 20,000 initiative. Sounds wonderful in principle, and I'm sure some were wooed with the positivity of it all, but we all know that this club will never get 20,000 fans regularly through the gate unless we are in the Premier League. That's not being defeatist or negative, it's being a realist.

As a season ticket holder of 18 years I have never been closer to not renewing. That's not an idol threat, but the thought frightens me more than I can say.

I wonder if she even cares why I feel this disenchanted, or is her priority the 'new fans' who might not share my nostalgia for what this club has stood for? Perhaps rather than prioritising new fans she should first try and retain those who have stuck with this club through the dark days...
Anyway, as I said right at the start, this is my view alone and I make no attempts to sway anyone's opinion. Join the 2% only if you want to.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Digging The Hole Deeper...

If it was possible for Katrien Meire to make matters worse, then it would appear she has done just that. The hole she began digging 18 months ago has just got a whole lot bigger. Last night's fans meeting should have provided an opportunity for her to reach out to the disenchanted, angry and apathetic, but instead, if the quotes prove to be a genuine and fair representation of the events, then it looks like she as thrown petrol on the fire. Rather than admitting the repeated failings of the regime on a number of massive issues, it appears Meire has reinforced her defences and thrown a few hand grenades over the barricades.
I should quickly point out that I wasn't there: unlike the privileged few in attendance I was left to follow matters on Twitter. Perhaps I should wait until the video is released to draw conclusions? Possibly, but there appeared to be a level of consistency to the reporting from well-respected sources, so a change of opinion seems unlikely.
A couple of stand-out Meire quotes from the night via Brad Pinard of London24Sport:
"We have improved with every manager we have had. They have been the right decisions"
"I want [Charlton] fans to stand up against the negative people and don't giver them a platform. It was unacceptable"
The first quote beggars belief! There is some confusion surrounding the second quote, with some suggesting it only related to the behaviour of the minority at MK Dons a week back. Naturally many, many others have assumed it was in reaction to the fans protest. Either way, she needs to question the cause of the negative vibes and deal with that.
I also noticed a quote from Meire that suggested "they will give Fraeye all the support he needs". So expect the word 'interim' to be dropped shortly then. No surprise there. As she says, improvement to every manager... 
I would love know if anyone asked her about the photos she took whilst sniggering at us gathered behind the West Stand. If anything was 'unacceptable' it was that.   
To offer a sense of balance to this, I noted that Rich Pemberton, who is a CAST board member and was present at last night' meeting, said in a tweet that he was "surprised by the tweeted reports. Lost context I think. Nowhere near as bad as presented and fans' contributions understated". I noticed something similar from another attendee, but can't find the quote on my timeline now. Fair enough, those chaps were there so I fully respect their opinion. We will get a chance later to view the video and judge for ourselves.
But one thing is for sure, regardless of the arguments and whomever is right or wrong, and regardless of whether it's the minority or majority that feel anger and resentment towards Duchatelet's regime, Katrien Meire is completely responsible for the mess this club is in. In many respects, I see her as the greatest immediate problem to solve. I don't care one bit if she's being treated shoddily by Mr. Duchatelet. That's down to her to deal with. Mr. Murray needs to take a long hard look in the mirror as well, in my humble opinion. His credibility is rapidly going downhill, and it pains me massively to say that. 
The peaceful protests must continue until Duchatelet and Meire accept the damage they are doing. Last night should ensure those that may have otherwise have sat on the fence will join in.
See you outside the West Stand on the 28th.

Saturday 7 November 2015

Massive Victory!

A win at last, and three goals to go with it! I had forgotten what it felt like to celebrate a goal, let alone reflect on a game of football I actually enjoyed. Johnnie, in typical fashion, drove us on to our first victory in 13 games, and kept us to within touching distance of our relegation rivals. The relief around the Valley at full time was tangible. How nice it was to see the tunnel jump once again, even if our talismanic skipper would only treat us to one.
Whether we want to accept it or not, Duchatelet's latest flunky Interim Head Coach, Karel Fraeye must take some credit for setting the team out in an interesting 4-1-3-2 system that either took Wednesday by surprise or...let's give him some credit here...outwitted the inform Sheffield side. In reality, perhaps Wednesday were so certain of victory they slipped on the banana skin and never quite got going. 
The bittersweet feeling post match was that this win could hand Fraeye the job full time. Nothing personal, Karel, but I hope this was your last match in charge. 
Diarra sat in front of the centre backs offering the sort of reassurance that resonated into the 3 home stands at the Valley, and a sense of calmness and control prevailed for once. Gudmundsson was busy, and Ba made us forget Cousins was absent. Up top Ghoochannejhad looked like a man who had something to prove.
And then, after 25 mins, a goal. Yes, a GOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!! Jackson. Who else, to put us in front? A powerful header as he drove unmarked into the box from a corner.
To our disbelief and delight, Makienok scored again just before half time after some neat work from Ghoochannejhad and the team left the pitch to a standing ovation. The fans recognising the effort that had been woefully lacking in recent games.
Smiles returned, but for how long?
Our third goal arrived after 55 minutes from our re-born Iranian striker following some unselfish play from the much-maligned Morgan Fox. A consolation goal failed to lift the visitors, and victory was ours.   
Before the match there was the important matter of a fan protest to attend! Many questioned whether it will make any difference to the bloody-minded arrogance of Duchatelet and the hapless Meire, but I would like to think they will be a little surprised, if not unnerved by the size of the crowd that formed behind the West Stand (hard to gauge whilst amongst it, but I'm guessing at 350-400). At one stage Meire appeared as a lonely figure at a window, blatantly taking a series of images on her phone while appearing to smirk and snigger at the baying crowd. Make no mistake, her contempt shone through above any signs of empathetic concern. One could only hope she was sending those images back to Mr. Duchatelet, although she might try to pass them off as queuing folk at the turnstiles and Rolly might well be detached enough to believe her! 
Thankfully the demonstration remained peaceful, which is hugely important if we are to deny Meire the chance to dismiss matters as being driven by mindless yobs, but what impressed me the most was the demographic. I fully expected to see a younger crowd that you might associate with today's social media, but there were young and old gathered together for one common cause. Word has spread far and wide, and Meire should take note. Next up is the 'Black and White' day on the 28th when the protests will gain a wider audience in front of the Sky cameras.
But whilst we should undoubtedly enjoy it, we should remember that today's long-awaited victory changes nothing. Let's not let the euphoria of today's rare win mask the deep-routed problems caused by Duchatelet and Meire's repeated bad decisions. Duchatelet should use this forthcoming international break to appoint a manager or head coach with the correct credentials to do the job in this difficult and unpredictable division, and Meire should go off and find a job better suited to whatever talents she may very well have, because running a football club is not amongst them.