Sunday 28 February 2016

A Sorry Situation...

'Yes, he is investing to improve our stadium, pitch and training complex. But this spending is being loaded on to the club as a debt, on which he charges interest'
Around 3%, if the figures being banded around yesterday are to be believed. There are still the odd Duchatelet apologists out there who are prepared to tolerate this regime on the grounds that 'he saved us from certain administration', but if this financial revelation is true (and I can't believe CARD would fabricate such a thing, as if disproven it would cause great embarrassment) then even those fans must question the motives of our alleged asset-stripping Belgian owner and his hapless sidekick.

The extract above (and image) was taken from the brilliantly creative unofficial matchday programme issued by CARD before yesterday's game. A perfect way to spread the word to a crowd boosted by the 'Football for a Fiver' initiative.

The game was only a few minutes old when Charlton's defensive frailties lead to an easy goal for a man deemed 'not good enough' by the font of football knowledge that is Roland Duchatelet. Yann Kermorgant was typically majestic throughout. He's Reading's Breton Warrior now, but even so, some Addicks couldn't help but stand to applaud his goal. Respectful of the fans that still idolise him, he chose not to celebrate his first strike for his new club.

A short while later...a goal for Charlton! No, really. Yaya Sanogo grabbing his first goal whilst on loan from the Gunners. A pretty even game could have swung Charlton's way on the half hour if only Simon Makienok was an inch taller. The impressive Suk-Young's cross agonisingly a toes length in front of Big Mak.

Typical. A goal for Reading. Only one man likely to score. Again, a smattering of Addicks stand to clap. Another goal for the visitors just before half time and the game was dead.

Or at least, you'd have had every right to think so.

Sanogo thought otherwise, with two second half strikes to complete a full debut hat-trick. Neither shot hitting the back of the net but rightfully deemed over the line by the eagle-eyed assistant referee. As the team celebrated an unlikely late equaliser, Diarra beckoned his teammates back to Charlton's half so the game could restart; sensing a much-needed winner. Perhaps we should have taken our chance to run the clock down.

And then the sucker punch that happens when you're desperate and down on your luck. Reading's injury time winner the result of a needless free-kick conceded by Fanni and after another piece of laughable non-defending.

Jose thought we deserved something from the game, but I disagree. I can't fault the commitment, but you shouldn't expect anything when you defend that badly across 90mins. 
With no time for the disappointment to sink in the disgruntled Addicks gathered once again behind the West Stand to shout at the back of a building, hoping to force change. Or at least some of us did. The numbers had dwindled rather dramatically, with a few hundred braving the cold rather than the thousands that gathered post-Blackburn a month previous. I was there, but living as I do an hour's drive away, I can't deny the 5pm protest has become something else to endure on a matchday. By the time I got home just before 7pm I'd already missed dinner and my daughter was passing me at the front door, destined for a party.
Charlton Athletic have been ruining my Saturday afternoons for too long, and I won't let them spoil my Saturday evening's as well.
My personal view is that the 5pm protest needs shaking up. It is losing its impact and a different approach is required. It has been hugely successful in gaining national coverage and support, but the club have shown no signs whatsoever that it has resonated inside the boardroom. In fact, as the war of attrition deepens, so the club's counter-measures of barricades, extra stewards and police becomes all-too-easy to implement. Even the faces at the windows look disinterested at the baying crowds outside.
Last word to the 20 Charlton fans that travelled to Belgium to take the protests to Sint-Truiden, another club with close links to Duchatelet. Chicago Addick wrote a great post earlier today that rightly heralds the Addicks as 'Proper Charlton'!

Paid for out of their own pockets, those 20 fans who journeyed to Roland's back yard might just have unnerved the regime a whole lot more than those of us turning blue outside the West Stand yesterday evening.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

The Biggest Dilemma...Pt.1

It amazes me that despite our disastrous season, we are still only 7 points adrift of safety (realistically 8 with GD). That gap will not be bridged, we know that, and it goes to show just how avoidable and utterly unacceptable this relegation will be. The fault lies with Mr. Duchatelet and Miere completely; thier repeated mistakes in not appointing the right calibre of manager and players, coupled with their inability to accept the consequences, the undeniable cause of this shambolic mess. Worst of all, there's no light at the end of this very dark tunnel; no indication from the owner he will change direction or that his hapless sidekick will be removed from my club.

So we're going down. What next? I've held a season ticket for as long as I can remember and long before we set off on those glorious Premiership years. I kept up my season ticket through the three other relegations I've witnessed and in all that time I have never once considered giving it up. 

Until now. 

Now I face the dilemma of not wanting to support Duchatelet financially by investing in a season ticket. By not renewing, alongside many, many others, I would hope that it sends a message to the regime that I will not put up with what is happening at my club. I'm not stupid, I'm also aware Meire probably won't care, after all, she's shown little regard for Addicks to date.

As things stand I will not renew mine or my son's season tickets, but will instead pay match-to-match from the start of next season. A tiny point perhaps, but it means Charlton cannot include my season ticket in the attendance figures if I never went, meaning a better representation of the true, declining gate figures. If things get worse (yes, I do believe they can) I can decide not to go without the burden of a financial commitment already made. A man can only take so much, after all. If change comes (by convincing actions over time rather than words) I will sign up again in a flash and commit financially to the club once again.

As you will have guessed from the title, this is a dilemma I will lament for some time, probably long after the season ticket form drops through my letterbox in mid-March. My thoughts may well change. It will conclude in what will be one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make. That may appear over dramatic to some, but for me, turning my back on Charlton Athletic will be as tough as discarding my own son or daughter. 

This club is in my heart in a way that means I can hate it with a passion but still love it unconditionally.

I will never be able to forgive Duchatelet and Meire for what they have done to my club, safe in the knowledge that even if they both left today it will take many years to recover. When your C.E.O fails to understand the emotional bond fans have with the club, you know she will also have missed the implications of thousands of fans who have had enough and already walked away, many of whom represent the link to, or the direct next generation of Addick.

What will you do?

Sunday 7 February 2016

Stand Up, If You Give A Shit...


There was a moment not long after City scored that pretty much summed up yesterdays inept performance for me. There were countless similar examples, but this one stood because it was right in front of the East Stand, just below where I sit. Johnnie Jackson, so often our talismanic leader stood just inside our half with the ball, a yard from the touchline. Just 3 or 4 yards deeper stood Harry Lennon. Johnnie looked up, shaped to pass forward, thought better of it, glanced sideways, then backwards, and under no pressure whatsoever, gently rolled the ball to Lennon.
At that point, I slumped in my seat and held my head...
There he was, a player with hundreds of league games under his belt and a legendary, well-earned reputation of driving Charlton on in times of need, passing the buck all-to-easily to a young lad with a handful of league games. Lennon was in an almost identical position to the skipper but was far less equipped to make something happen. Guess what? Harry lumped the ball up field towards Makienok and unsurprisingly possession was lost. 
But Johnnie completed his pass, right? Can't blame him can we? Well, yes I do. I blame him for not taking responsibility. I blame him for choosing to offload the ball rather than try and force something. I blame him for not showing balls to take a chance. Jesus! Look what it's come, one of Johnnie's biggest fans, having a dig at our skipper!
He's not alone. Pick out one Charlton player yesterday willing to gamble to make something happen?
Sometimes you need to stare failure in the face and embrace it as your biggest challenge. Yesterday we didn't just fail to rise to the challenge, we never even bothered taking it on.
And while I'm at it, I don't think we should interpret the 'Support The Team' mantra to mean we cannot offer individual criticism of players, the manager or his tactics either. I think that fact is lost on some fans if the fallout post-match is anything to go by. 
Don't confuse honest and justifiable criticism with 'being negative' which 'will see us relegated' apparently! No...players not trying hard enough will see us relegated.
There is a right and wrong way to express your feelings, of course, and cheering young Fox off the pitch or sarcastically cheering a Makienok header is never going to help anyone. To use Meire's restaurant analogy, if you went out for a meal would you repeatedly put up with shit food just because you loved the restaurant? No, of course not, you'd complain to the chef. 
If there was one Charlton player who can say they was happy with their performance then I'd be even more disappointed than I feel now.
And worst of all, Bristol City were rubbish!
As Meire's early January panic buys sat on the bench for 90mins, one of Karel Fraeye's main targets, playmaker Lee Tomlin, won the game for the visitors. As Mr. Duchatelet's network of coaches scour Europe to uncover hidden talent ready to fit seamlessly into Charlton's Championship team, good young players of Anglo-Saxon descent continue to slip under the radar. Players like Freeman, formally of Stevenage (heard of them Katrien?) who's passing and vision stood out for me in a very poor game. 
Yesterdays' performance had all the hallmarks of the darkest days of messrs. Peeters, Luzon and Fraeye. Riga's new manager bounce deflated already. 

One positive that deserves a mention was the billboard poster that appeared near the roundabout of Bugsby's Way and Anchor & Hope Lane. A throwback to the Back to The Valley campaign, it was a great move by CARD. Quite whether Meire will see it from her Ivory Tower is unclear, but even if she does, I doubt she'll give a shit. At the moment the club seem more intent on combating the protests rather than making any attempt to build bridges and heal wounds. I make it nearly two months since we last had a direct address from C.E.O to us customers fans... 
Charlton hit rock bottom in every respect yesterday, but thankfully at the time of writing this the BBC league table that appears on the side of my blog had not updated to show us in 24th place. On to Cardiff next week. It's the hope that kills you...