Monday 23 May 2016

Taking Ownership...

I have no firm idea what the 'fit and proper person' test actually entails for football club ownership, but I would sensibly guess that it includes criteria on the general law-abiding character of the applicant and his/her business and football background. The football background perhaps only relevant if they are proven to have an interest in another club within the Premier or Football League. It's therefore not surprising, sadly, that Mr. Duchatelet passed the test no matter how much we wished he hadn't with the power of hindsight.
I would be very surprised if the aspirations of the applicant feature much at all, as, let's face it, nobody in their right mind would say anything that could be perceived as a negative. If a would-be owner had a propensity to asset strip the football club without regard for ambition on the pitch, then he (or she) is hardly going to admit it! Furthermore, there are many ways to spin a story to portray it in whatever light you want, so it wouldn't be too much of an obstacle for any applicant with half a brain.  
The argument put forward from Katrien Meire that Mr. Duchatelet is funding the club with his money so he can do as he pleases (and we all just have to accept it) is morally wrong at the very least. My personal opinion is nobody should be allowed to own a football club without accepting a number of set boundaries, much like those in place to protect listed buildings. In the case of listed buildings, the definable character cannot be demolished, extended or altered without special permission from the local planning authority, so why cannot this principle in preservation work for football clubs, but with the local planning authority replaced with an elected board of trustees?
It would obviously take some careful consideration to interpret the parameters of what the 'definable character' would be, and I don't pretend to have the answers, but to understand how the soul has been ripped out of Charlton would be to understand how it could possibly be avoided if a club had to follow some pretty basic guidelines.     
A standard that considers elements like the general infrastructure and running of the club including accountability, plus community, history, tradition and the emotional bond generations of fans have invested in their club should somehow be included.
In pretty simple terms, the owner may have the money, but he or she will know from the outset that the direction he takes the club will be judged, approved or halted by Trustees. 
It is obviously no guarantee of success and offers no assurances against failure, but in my humble opinion it would ensure that football clubs cannot become the play-things of the mega-rich, who have little or no regard for anything other than their own selfish vision.
Let's face it, if a system like this was in place then single-minded people like Roland Duchatelet wouldn't own football clubs and perennial failures like Katrien Meire would be made accountable long before they could cause so much harm. We might have avoided the demise seen at clubs like Blackpool, Blackburn, Villa, Newcastle, Leeds, Cardiff and Leyton Orient amongst others. 
After all, Duchatelet doesn't own Charlton because of a love for the club anymore than he has a love of the game. He should be encouraged to take his money elsewhere...

Wednesday 11 May 2016

A Step Closer To Nobby Vinegar...

The approach for Chris Wilder was serious enough to have been recognised with a rare official Charlton statement, but a short while ago another brief statement on the official site confirmed the deal is off.   
I doubt we will ever know the full details, but it's hard not to jump to pretty obvious conclusions.
I've seen one or two credible sources suggest that the club (I assume this means Roland and Meire) refused to put into writing that Chris would have full control of football matters including player recruitment, and that's why discussions broke down. Let's face it, that explanation is entirely believable. Chris stood to lose nothing in hearing what Meire had to say, and I think it's pretty safe to assume he wasn't prepared to buy into whatever he heard.
And who in their right mind would blame him?
Personally I'd not even heard of Chris Wilder until this interview done the rounds on social media last November. I was struck instantly by Wilder's honesty when speaking so candidly during a period Northampton Town were on the brink of going out of business. A man of obvious principles, somehow Wilder led the League Two side not only to promotion but the league title.
I mean this with the greatest respect to Chris (and I genuinely mean that), but it is a sad reflection on how far Charlton have fallen that we can't secure the services of a man who's stock may well be high at the moment, but who has only ever operated in the lower leagues.
None the less, I wish Chris well. He deserves better than our shambles of a club anyway from what I can see...
The latest statement suggests "The club will now continue its search for a candidate to take the club forward". Expect Nebojsa Vignjevic to arrive in SE7 any day now...
Absolute joke. It just steadily gets worse.

Sunday 8 May 2016

The Damage Done...

The final home game of the season should be enjoyed, right? Wonderful weather, the glory of a promotion push or the relaxation of knowing you're safe. Instead, what Charlton fans had to endure yesterday was one of the darkest days ever witnessed at the Valley. The discontent and anger is nothing to do with relegation, we all know that. Duchatelet has destroyed a once proud club and the fight to win it back is just getting uglier and uglier.
It is a regrettable means to an end, but we can't and won't relent.
Pre-match a large group of Addicks had staged a sit-in protest by the entrance of the West stand car park, which, although perhaps not as visually striking as some of the bigger car park protests, was actually very effective. Food for thought, perhaps, if the fight extends beyond the closed-season.
Under the full glare of the Sky cameras, the club were obviously keen to ensure the guaranteed anticipated disruption was kept to a minimum, and had taken the step of installing a 20ft net across the full length of the Covered End.  In reality, the fact it was required was hugely embarrassing for a club more intent on battling the fans than healing wounds. In 20 years time when all of this will be a distant memory, I suspect we'll look back on images of that net as one of many symbols of the desperation.
You are in the wrong place if you're after a match report, but what I can say is towards the end of the first half came the moment of the match. Two heroic Addicks breached the press gantry to unfurl a huge banner (left) above the directors box. Chants of 'Liar, Liar, Liar' rang around the Valley. Neither Meire or the gutless Murray re-emerged for the second half. Wishful thinking maybe, but perhaps they've both finally got the message. I want them both out of my club.
Charlton's loss completely irrelevant, Burnley's victory handed them the title. For the second year running Charlton fans had salt rubbed into their gapping wounds by having to witness the rapture of a victorious club with ambition. I don't begrudge Burnley anything. I wish them well.  
At the full time whistle Burnley fans stormed the pitch, completely unchallenged, to embrace their heroes, sparking the same reaction from Charlton fans determined to take their demonstrations onto the hallowed turf. The emotions between the two sets of fans could not have been more contrasting, and yet, respectful of our desperate situation, the Burnley fans took time out from their delirium to applaud the Covered End en-masse. It was a sight I will never forget, and emotions got the better of me for a few brief moments. I've seen three Charlton promotions in 20 years, two of which took us to the Premiership, but this was the first time I'd seen Charlton fans on the pitch, and for all the wrong reasons.
How I despise Meire and Roland for what they have done to my club...
RIP the Fan's Sofa
At one stage, the infamous and unwanted 'Fans Sofa' that Katrien is so unjustifiably proud of became the target for the angry Addicks, who, like a pack of hungry lions on the savanna, dragged it onto the pitch and began ripping it apart. Pieces of foam and fabric hurled into the air to the delight of the baying crowd. It was a hugely symbolic gesture against this awful regime. 
Eventually I left the Valley, feeling as numb as I've ever felt. I made my way to the rear of the West where, alongside many others, I left my season ticket at the feet of Big Sam. The juxtaposition of Sam's huge grin and the sad faces of Addicks below him could not have been more stark. I've held the same East Stand seat for nearly two decades, through occasional highs but many, many lows, and yesterday I gave it up. I walked away heartbroken. I should have met with friends at the pub for an end of season beer, but I just couldn't face anyone. I drove home an emotional wreck, all the while hoping my young son wouldn't see me like that. 
To see my club reduced to this level is beyond heart-breaking. Never has the gulf between club and fans been wider: never has it been more evident that under the current regime it is unfixable. Instead of dreaming about days like yesterday from a Burnley perspective, I am reduced to dreaming about the day I hear that Roland has gone. That's all I have left, and I resent Duchatelet and Meire more than I can explain in words.
Their cancerous regime must be driven out of Charlton before it becomes terminal, and metaphorically speaking the doctor has just sat down in front of the Addicted, sullen faced, bracing himself before delivering some very bad news.

Monday 2 May 2016

Nearly Over...

I spent Saturday afternoon in the garden with the kids and never gave Charlton a single thought until my phone rang just before 4pm. It was my mum who was genuinely concerned that she'd not heard from me. We send texts back and forth on Charlton matters daily and it has become a long-standing tradition just before kick off to share a 'Come On You Addicks' text. My mum has been there with me through Charlton's highs and many lows and I deeply value that, but the truth is, Saturday meant nothing. I took no pleasure whatsoever in seeing that we'd won the game.
Post-match Jose was asked "if you can end well, does that help a lot towards confidence as you look to bounce back next year?", to which Riga answered "Of course". I think we all know it doesn't, Jose. I think we all know it has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on next season. But then again, what else can he say? It was an off-the-shelf football question that filled a column and very deliberately avoided the pricklier subjects that urgently require answers. 
I've pretty much forgotten what it feels like to get to this stage of the season with something to look forward to or dream about. I find myself envious of teams with it all still to play for. It's impossible to imagine anything other than abject failure under Duchatelet and Meire.

Apparently, according to sources within Charlton, Mr. Duchatelet is putting £1m a month into the club at the moment. Just let that sink in for a short moment...1 million pounds! I wonder if that statement was made to impress me as if to ram home Roland's commitment. All it has actually done is make me think he's stupid as well as woefully stubborn. The statement also suggests he's not interested in selling up. Instead, with a flawed vision of football, he's just going to plough on making the same mistakes but expecting a successful outcome eventually!
It could be quite funny if it wasn't so heart-breaking.  

As things have got progressively worse, Katrien Meire's tactic has remained the same; ignore the actual cause of the problem, very occasionally make cheap comments alluding to change without ever backing things up with action, grin smugly and carry on as if nothing catastrophic is happening around her. Many of the Club's dubious responses in the latest Fan Forum meeting shows how her cancerous management is spreading.
I fully understand club employees have mortgages to pay, but how, in the light of such obvious failings, can some people operate under such delusional management? Of course, some can't, although we are lead to believe "it is normal when a club is relegated that people look for positions elsewhere" according to Meire. I wonder if Mel Baroni would agree. 

But it will all be OK as Target 20K are working on an alternative idea to the fan sofa, according to Meire. So let me get this right, as I fear the very future of my club Katrien sees an alternative to the fans sofa as a positive?

By continuing to ignore in such blatant arrogant fashion the legitimate, ever-growing concerns of Addicks let alone her own failings, Katrien Meire has continued to pour fuel on the flames. If you poke a wounded animal enough it will inevitably bite back.

Thankfully this horrendous season is very nearly over, but sadly, for me at least, there is nothing whatsoever to provide hope going forward. After Saturday the exodus of players will begin; many of whom will not be missed by me. Some, however, we will look back on in years to come and envy their success with other clubs, reminding ourselves that they once played for us in what was the most avoidable of relegations. Just imagine the sort of squad Meire will put together for a League One campaign, when she considered Big Rog the answer to Championship safety?

Saturday's visit of Burnley cannot come quick enough...just so it can hurry up and be over!

Charlton players heading for the door post-Burnley
At the time of writing this Burnley, will clinch promotion tonight if they beat QPR and Brighton fail to beat Derby. I genuinely hope they do as Saturday could be very messy. I, like every other fair-minded Addicks, have no inclination to spoil Burnley's big day, but success for us on Saturday will be measured by our impact off the pitch.

The FA have warned of 'dire consequences' if the game is 'ruined' by protestors. There is no indication yet of what those consequences are, but I couldn't care less either way. Nothing is worse than the prospect of Duchatelet retaining ownership. The FA should care a little less about their TV image on a showcase season finale and more about the serious mismanagement of a once proud football club in very serious decline.

The FA, alongside the club, would do well to remember it is not wise to pick a fight with someone with nothing more to lose.   

I can't pretend to remember the full story of Burnley's torrid season that very nearly ended in relegation from the Football League in '87, but I would ask those Claret fans old enough to remember just how desperate they felt, not just about the prospects of going down but in losing the club altogether. Sadly, our relegation has took nobody by surprise other than our owner and his hapless sidekick CEO and our future is very much in doubt. Those two individuals have destroyed everything that Charlton stood for, and I, alongside many, many others, will continue the fight to force them out of my club. Until they do, our demonstrations and protests will be unrelenting, even throughout the summer.

You can expect even less writing from me over the summer so I'll thank you now for talking the time to read anything I've wrote this season and especially if you've taken the time to comment. I'll see you at The Valley next season when I'll be hoping with all my heart we have a different owner and a future again. If not, I'll just be going through the motions, waiting to pick up what's left when Duchatelet finally realises his weird experiment will not work.

I'll end with a much needed joke. Just 2,500 people voted for the Player of The Year award this season. How funny is that?