Wednesday 28 September 2016

A New Low...

"There was no consistency that we have seen before. We lost our identity a little bit tonight, from where we've been at. We looked devoid of ideas"
Words above from Russell Slade post match. I guess that's why he's a professional football manager and I'm not. My view is that the 'consistency' he laments as missing from last night's draw is what I'm recognising as the dull, unambitious football we've seen under his management. I came to the Valley hoping not to see it, but instead the alternative was indescribably shitter than before. 
I agree with him that we were 'devoid of idea', but that has been a constant all season. Slade's conservative approach as much the reason we are mid-table as Duchatelet or Meire's immense failings. His reference to a 'loss of identity' hit very, very hard with me. I might well be unfairly extending the context beyond what Slade was directly referencing to, but a loss of identity is the sorest of points, and he needs to know why it touches a very raw nerve...
Last night's depressing draw with Oldham was up there with that woeful Carling Cup defeat to Wycombe at The Valley in December '06, when the hapless Les Reed cut a lonely figure in the dugout. Similar in stature and effectiveness, Slade may well be looking over his shoulder nervously, with Duchatelet desperate to tell us all that the weird British experiment us protestors forced upon him never worked, before reverting to his tried and failed network model. And so the cycle continues. 
In the farce that is Charlton Athletic, one could be easily believe that Slade has been told not to win games by the clueless Meire because Rolly doesn't want to pay win bonuses...
Just 8,500 home fans bothered to turn up last night, which would be depressing enough if the reality wasn't worst still. My estimates put the 'real' attendance closer to 7,500, but even that might be generous. It says a lot that the gate is dropping so alarmingly that even the club can't spin the numbers into double figures in an attempt to save face. With the standard of football at an all-time low and without even the smallest shred of evidence that things on and off the pitch will improve any time soon, I can't believe there is an incentive to go, even for the hardiest fan.
Still, not Meire's fault, is it, Sue Parkes? 
Beyond blind loyalty that is hard to break, I can't really explain why I went last night. I got a ticket in the West Stand just to shake up my 'matchday experience' but the picture looked just a grim from there. I wonder if my attendance is more like a form of macabre voyeurism, like a rubbernecker taking in the car-crash, joyless, uninviting drama that is Charlton Athletic.
What is wrong with me?
Like a complete fool, I bet I still go on Saturday. I'm in Southwark on business in the morning and with 80% of my journey south covered, I thought a trip to the Valley would give me something to look forward to after work. I certainly won't buy a ticket in advance now, and will see how I feel on the day.  

Friday 23 September 2016

The Great Mystery of CAFC Target 20k...

Given the current state of Charlton Athletic on and off the field, it would be very easy to mistake CAFC Target20k as just another parody twitter account set up by a mischievous fan looking for some cheap laughs. To have aspirations of attracting 20k fans to the Valley is genuinely funny, so in that respect, it works perfectly well. The problem is, it's not a parody account, it's a real 'thing', albeit a very mysterious one.
The committee has, in it's own words, designs to 'improve the matchday experience, attracting new support and retain current support'. All well and good, you might think. No fair minded Addick would argue against that, right?
So why do I feel like Target 20k is contributing to a problem, not solving one? 
It is impossible not to be cynical about the way in which Target 20k has come about, who is behind it and who exactly is benefiting from its existence. When they first emerged I questioned T20k via Twitter as to why they were a faceless organisation and whomever replied on their behalf stated that they feared abuse from Charlton fans. I can only have assumed was because of their uncharacteristically positive standpoint that was the polar opposite of what the vast majority of Addicks were feeling then and now. I replied that, in my opinion, by remaining anonymous it completely devalued their position and opened them up to suspicion. To my knowledge (and believe me, I've lazily not done a single second of research for the benefit of this piece), the members of T20k remain faceless, bar a member that left in April as the 'real issues were being ignored' and the most recent departure directly after Wednesday's meeting when a member was asked to resign after releasing some details in advance of an 'agreed time'. Sceptics might wonder if the 'agreed time' was set to allow the club a chance to portray the contents of that meeting via the OS to suit their own agenda. As I say, only sceptics would think that...
Oh, did I mention that Roland was there on Wednesday?    
For reasons that only Katrien Meire can answer, our much-maligned and otherwise fan-dismissive CEO has strangely embraced T20k in a way that is the complete opposite to every other group, including CAST. I, like many others, are left wondering why this group of individuals gained her attention enough that she was prepared to talk with them. With T20k remaining anonymous, it is no surprise there is a growing view that they have simply become a propaganda machine for a woefully failing regime. The last thing Charlton fans need right now.  
In having the occasional chat with T20k, Katrien Meire can rightly claim to be talking to 'fans' about 'improving Charlton', and thus straight-batting some of the negative press surrounding the club. Meanwhile, beyond the same words being repeated time and time again, nothing appears to change.
With no light at the end of the tunnel, Charlton's demise remains heart-breaking.
Only yesterday former Charlton media man and Addick, Jimmy Stone, ran a poll on twitter simply asking whether CAFC Target 20k should disband, with 91% of the 714 people who voted saying yes. That's a pretty clear indication that the vast majority of Addicks do not feel T20k speaks for them and would prefer them gone.
Rumours that Meire is trying to round up the 9% who want T20k to remain to bolster the group are unsubstantiated at the moment. 
Whilst I don't doubt the intentions of those individuals involved with T20k were anything other than sincere from the outset, no more than I would question whether they are actually Addicks, it's my personal view that they have allowed over time Meire and Duchatelet to use them as a smoke-screen for the mind-bogglingly appalling communications we typically associate with Charlton under this regime.

What is most alarming for me is that despite supposedly representing us, the fans, T20k clearly do not feel they have the responsibility to reveal the details of the meeting they are privalaged to attend, especially when Rolly turns up unannounced (not my perception - check their twitter account and you'll see). They talk of 'confidential minutes' taken, claiming they are not something they can distribute.

Let that sink in before drawing your own conclusions. 
Perhaps the greatest action T20k can do for the betterment of Charlton Athletic is to disband?    

Monday 19 September 2016

First Impressions, Same Problems...

Normally a Saturday at the football is what gets me through the week. I say normally, it's been that way for as long as I can remember, up until early October of last year when I first began to accept things felt very different. Instead of counting down the days to get behind my team I was dreading it. I still went: enduring matches rather than enjoying them. Having a season ticket made me go.
Fast forward nearly 12 months and my lack of enthusiasm feels worryingly normal. I could have not bothered on Saturday even as late as when I was tying my shoelaces by the front door, wondering what I was doing with my life. No longer a season ticket holder, and with my home-printed ticket in hand, I reluctantly made my way to The Valley.
As documented in my previous couple of posts, Saturday was my first game of the season, so my first chance to take a look at Slade's new-look Charlton. I wasn't impressed. A serious lack of positive intention, verve and creativity continues to blight the team. Remember, this was AFC Wimbledon at home (with all due respect, blah, blah, blah...) and a game Charlton have to be expected to win if we are to believe there's any chance of a quick escape from League One. The effort appeared there, but the application was embarrassingly predictable and tactically basic at best.
Our two  most creative players, Lookman and Holmes, looked frustrated at times, surrounded by players more likely to destroy the momentum they were trying to build. Ulvestad and Crofts worked hard enough but neither appeared willing, or perhaps capable, to play anything other than the easiest option sideways. Ajose was non-existent, whilst at the back I struggled to understand how young Konsa is picked ahead of Bauer if the latter is fully fit and willing. I don't know if it's typical of Slade's style or not, but people will not be flocking back to The Valley to see our defence lump long balls forward to the sizable figure that is Megennis, that's for sure.
Mind you, perhaps I'm no longer the right person to judge...
Talking of crowds, Charlton announced an attendance of 11,927 for Saturday's game. I'm genuinely curious about this. Whilst it is obvious that inflating the true attendance will help hide the embarrassment of falling gates, surely there is an issue with gate revenue and what has to be declared in relation to the true attendance? I'd love to know the finer details of what clubs are allowed to manipulate to suit their own agendas (clearly they can, as I'm not suggesting anything illegal). CARD have announced they will provide a more realistic figure going forward, but I'm not quite sure how they will achieve this as their agenda (to which I obviously back 100%) is the polar opposite of the club. My own estimate puts Saturday's gate at around 9,500-10,000 at best, and this, remember, a London derby.
My own son didn't want to come, and I attempted to give his ticket away for free via Twitter. No takers, unsurprisingly.
On the plus side, I sat with Paul, who I was very pleased to bump into on the East Stand concourse. We both gave up our old ST seats last season, and I wondered if I'd see him much going forward. It's good, honest chaps like him, and others who cannot bring themselves to attend just yet, that are the last remaining incentive to go...
The only positive thing about my continual Charlton apathy is Wimbledon's late winner was never going to spoil my evening, let alone my weekend as it would have in the past. I don't thank Meire or Duchatelet for that, though. I want to have the hump in defeat because I want it to mean everything again. Sadly, the one thing Saturday confirmed to me is that it doesn't.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Forcing Myself...

I got an alert on my phone this morning reminding me to get a ticket for Saturday. I recall setting it up just before the season got underway, knowing already that this was likely to be my first game. As a season ticket holder of 20-odd years I wouldn't have needed to worry about a matchday ticket, but times are very different now, in so many respects. There were plenty of occasions over the summer when I doubted my own strength not to renew, more because of tradition than desire, but discarding the forms was as easy as opening the bin. 
The immense sadness I felt when I made that symbolic gesture of leaving my old booklet at the feet of Sam Bartram last season has long-since faded, but the deep resentment for those behind my decision has not. This current Charlton is not the club I fell in love with, and the cancer within it makes it impossible for me to see a future at all, let alone one to get excited about.  
The sad truth is there is not a single bit of me that is remotely excited about going on Saturday, and I have quite literally forced myself to buy the ticket. To try and attempt to create an angle to look forward to I've got my son a ticket as well, but I would be very surprised if he wants to go and I certainly won't force him. 
The problem is, once a cycle is broken, it can be very hard to get it back. Having made the decision to miss Bolton the one thing I do realise is how easy it is not to bother when you don't own a ST. In the dead of winter, when I face the prospect of a lonely 3hr round trip to the Valley, will I bother when we're sat mid-table, convincing nobody of our genuine ambition? At the moment, I very much doubt it...
My local team are not at home and I don't have other plans I'm sacrificing to attend the game, so it says a lot that potentially doing nothing still seems more appealing than going to watch Charlton. In many respects I'm shocked and surprised at my own apathy, but I just don't have the buzz anymore. If I could change that I'd do it in a flash, but then again if I had that power I'd rid my club of Duchatelet and Meire first.
I know there are a growing number who are getting behind Slade and the boys, deliberately or perhaps naturally ignoring the protests. Fair play to them. There is a clear change of approach on the pitch in terms of management and player recruitment, that much I will happily admit, but I remain unconvinced that Roland has added 'ambition' to his highly questionable intentions. For me, too much damage has been done in 2.5yrs of disgraceful mismanagement and it will take a whole lot more than the appointment of Slade and a few British-based players to convince me of change.
But having said all of the above, I would love nothing more than to admit to feeling differently come 5pm Saturday. The result will not alter my opinion; I've seen Charlton lose far more times than we've won! No, this isn't about league standings or results. What I hope for is that deep feeling I get inside my belly when I first see the Valley as I turn into Ransom Walk and exit under the railway arches. It's the sense of belonging that comes with the routines I've forged over two decades of regular attendance. It's the smell of the burgers and fags, and the sounds of the bustling crowd. It's the people I stop and talk to. It's the people I've sat with for many, many years. It's the friends I've made. It's the sense of pride when I hear the Red, Red Robin and see my team walk out. It's that little glance up to the Charlton badge atop the West Stand just before kick-off that (sometimes) brings us luck. It's cheering a goal like it means everything.
I just want my team to mean everything again...
It's everything Meire and Rolly wouldn't understand.
See you Saturday. Come on you Addicks!!!