Sunday, 10 December 2017

Charlton Athletic 0 v Portsmouth 1

I said on Friday that this game had all the Charlton trademarks of a disappointing match and result - so it proved. On a bitterly cold day with 4,000 gobby Pompey visitors, some of whom had hired a box in a direct attempt to provoke Charlton fans in the East Stand, we failed to get any momentum and eventually succumbed to an own goal after the restart.

We seem to save particularly uninspiring performances for any game which attracts a number of returning supporters. The gate was a few hundred over 16,000 which suggests around a 12,000 Addicks. Allowing for the usual number of complimentary tickets on top of season tickets, would suggest we had a similar number of 'match-by-match' buyers as the visitors which is clearly disappointing given the significance of the game. My view here is that this is a strong indicator that several thousand fans, maybe up to four or five thousand, have been lost under Roland Duchatelet's tenure, much of those to the failed Meire Offensive in 2015-16. Relegation obviously hasn't helped, nor has the merry-go-round of poorly-chosen managers, but the club has been managed in a very deliberate way with a hope of over-achievement from an under-resourced first team squad. 

It was evident in August that we were desperately short of forwards and Karl Robinson's tunnel vision on playing 4-2-3-1 also signalled to the ageing Lee Novak that he needed to get away, leading to the last transfer day fiasco where Novak was reluctantly sold and we made the panic signing of Do-do from Rangers. That has been the story of this season and, aside from a purple patch in October which helped mask the deficiencies, we are now seeing the effects of limited striking options and an inability to react tactically to falling behind because the manager has a squad built around a 4-2-3-1 formation.

At the end of November I said December looked a challenging month and that my focus was on not finishing 7th - forget the clamour for the top two spots. It's now looking increasingly likely that Wigan and Blackburn Rovers will win automatic promotion after finding their feet and both are on good runs. The scramble below is also evening out and given our poor resent results, our game in hand now changes little. Portsmouth are breathing down our necks and if one of Oxford United, Rotherham or Peterborough put a few results together, we will be fighting to make the play-offs. 

An unlikely promotion this season could propel the club under new ownership. Better-informed people than me believe we are now very close to a deal which is very encouraging given the doubts that appear to have emerged in the last couple of weeks. We have to hope and pray that there is good news before Christmas that gives the club a transfer boost in January. If no deal is done, Duchatelet will surely cash in on some of the playing staff and settle for another season of mediocrity in League One. 

Finally, I was pleased to join many other old faces and friends in the White Swan last night for an impromptu 'Valley Party' 25th anniversary celebration. I got to meet the inspirational and courageous Julie, who along with her son have gone down in Charlton folklore as 'the Liar bed-sheet' heroes. Good, too, to catch-up with some of those behind the ROT Party who are continuing to carry the battle to Duchatelet in his hometown. If you sell-up Roland, you may avoid any potential embarrassment in your local elections next year!

Friday, 8 December 2017

Karl Robinson breaks rank...

An interesting few media quotes from Karl Robinson in the last week or so. 

In his latest local press interviews he has revealed that he hasn't spoken to Roland Duchatelet since September but was in touch recently asking for support to take Leon Best on loan until January. First, no contact with the owner for three months during the season - that would be surprising with any other owner but I suppose when ours isn't interested enough to even come and see us play it shouldn't be shock to anyone. Secondly, does he really have to speak to Duchtelet about a short-term loan? Either Meire has been told "no more" and he's had to over her head, or she really has stepped down in more ways than one. 

The second piece to this story is that Duchatelet apparently asked him if he had an Academy player he could put in. A logical enough question but clearly Duchatelet is totally clueless on the playing staff front. Karl then tells us that Richard Murray followed up to tell Karl he could sign Best until January. Does this imply Old Dickie is forking out for his wages? Good luck to him, if he is, and he has done this in the past to help out and avoid embarrassment e.g. when bills couldn't be paid under the Spivs.

He also went on to talk about his job being at risk with any new ownership, which implies that's on his mind when only a couple of months ago he had asked upstairs about the rumour and been told there was nothing in it. Maybe Karl is feeling he has been lied to (shock, horror, who would do such a thing?) and is subtly trying to re-align himself ahead of takeover news?

Then today we get a piece online from the Telegraph, which whilst quoting Robinson in parts from a month or two ago, appears to have him talking about CARD directly and in tones which are not unsympathetic if not outwardly supportive.

If you are going to the game tomorrow, I hope you enjoy it and that we win. There should actually be a crowd for a change, although sales to home fans looked disappointing midweek. My understanding is that we had only sold c 3000 to home supporters (excluding season tickets) which would be a big disappointment if true and we don't get a decent 'walk-up' gate tomorrow. There would be every prospect of Pompey having actually sold more for this game than we managed. I am guessing c 16,000 as a published attendance? I have to say that this has all the Charlton trademarks of a disappointing match and result.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The ROT has set in!

Can't help but smile at the news today, on the 25th anniversary of our return to the Valley, that Charlton Athletic supporters are again forming a political party to stand at local elections. The amusing bit is that it's the "Roland OuT" or ROT Party who have launched their intentions here. 

I believe the idea of contesting local elections in Sint Truiden was floated nearly a year ago, so timing might appear odd given the ongoing takeover rumours and Roland's public announcement that he looking to get out of football and is open to offers for Charlton Athletic. However, you have to plan for all eventualities and by the looks of things, I wonder if there are Sint Truiden locals active here in the background who would like to see an anti-Duchatelet candidate irrespective of whether or not he is still calling the shots at the Valley next October. 

On the basis that it won't be Charlton supporters voting anyway, the whole idea, I guess, is to give locals the opportunity to say through the ballot box what they are very well prepared to tell us to our faces but perhaps not so keen to shout around town, and that's that they really like him about as much as we do.

The ROT Party launch has already been picked up Belgian media and news is twittering all over the shop. The best bit about this, of course, is that it's likely to really irk the old goat. Marvellous! Those bloody subversive social media campaigns eh Roland?

Sunday, 3 December 2017

AFC Wimbledon 3 v Charlton Athletic 1

Out of the F A Cup at the second round again. Another of the perils of having dropped into League One. 

Not one of our better performances by all accounts but again we had chances which we missed. Magennis comes in for some stick and Ricky Holmes was disappointing, although it's probably unrealistic to expect him to perform wonders in every match he plays. 

After falling one-behind on 10 minutes, that man Ahearne-Grant followed up with another goal having broken the log-jam against Peterborough in the week. Unfortunately he limped off later on and we have to hope that he's not injured sufficiently to miss more matches when he needs games now.

Nabby Sarr has been playing well in recent weeks but was turned inside-out for their second and was part of a shaky defence throughout. Anfernee Dijksteel is being praised again for another decent showing although it was he who conceded the penalty for the killer third late on. 

It feels like three defeats in-a-row even if we stole a point against Posh late on. We will need to be back to our best to keep 4000 Pompey fans quiet next week and to pick up the points we need to maintain our promotion push. It's Bristol Rovers away the week after before we entertain an in-form Blackburn Rovers who were today held at home by Crewe Alexandra.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Duchatelet recants

An "Updated History of Charlton Athletic" will devote several chapters to the last four years of Roland Duchatelet's ownership. Ultimately, it will not be kind to the absent owner and it will tell of an engaging and dramatic struggle between his executive management team and the clubs' supporters (through the supporter group's coalition, CARD). 

It will detail a long sequence of events which show the 'regime' in charge (Meire, Keohane & Co) being accused by CARD of failing the supporters, making ill-informed decisions or telling blatant porkies in the course of spectacular mismanagement and an historic decline. The story-lines are all similar and have the Regime strongly denying what they are accused of, only for time and events to prove them wrong and/or expose their lies.

The current classic is "the club is not for sale" and "Roland is here for the long haul." This has been trotted out over the last twelve months following the intervention of Pitch PR/Tom Rubbashaw when they tried to wipe the slate clean with the "we have made mistakes and we have learnt from them" mantra.

For much of 2017 rumours have been rife, despite intense secrecy, that the Australian Football Consortium (AFC) were attempting to buy the club and that other subsequent bids have been made, notably by what is believed to be a revised Aussie consortium. The club attempted to deny any sale or that Roland's long-term commitment was in doubt, famously telling us that speculation wasn't "helpful." 

So, the Times article yesterday in which Duchatelet is quoted saying "actually, I wanted to leave football after the sale of Standard Liege" makes clear his intentions to sell. He also says in relation to his remaining clubs "I haven't decided anything, I am open to possible offers,"which leaves us wondering whether this is all just paving the way for an announcement of a sale or if it's a last-ditch pitch for alternative interest?

Either way, we appear to be firmly in the end-game and we can only hope and pray for a swift conclusion to this disastrous Regime which is already a full year past it's sell-by-date.  New ownership will bring it's own challenges and risks but it will also bring a fresh start and the optimism of once again having owners whose primary ambition is to develop and grow the club we all love, but which Roland Duchatelet has only seen play once or twice in four years of ownership.

Friday, 1 December 2017

CARD to recognise Valley Party contribution

Pleased to see that the protest groups involved in CARD have decided to mark the 25th anniversary of our return to the Valley by distributing thousands of red and white rosettes ahead of our clash with Portsmouth.

CARD's statement explains that "the rosettes are to celebrate the part played by fans in the re-opening of the SE7 stadium, and particularly the role of the Valley Party, whose 60 candidates amassed nearly 15,000 votes in the 1990 local elections, changing Greenwich Council policy in the process. The club’s then directors wore red and white rosettes when the first match back, also against Portsmouth, took place on December 5th, 1992."

Th irony here is that the Regime have found the whole anniversary decidedly awkward. Katrien Meire is on record saying she doesn't care about the club's history and the fact that the vast majority of the 60 Valley Party candidates still alive are vehemently opposed to her and Duchatelet have seen her try to sidestep those primarily responsible for the return. That includes the Directors at the time who put their personal wealth on the line to make it happen. I would love to see photos of those guys proudly displaying their red and white rosettes and giving Meire the metaphorical finger.

So, if you are attending the match, please grab a rosette and make it clear who we should be acknowledging on 9th December for bringing us back to the Valley. It wasn't the Belgians or Sir Bufton Tufton.

Almost inevitably, the clowns in charge have failed to put vinegar on their chips ahead of the game and have, controversially, decided to give Pompey 700 more seats in the East stand in addition to having sold out the away end. I can just see them roaring Pompey on to a victory an closing the gap on us in the table. They will argue it was for safety reasons because Pompey fans were trying to purchase in home areas but we have a fairly comprehensive membership scheme which has safeguarded this previously, even against Millwall whose supporters would have a better contacts and local addresses to get tickets in home areas if they were so motivated.

Frankly, 3000-odd should have been enough to satisfy all of those Pompey fans who have loyally followed them to most of their away matches to date but part of me would have wanted to acknowledge the sacrifice they made 25 years ago when they agreed to take only 150 tickets so that more Charlton fans could attend what they recognised was an historic match for us. I would have done it for those reasons and planned it properly, not just decided to cash-in and sod the inconvenience and potential risk for home supporters. On their heads be it, as usual.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Charlton Athletic 2 v Peterborough United 2

I said after our defeat at Scunthorpe on Saturday that I was now looking nervously at avoiding a seventh-place finish. Especially with the current 8th and 7th placed sides the next Valley visitors. 

Up stepped inconsistent Peterborough this evening, whose away form has been poor, and they took a point but will rue missing all three after conceding in the 89th and 94th minutes. After the cup this weekend (AFC Wimbledon), Portsmouth could also give us trouble based on our current form. To rub a bit of salt into the wounds, Blackburn used their game in hand to batter local rivals Blackpool and open a gap above us.

The pre-match news was that we have finally made Leon Best an offer of a two month contract. Two months? He must be absolutely desperate. Having already been training with the squad for two months you would think he might have held out for an end-of-season loan having shown us what he can do. What it tells me is that Karl Robinson is also desperate. Desperate to increase his goal-scoring options but realising that Best is probably not going to be able to do that, irrespective of how much he might want a longer deal. Nonetheless he started this evening in a strange formation which inexplicably saw Magennis go out left. Best hardly touched the ball and was subbed after 70 minutes.

In front of another pitiful home gate (laughable given as 9,532) we had another stuttering first-half. Playing in fits and starts but not really troubling Posh, whilst Amos was forced into a couple of saves and couldn't stop Gwion Edwards' free-kick for the opener. Edwards turned provider early in the second-half as Marriott scored at the near post. Peterborough had a strong penalty appeal waved away after a poor Kashi tackle in the box.

Ahearne-Grant and Aribo came on for the hapless Best and the anonymous Marshall but it took a last minute penalty to throw the Addicks a lifelong. That man Forster-Caskey stepped up to give the Reds hope and in the dying seconds of added time, Karlan Ahearne-Grant finally scored a long-awaited and much-needed equaliser. Some light then at the end of another dim evening at the Valley. I was thinking about KAG earlier today and thought about how long it took Carl Leaburn to start scoring. I meant to check but didn't get around to it - maybe tomorrow.