Sunday, 1 February 2015

No Communication = No Commitment

I bought the match-day programme yesterday hoping to read Katrien's latest attempt to put the record straight over 'liargate.' I was disappointed, once again, that there was no comment but I guess I am not surprised.

Like everyone else I was excited and relieved when Roland Duchatelet bought our club. I was relieved that we had shorn ourselves of the hopeless Tony Jiminez and his lawyer and fall-guy Slater. Excited that our club was now owned by a truly wealthy individual, a man with the means and, hopefully ambition, to get us back in the Premier League.

However, it was hard to hear Roland Duchatelet give us his strategy for the future. Investment in youth was good. Sharing resources from his other clubs was also attractive but the sting in the tail was the idea that we might lose our better players to Standard Liege if they were good enough and then the notion that the aim was to break even. Roland's idea in acquiring a stable of European clubs appeared to be based on a plan to beat the house by using Financial Fair Plan to his advantage. I was prepared to accept that Roland had made it his business to examine the plans to implement FFP across Europe and that he might have seen an opportunity but it looked a long shot to me and we were heading back to League One when he took over.

Very quickly we saw some very average Network players rock up and it was equally evident that Roland expected them to start in the first team and Chris Powell's refusal to kow-tow cost him his job. A large percentage of our fan base was very upset by the way Powell was treated but Roland had saved the club from near certain Administration and we had visibly been struggling under Powell despite the fact that he had no funds under Jiminez and had suffered with injuries.

Our subsequent saviour from relegation by Jose Riga was, ironically, because Riga picked the best eleven he could in the run-in and largely dispensed with Network players. Roland rewarded Jose Riga by not extending his contract and instead bringing in Bob Peeters. A minority of our fan base who didn't understand how the network model could work and who were more vocal about Roland's interference in team selection and the decision to sack Powell put their heads above the paraphet and had asked for dialogue. They were told that a relegation battle wasn't the appropriate time for talking and that it would have to wait until the close season.

The close season came and went with no communication. Plans to extend the Sparrows Lane training facilities were announced and the money we got for Yann Kermorgant was ploughed back into a desperately needed new playing surface. Roland also put his hand in his pocket for Igor Vetokele and Johan Berg Gudmundssson, neither of whom were Network players. The notion of supporters questioning the owner were ridiculed by other fans and there was still no communication.

Bob Peeters unbeaten start maintained the feel-good factor but it didn't last. Our out-and-out defensive displays eventually began to turn into a succession of draws and without a fit Igor Vetokele, it was evident we struggled to score goals. The frailty of our squad was obvious for all to see. The defeats started to mount up and the mood turned again. 

We then saw Peeters sacked, somewhat harshly in the circumstances. The handling of this and the appointment of Network manager Guy Luzon was clumsy and naive. When Katrien Meire should have stopped digging she grabbed a bigger shovel for a few days she showed how relatively out-of-her-depth she is in the CEO role.

She was still trying to defend her corner when shouted down by a frustrated supporter on the way home from Watford, which is why I thought she would take the opportunity in today's programme to explain her case again and maybe get some points across she failed to do so previously, or she might come clean and explain her dilemma.

On a personal level, I am very tired of watching dross at the Valley. It's been crap since we were relegated eight years ago. Perhaps it wasn't a lot better in the top flight but you knew the side was largely competing at the height of it's capability. We weren't even that good to watch at home in our promotion year from League One, so not all of my current apathy can be laid at M. Duchatelet's door. However, I find myself wondering what I am doing sitting through one scrappy match after another that I am not enjoying and which ruins my Saturday evening, if not my weekend. It has been a long time since we played like other home sides do and gone all out to beat our opponents. It's seen me travelling to fewer and fewer away games and loads of my old mates who used to go have long since picked and chosen games whilst others have packed it in altogether. Now, I never signed-up for glory football. I have watched us under-achieve largely my whole life. I have been to the 92 league grounds and many more long since. My fundamental issue is I don't believe Roland's Network model can work, let alone for anyone other, possibly, than the 'biggest' club in the Network and that is unfair, even if we were that club. The recent challenge to FFP is credible and will run and run, so the jury is well and truly out in that boat coming in. In the meantime, we are being run to exist and there appears little commitment to continuity of staff or any strategic direction to give us incremental improvement required to prosper. Look at Bournemouth, Ipswich, Derby and Boro. All have have been making small steps for a few years in this division to get to the state of ultimate competitiveness they now have. I cannot see our stop-gap revolving door policy achieving anything more than it appears to be already.

I have been a season ticket holder for 38 years and I realise that it is this emotional purchase that forces me back to every home game I can attend. However, after several years of threatening not to renew, I have decided that I won't be renewing several tickets next season unless there is some communication from the Owner that convinces me that there is a sound strategy for the club's future and not that we are being run as some sort of social experiment, based on a flawed commercial model. I will still support this club because it's my club and I have invested so much it. Some may laugh, but I chose to live closer to the ground 27 years ago because I spent so much of my social time here with other Charlton fans, even on non-matchdays.

I will still pay to see us but without a season ticket. I won't feel like I am blindly supporting a virtual billionaire who doesn't believe he needs to waste any breath communicating with me or who, perhaps, is worried he might be as unconvincing as his CEO was in attempting to pretend we were going to ensure we were going to get the best qualified manager we could after sacking Peeters, rather than appointing the cheapest and most convenient option in the Network Guy. The difference, of course, is I won't prioritise attendance over other things if the product on offer isn't attractive enough (which it definitely isn't right now) and I am guessing I will end up going less. I don't expect anything to change because of one supporters' decision and I am not looking for sympathy because it's very apparent that there are thousands like me who feel exactly the same. Perhaps economical reality is what it will take for Roland Duchatelet to listen to his Customers at Charlton or decide to move on.

18 comments:

David said...

Agree with your comments and am seriously considering if I want to renew next year after almost 20 years. Yesterday's performance was dull and lacked any attacking play until about the 80th minute. If lepoint is the standard of player we can expect to be signing under Luzon we are in big trouble.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure I would bother communicating with my customers if their way of communicating with me was "**** off you ******* ****", as it was for nearly a thousand people on the CAFC facebook page a couple of weeks ago. Followed by a drunken, in you face, rant on public transport. Not to mention the bile on CL

Anonymous said...

Could not have put it better myself

Anonymous said...

First class article Dave. We chose, for the first time as long as I can remember, not to go yesterday. Like you we've become utterly sick and tired of watching dross and just don't want to go any more. We'e endured the dross in the past because of emotional connections with the manager, and most of the players. Those connections are almost gone now. On Charlton Life you can read more and more people saying the same. We'll still go when it suits us - just not sure how often that will be.

Pembury Addick

Blucher said...

Really sorry to hear that but fully understand your decision.

Even though he will stick to his guns, we do - as others have suggested - need to find some way of collectively making our strength of feeling known to Duchatelet. The collapse of FFP in the Championship has undermined his plan and concerted supporter opposition may just persuade him that his experiment is not going to succeed. What's the alternative ?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Great Sunday morning reading, enjoyed that piece very much.

It's true to say, that the last 2 games, I have not particularly cared about the result, win, lose or effing DRAW, I know that I will be deemed a heretic by some for that comment but I'm just being honest.

I'm equally discouraged by some of our own supporters, whilst I would be the first to defend anyone's opinion, the "We're Not Worthy" brigade are starting to hack me off.

I would love to think that RD will have some kind of light bulb moment and realise the folly of his model, decide to ditch all the other networks clubs and plough all his hard earned into all things Charlton, one can dream.

PH

Anonymous said...

Those comments just about echo my own. I've followed Charlton for roughly the same amount of time as yourself, through thin and thinner, but never have I felt more dejected or disillusioned with the club. I just cannot accept Duchatelet version of Charlton, this is not the club I know and love.it's got tot to the point that Duchatelet will take a mask of to reveal Simon frigging Jordan underneath.
RIP Charlton until we vanquish this idiot from our beloved club.
And while we are at it, Solly and Cousins deserve much better than this. I appreciate they're commitment while a number of others go through the motions!

Pete said...

In the words of Smashy and Nicey, "Wise words mate!". Also in their words "Here's me all time favourite of all time, it's Bachman Turner Overdrive with, YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET"

Swedeaddick said...

Brilliant post. Thank you

Anonymous said...

I wish I could encourage you to buy a season ticket next year Dave, but, sadly, I fully understand how you feel. The heart has been ripped from the club and the (red) blood is slowly dripping out, bit by bit. The only thing that might have helped would be some sound investment from RD for his new Guy, but even that seems lacking. The squad, and fan, apathy will see us perilously close to relegation (bar a miracle) this season, and that might be a time that Roland cashes in and sells us off to someone else? But will they have our interests at heart? NB I still believe that new Guy will be sacked after losing the next three games!
Pedro45

Anonymous said...

Dave, well done - you've said it all .... well, almost.
Katrien must have a very thick skin, or she must be on a great contract at the Valley. Most CEO's in any business would have walked out after the debacle at the beginning of January. She was obviously spouting forth the thoughts of Chairman Roly - only problem was she was 2 days behind him as he changed his mind (or deliberately mis-led her...). He KNEW who he was bringing in to replace Big Bob, all the rubbish about a full and open interview process was total and utter bull****.
I live out in the sticks and I do the 7 hour return journey to home games when I can afford the £100 it costs me in fares, tickets, bite to eat and couple of beers. I won't subscribe to Duchatelet's flawed idea on how to run a football club. I will still support MY club, but from a distance and without as much of the financial support that I have given to the club over the years.

I do honestly fear that the rot has set in and if Charlton get relegated they will have the devil's own job to avoid another relegation battle next season... Look at Pompey and other clubs who have got themselves into a tangled mess in the past. Our future is there for all to see - unless the Chairman stops acting as a dictator and starts listening to those around him who obviously know better than he does about British football and was is expected of players who have to get through a 50+ game season....
I despair at what is happening to OUR football club.

Dave said...

I am watching Arsenal batter Aston Villa as I catch up on these comments. Why can't we batter someone? Maybe not Vila but perhaps someone like Rotherham?

Dave said...

Also just read Patrick Collins final match report of his long career in the Mail on Sunday. Such a shame we couldn't give him a performance to be truly partisan about but he knows more than most that yesterday's showing was actually fitting - as he said, "it isn't the despair that gets to you; it's the hope."

ChicagoAddick said...

Great piece Dave. I think it talks for many thousands of us at the moment.

To those that think Standard are benefitting from all of this. Have you seen the Belgium Juplier League table?

Kings Hill Addick said...

Is it just possible that Duchatelet got lucky with Standard in his first season and is now 'managing' all his club's into lower league positions than where he started from?

The more he scrambles about trying to fix it, the worse it gets.

Anonymous said...

Been going since 1961 and at one point held 5 season tickets - it was a family affair. Great times. After the dismissal of Riga and the influx of a second round of network failures I too decided not to spend 4 hours driving to the Valley and back. I now support my club home and away on Charlton player. This isn't our club anymore. Even the Selhurst days were not as bad as this.

Anonymous said...

You may not have been looking for sympathy Dave, but you have plenty from me.

I said the same thing this time last year after the Powell sacking and the Kermogant / Stephens sales with regard to the renewal of my season ticket. An angry letter to the CEO followed venting my discontent. I was lured back in by the cheaper ticket prices, but as you say, this year things have got far, far worse, both in terms of playing performances combined with the off pitch farce.

Poor value for money in every respect, even at £150.

Samuel.

Gary said...

I had a season ticket for almost every year since the late 1970's but bailed out at the end of the 2012/13 season. I was almost tempted back with a half season ticket last year when Roly took over but how glad am I that I didn't succumb? I've only been to 2 games since - both of which we failed to win. I really want to go to the Huddersfield game later this month, not because it is Football for a Fiver but to give SCP a proper send off. I would bet my house on there being many more choruses of "Chrissy Powell's red & white army" than any show of support for Guy Luzon.

Sad times for a great club.