Friday, 24 November 2017

Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust AGM

I attended the CAS Trust (CAST) AGM last night and it proved to be a very worthwhile and interesting use of 90 minutes. Chair, Richard Wiseman,  opened the meeting by quoting from Richard Redden's 'the history of Charlton Athletic' and a similar meeting in the same location (The Bugle) in 1913. If you know, your history.......

The business of the AGM reminded those present of the rationale for the Supports Trust and it's link to other Trust organisations via the umbrella group, Supporters Direct. Richard spoke about the constitution and the key operational facts before giving a review of what the Trust have done through the last 12 months. It was a useful reminder of the campaigning the Trust have done on behalf of supporters over various issues, which largely involved formally raising various questions and complaints with the club and other bodies.

What stuck out, for me, was the number of times the Trust did not even receive the courtesy of a reply. I remember the Trust writing to Russell Slade seeking an apology from Roger Johnson for abusing supporters at Bury. That wouldn't have taken more than ten minutes but Slade didn't see fit to do even that and his subsequent comment that "Roger apologised to me" wasn't good enough on a number of fronts. 

The Club itself still refuses strategic dialogue with CAST, although they do tick the EFL regulations box by holding a Fan's Forum four times a year at which CAST have a seat. The output from those sessions is, sadly, limited to routine domestics which don't trouble Katrien Meire or her team to share any information or insight which supporters might find genuinely useful or engaging. The Supporters Trust has a bit over 1,000 paid-up members (it's only a fiver a year), all of whom should be entitled to a bit more respect. Members receive a weekly email bulletin from the Trust which is a handy catch-up and reminder of all the key things going on in an around the club. 

Membership also entitles attendance at the AGM an other periodic Trust events. After the business of the meeting was done with last night, we had an open session with Steve Avory, Director of the highly successful and much-envied Charlton Athletic Academy. I have never heard Steve speak so it was a very pleasant surprise to listen to his dulcet northern tones. What came through very strongly was his absolute dedication to coaching and development of youngsters. In the mood of Lennie Lawrence, we was formerly a PE teacher (at Hurstmere amongst other schools). He has an authoritative but engaging tone and he couldn't have been clearer or more convincing in the answers he gave to questions thrown at him. He knows exactly what he wants from his staff and players and he was clear about the standards expected from everyone. 

It was touching to hear him speak with so much evident pride in the success that Joe Gomez is currently enjoying. He regretted not being able to get to Wembley to see Joe make his sparkling England debut, despite being offered tickets, because he was down in the west country with a Charlton side in a cup competition - typical of what you would expect from him. We got a good insight to a whole range of questions and some good anecdotes about Scott Parker, Diego Poyet, Jonjo Shelvey, Callum Harriott, Regan Charles-Cook, Karlan Ahearne-Grant and a number of others in between - Steve spotted Jonjo Shelvey watching a session at the training ground recently during the international break which shows the sort of impression it's made on so many.

Steve was also clear about the ongoing upgrade of the facilities at Sparrows Lane. Things are much improved under Duchatelet and the two full-size 4G pitches make a massive difference to the "60 by 35 yard" ones that the likes of Diego Poyet trained on.  He was complimentary too about Karl Robinson and made the point that he has a really good working relationship with him and that he believes Karl listens closely to his advice and invariably follows it when it comes to emerging players.

All that over a few pints - can't be bad. Anyway, as a plug for the Trust;

or by cheque to CASTrust , 83 Heathwood Gardens, SE7 8ET.

or you can make a direct payment to: Charlton Supporters Society:  08-92-99  a/c 65612954  (reference your name)

Alternatively, you can renew at our stall behind the North Stand before home games - they have stall which operates for 45 minutes up to 15 minutes before kick-off.