Saturday 28 February 2015

Charlton Athletic 3 v Huddersfield Town 0

Well, well, well.  A banana skin served up and for once avoided in style. Twenty-three thousand home fans sent home happy and perhaps thinking about a quick return to the Valley.

The win moves us into the top half of the table, just, and sets us up for Forest at home on Tuesday. I was delighted by today. My part-time Tottenham supporting brother-in-law was back with his daughter and my mother-in-law and my girls joined us too. It was great to see all of them trace Johan Berg Gudmussen's sublimely struck free-kick arc into the top-corner and all leap involuntarily from their seats to celebrate. Great too to watch a similar response when Tony Watt seized on an opportunity on the hour to steer a low pass back across goal and into the far corner. If that wasn't enough, we also saw Watt burst through the Huddersfield central defensive pairing and sweep the ball high and right into the top corner to finish the contest. Watt a day.

It all started with a thunderous ovation for Chris Powell as he made his way to the visitors dugout. Typical Powell had to stop repeatedly to acknowledge supporters he knew personally and he did it properly as you would expect from a gentleman. He took his seat to a chorus of Chris Powell's Blue and White army from the 2,000 visiting Terriers. He got a round of Chrissie Powell's red and white army after three minutes but it was more muted and an after-thought for most following the opening ovation.

Powell then had to watch as we matched his side and then out-fought and and out-thought them to win the game. I was slightly worried to see us start without either Ben Haim or Bikey in defence but Johnson and Gomez saw far less of the ball than we have been used to with TBH and Bikey. What they had to do, they did comfortably enough but, for once, we took the play to our hosts. I am tempted to say we dominated possession. It certainly seemed like that but the stats say it was 50/50. That may feel like domination based upon our play so far this season. We certainly carried more goal-scoring threat and might have had a couple more with a tad more luck. Bar a superb one-handed reflex save mid-way through the second-half, Stephan Henderson wasn't really under any pressure. 

It really was a great day at the Valley for a change and if we owe that to Guy Luzon, then I am grateful. I bumped into my old mate John Hind before the match and he told me he hadn't been for ten years years as he introduced me to his son. We were home and away regulars for twenty years prior to that. Also bumped into stalwart Dave Walker during a pit-stop in the first-half and he complimented me on this blog - which was good to hear.

All-in-all a cracking day. The Royal Oak was buzzing this evening and the feel-good factor remains alive. Let's hope it continues this month and we secure our position in the top-half of the table. That may just give Roland Duchatelet food-for-thought about what might be possible given some consistency and commitment.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Luzon on the March

No, I don't mean he's been given his orders just yet. 

I've been looking at the fixtures between now and the end of the season and I reckon we need to do our business in March because things are likely to be much harder in April.

Four of the next six are at the Valley and the opposition looks largely beatable;

Huddersfield (H) Sat 28th Feb - emotion and a full-house aside, we should be up for this if the two recent 3-0's weren't flash-in-the-pans.

Forest (H) Tues 3rd March - rallying now that Physcho has moved on but eminently beatable under the floodlights at the Valley - safely mid-table after their fourth win under Freedman.

Cardiff City (A) Sat 7th March - Cardiff may want this more than us by then but we have a decent record there and they are also safely in mid-table.

Blackburn (H) Sat 14th March - we owe them for the F A Cup hour exit and they are another mid-table side whose season is over.

Blackpool (A) Tues 17th March - going down and we could effectively relegate them by mid-March.

Reading (H) Sat 21st March - scrapping above us but likely to be mid-table by then and we beat them at their place.

April sees us having to go to Millwall, Wednesday, Bolton and Birmingham with only home games against Fulham and Leeds.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Derby County 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

Highly predictable defeat to the league leaders at their place last night. I was working late and was following the match on the train home from Cannon Street. It was two-nil and all over by the time I reached Charlton. 

I gave up when I got home and was pleasantly surprised to see that we didn't ship any more goals. It looked to me like Cousins may have been rested ahead of Huddersfield, although perhaps he has a knock because Luzon may have taken the opportunity to rest a few more had that been the reason.

The unusual selection was Lawrie Wilson in central-midfield when there were other more obvious options. Perhaps Guy thinks he's seen something no-one else has in Wilson although having been subbed at half-time I suspect it's an experiment he won't be repeating. Laura can't be high on confidence right now and neither can Christophe Lepoint who had to watch Alou Diarra make his debut in Wilson's place.

The good news was that those below us didn't fare a lot better and Blackpool and Millwall were both well-beaten. Millwall went down 3-1 at home by Sheffield Wednesday and Ian Holloway will need all of his powers of motivation to get them up for a very difficult looking trip to Rotherham on Saturday. If they lose there they will fall six points adrift of their opponents and at least five away from Fulham if they also fail to win. Pressure indeed and I can see a large lady in her dressing room preparing for the stage.

Monday 23 February 2015

Test for Luzon

After two successive 3-0 victories, Guy Luzon takes the side up the M1 tomorrow for a testing league encounter with table-toppers Derby County. The result and how we play will be a good pointer to just how far Luzon may have been able to influence the team since taking charge.

Interestingly, both of Luzon's wins have followed a similar pattern as under Peeters, in that we have won in spite of conceding a lion-share of play. Against both Brentford and Wigan we managed only 36% possession. We need to find a way to get more control in central midfield if we are to make winning matches more sustainable. That may be the primary factor behind recent loan signings of Chris Eagles and Alou Diarra. Eagles may be a winger primarily and Diarra signed as cover for Johnnie Jackson but both may play a role in helping us get more of a grip in the remaining games of the season. Diarra's arrival may also incentivise Yoni Buyens who suddenly looks largely disinterested.

Derby will be hot favourites tomorrow night to repeat their early-season home win against us which ended our interest in the League Cup. I'd probably take another 1-0 defeat now but Guy Luzon may have other ideas. It would be great to be going unbeaten-in-three into the home match against the Terriers in front of 23 or 24,000 fans.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Wigan Athletic 0 v Charlton Athletic 3

A second successive victory for Guy Luzon's side and an important one as it pushed Wigan nearer to the trap-door and effectively leaves just one League One placing up for grabs. More importantly for us it propels us into the top-half of the table and we are once again looking up, not down.

The win looks like a return to our early season form. Wigan battered us from the outside with Marc Antione-Fortune looking likely to score but he was denied by Henderson and before they knew it, Frederick Bulot skated in from the left flank and emboldened by his strike last Saturday, he beat Al-Habsi with a shot across goal. It looked like a terrible goal-keeping error but if you don't shoot, you don't score. Having lit the blue touch paper, it was a case of who would score next.

Wigan lost Leon Clarke after a lengthy delay but after the re-start and with the clock into Leon time, Bulot floated a cross in from the left and Igor Vetokele out-jumped and out-muscled three Wigan defenders to make it his and to get enough on it to head in. He really is back to his best and it's heartening to see.

I fell asleep during the second-half - long week and two glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon = but stirred in time to hear Chris Eagles introduced for his debut and within minutes he had iced the cake. 

All-of-a-sudden, the games can't come quick enough for Guy Luzon and he will be delighted that we play again on Tuesday although Derby will be a different proposition on their patch. It's a free-hit so we should give it a go. Resting players like we did at Boro is probably not a good idea. having said that, next Saturday's home game against Huddersfield in front of a bumper £5 gate should be a compelling affair with Chris Powell retuning to the Valley since his sacking for standing his ground against Roland Duchatelet. I am confident Powell will receive a thunderous ovation from the home supporters when he walks proudly to his dugout but three points will be all that we focus on after that as we aim to tidy this season up and restore some self-respect.

Finally, credit to the 500 who made the long and awkward trip to Wigan last night - wins on the road have been few and far between so you deserved this one.

Friday 20 February 2015

Back to football

Following the off-field drama this week, it's back to business this evening as we go in search of our first win at Wigan.

The Latics were in action on Tuesday managing a 1-0 win at Reading so will be semi-confident about winning their first home match since August. Guy Luzon will want to demonstrate that our siege-breaking win wasn't down to self-preservation and that that it was more to do with him getting his ideas across to the players as indicated by Johnnie Jackson at Tuesday's VIP Q & A.

A second successive victory would haul us up the table and into a heady 12th temporarily. The Bookies don't fancy us much and are offering 3-1 against and almost as much on the draw. 

Roland funded the loan arrival of Chris Eagles this week. Eagles turned us down a couple of years back in favour of Bolton and at 30 he is looking to eke out his career to the highest bidder. My guess is he will be gone come May but let's hope he weighs in with some assists and maybe a goal or two to help the Championship cause.

This evenings game is the first of three away trips to the bottom three and we must be looking to get more points than we concede from those games given the nature of the damage losing any of them will do...

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Disillusioned Charlton fans out in force

My best guess is between four and five hundred Charlton fans gathered in Woolwich this evening in the very unimpressive and freezing Woolwich Grand Theatre building to discuss the current state of affairs affecting our beloved football club.

The meeting ran for two hours without a stop and there was plenty of open, democratic, respectful and inclusive dialogue. Personally I would have liked to have seen a more focused and less democratic style but I am probably in a minority on that and you can't argue with how it was run. Clearly a lot of time and effort was put into organising this and running live Twitter feeds and comments etc for the benefit of an even wider audience. Plenty of filming and pictures too and I believe BBC London will be running a piece on it. 

The evening began with some pre-planned speeches from a variety of speakers. Jeff Doyle from the Essex Supporters Club, Rick Everitt, someone representing the Into The Valley message board, Craig Sloman from CAST and Steve Dixon. I won't attempt to report what each said but the themes were fairly similar and summarised much of the most recent discontentment about the strategic direction of our club, the failure of the owner to communicate with the supporters or of his appointed CEO to enter any meaningful dialogue and the overwhelming anecdotal evidence of supporters feeling that their emotional bond with the club is being broken. Rick Everitt was bang on the money as usual and captured the mood. Steve Dixon was brief and summarised the issue as a choice between wanting to support a smaller independent London club like we always have done or to be happier following a European Network of clubs who pool resources. I think that's a fair question but it misses the complexity of an owner whose stated model is to break even and who is primarily interested in the collective value of his stable not the specific performance or ambitions of any one of those clubs.

After that we had an open mic and supporters gave a wide range of views which largely covered the same ground and aired the same fears about the Network model and fact that the evidence of the first 12 months would suggest there is no coherent strategy beyond churning managers, giving European network players airtime in the English game and managing costs down to support the aim of breaking even. There were several "be careful what you wish for" messages and some who weren't sure whether they should be concerned or not.

What was very clear from the meeting is that the average age of those present was considerably higher than any of the previous meetings like this I have attended over the last forty years. The demographic of our fan base is worryingly high - take a good look around you next time you are at the Valley. However, it seemed even higher this evening and at 51 I didn't feel old. Whatever happened to all those Junior Reds? I suppose seven years of mainly dross (apart from a triumphant exit from League One) has curbed their enthusiasm and we have long since lost all the Premier League Glory Boys. Whatever, it should be a serious concern from the clubs owners about the need to genuinely engage with their supporters across the ages and I do not mean just one fifteen year old.

The last part of the meeting focused on ideas from fans about what action might be taken and that was a little disappointing if I am honest. What is still crystal clear is the vast majority of those present still want a meaningful dialogue rather than direct action now - there was a near unanimous show of hands on this. Some of the ideas seemed a bit late or naive. The point was made several times that we should appeal to Richard Murray's better nature. I get the sentiment but Murray is on the main Board and it's pretty clear he isn't going to sellout on Roland anytime soon. He made that point at the VIP meeting yesterday. We all want meaningful dialogue and I suspect the first key action from the session will be another attempt. Sorry, but 500 people trekked down to Woolwich on a Wednesday evening precisely because we aren't getting any meaningful communications and Katrien Meire was adamant last night that she isn't entertaining any dialogue or dissention. She's quite happy with a club-controlled Fans Forum which isn't truly representative and which is mainly limited to addressing hygiene factors, which are right in Meire's comfort zone. 

It would have been more helpful if a number of specific actions had been drawn up as a starter for ten that we could have added to and then taken a show of hands against those. In any event, I am sure we will get there but it may take more time and might mean we have to go around the houses once more before we show our yellow teeth. On a personal level, as I have already said, I will not be renewing my season ticket on principle and I will decide what other action I can take or support as we move forward and see what Roland does next.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Let battle commence

A possibly historic week in prospect as battle commences for the hearts and minds between the Board and disenchanted Charlton Athletic fans.

Following the decision by the Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust to call an open meeting at the Woolwich Theatre (Flamingo's) tomorrow evening at 7.30pm to decide upon a plan of action to address growing concerns about owner Roland Duchatelet's increasingly unsuccessful "network" model, Katrien Meire hastily organised the long awaited annual VIP Supporters Q & A for this evening.

Katrien Meire has already demonstrated very clearly just how naive she thinks Charlton fans are. I won't go into 'Liargate' all over again but she got that all wrong and my guess is her attempt to woo VIP's will also backfire badly. I note that poor old Richard is also being wheeled out again to provide some continuity to the pre-Duchatelet era and, presumably, some protection for the vulnerable Meire. I have been a huge fan of Richard Murray but his legacy as a plain talking honest owner who did the best he could, continues to be tarnished by his ongoing silence and subservience to Duchatelet. They may have played a safe card with Murray but are they sure about putting Guy Luzon in front of supporters? He hasn't covered himself in glory so far when asked to speak publicly.

Katrien also had a wheeze of an idea in terms of inviting a 15 year-old boy to the club as a follow-up to his email/letter of concern about the club. Presumably she was sufficiently satisfied that the lad was nothing like me at 15 years old and she had the meeting edited and put on the Pravda site. She might have been better served replying to the pile of emails and letters from disgruntled paying customers which appear to be ending up in the round file on the floor. I might be being harsh there and should cut her a bit of slack as there are so few staff left at the Valley it must be all hands to the pumps.

The club are also filming the VIP meeting and say they will put the video on the Club site tomorrow morning.  I am guessing she is feeling pretty pleased with how she perceives this will be received by supporters but I think she is again displaying the nativity of someone who doesn't understand English football (any football?) and who genuinely questioned why the Club wasn't marketing itself in South-West London. 

I ought to balance this piece by saying there are still a vocal minority who are quite happy with Roland Duchatelet. They acknowledge that he has safeguarded the club from what looked like imminent Administration and he has, undoubtedly, made further investments in maintaining the stadium and a bold effort with pricing in order to retain season ticket numbers. These people are also largely unconcerned whether Duchatelet shares his inner thinkings or not and see it as his prerogative as owner to do as he likes. Those people are entitled to their opinion, although my view is they will defect sooner or later if we continue to be mismanaged as a club.

I am not a 5-year VIP season ticket holder so won't be there in person this evening but I am a season ticket holder of 37 years and will be in Woolwich tomorrow night to show my disenchantment with Roland's Network and to support where I can, any action endorsed by the supporters present.

Unless Roland Duchatelet comes to the table and can convince me he has a well thought out plan for our club which involves some form of ambition as part of a coherent strategy, then I am afraid that he has to be moved on and it's only the paying customers who can do that. I am guessing that won't be easy and there are no silver bullets but Charlton Athletic Football Club deserves better and so do our long-suffering supporters.

Monday 16 February 2015

Scotland 23 v Wales 26

A great day out in Edinburgh yesterday. A full house at Murrayfield and a fantastic match. Flights on time and the new tram works brilliantly well taking you from the airport to the top of Princes Street via Murrayfield Station in 30 minutes.

Lunch at the Cafe Royal, my favourite pub in Edinburgh and the tram back to Murrayfield where 10,000 fans were enjoying pre-match festivities inside the turnstiles. We saw both teams arriving and eventually got to the action after the national anthems. 

The match didn't disappoint either with Scotland far more competitive than in recent years both in the forwards and the backs. We had the superb sight of Stuart Hogg hitting top gear and rocketing down the wing and around the Welsh defence to give Scotland some early game momentum. Wales came back onto the match courtesy of more unnecessary Scottish infringement. This is probably the last thing that we need to improve to become winners rather than also-rans.

Wales took the lead after Finn Russell was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle and from then on Scotland were chasing the game. Scotland finished the first-half on the Welsh line where several minutes of desperate Welsh defence prevented a blue score.

As the game wore on Wales score another try which opened a ten point gap and threatened to finish the match off but Scotland rallied and a late surge saw them score another try after more heavy pressure on the Wales line but it was all too late and Wales held on for a win they just about deserved. 

Saturday 14 February 2015

Charlton Athletic 3 v Brentford 0

Well, first thing's first, how good was it to see a committed team performance for 90 minutes this afternoon? I don't know what's happened since Tuesday but either Guy Luzon has managed to focus his charges, or else self-preservation has kicked in. I'm inclined to think the latter but hope it's the former as that might be more sustainable and justifiable given what's gone on at our club over the last couple of months.

Secondly, it was great to see our first win in a hundred days, my third win of the season and my wife's first win. Our first win of 2015 and our biggest victory of the season. All achieved against promotion hopeful Brentford, who were made to look very ordinary.

For the first time since signing him six weeks ago, Tony Watt started with Igor Vetokele and we carried a real attacking threat from the off. The pair of them work well together and it was Watt who teed Vetokele up for the crucial second goal.

After some woeful performances recently, Frederick Bulot put in a shift today and was a thorn in Brentford's side. With Gudmundsson busy on the other flank, Brentford had to sit much deeper than many an opponent this season. Whilst Pritchard and Douglas saw plenty of midfield ball, they were unable to get the space or positioning to hurt us at the back.

The only surprise in our line-up was Bikey returning to the bench and Roger Johnson getting his first start alongside Ben Haim. We were so relatively untroubled in the first-half that it was hard to pass judgement on Johnson but he came more into the game in the second and played his part in defending the clean sheet.

The performance was all the more impressive because we lost both Rhoys Wiggins and Captain Jackson in the first-half. If you were going to lose two players, then probably none better as Morgan Fox and Yoni Buyens slotted in quickly.

Tony Watt had our first chance when he picked up a ball in the box after Wiggins had fed Bulot and he had cut-back for the big Scot. Watt had a full second to pick his shot and it took a smart one handed save low to his left by David Button to turn it around the post. Our opening came early enough and it was from a smart counter-attack which ended with Gudmundsson curling a left foot shot beyond the stranded Button.

After the break I expected more from Brentford but we didn't really see and around the hour mark a long ball out left from Henderson was picked up by either Bulot or Cousins who tore forward with Watt and Vetokele in support. Watt duly collected the pass and drew a defender to give Igor a yard more space before teeing him up for a low pass home.

Two-nil and we looked home and dry. Brentford did commit more men forward and tried everything, including a triple substitution but we weren't yielding. At the death a long punt from Henderson dropped beyond the Bees high backline and Bulot was steaming in from the left flank. He took the ball in his stride and ran on before beating Button across the goal.

Happy times, no booing and 12,000 home fans sent home smiling for once. More please.

I am left hoping Scotland can match Charlton's performance tomorrow and beat favoured Wales at Murrayfield tomorrow.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Charlton Athletic 2 v Norwich City 3

And again. Another poor, disjointed performance and another failure to win. Don't be fooled by the two goal comeback, we weren't in this and a point would have been as much a travesty of justice as the three we stole at Carrow Road.

For the life of me, I don't understand why Luzon won't start Watt and Vetokele. They are the glaringly obvious choice but again this evening they weren't paired until the second-half when we were two down. Instead we had to suffer a Bulot impersonation of a striker, which is as unconvincing as when Callum Harriott tries it. You can argue Watt isn't fit enough yet, but why not start him and sub him, rather than start someone else and have to bring him on hoping to turn a game?

The rest of the side was as expected with the rested players all returning. We simply weren't in the game during the first-half. I am pretty sure our efforts on target were nil as were our chances. Norwich strolled into the lead and it could have been three of four before tea.

Watt started the second-half and took ten minutes to settle but then he combined with Harriott whose return pass he took in his stride as he drifted past the last defender and slotted under Ruddy. The silent and tormented home fans were suddenly awake. Seven minutes later and another Addick attack with men committed saw Vetokele get to fire home from a rebound to give us a very unlikely looking parity. It served to shut the noisy visitors up whose predictable series of taunting songs about the Library and how our ground's too big for us were growing tiresome.

We didn't seize the momentum and from then on it was a case of whether or not Norwich had enough heart to go for the win. They weren't overly convincing but with seven minutes left a freak left wing ball into the box evaded everyone and beat the diminutive Dmitrovic. All over.

It's hard to know how we are going to break this cycle. There isn't enough collective fight in the team and not enough quality across the pitch to win matches. We don't play with any sustained pace and look like we have very little belief. Sorry to say but most of the players don't looked overly bothered either by going behind. Both sets of fans sang "you're getting sacked in the morning" to Luzon at 0-2 and his record is now won none, drawn two and lost three (yes, I am counting the humping at Watford). I have lost count how many since a win, but it's a third of the season or thereabouts.

A look at the table this evening is even more alarming. We are now down to 20th and just three points above Millwall with a visit to the Den yet to come. They have been getting spanked on and off all season and yet our goal difference is now only six better. 

It's hard not to look at the final fixture of the season and foresee a Doomsday scenario where Bournemouth win the title and we are relegated. I think you all know what else I am going to say about how that cake gets iced.

I will be there on 18th at the old Flaming Joe's because we have to do something. I am not expecting it will change a single performance or cause the Master of Chateau Duchatelet to lose any sleep, but I will feel better knowing I am not being taken for a mug and that I am doing whatever I can to support the message that we aren't going to simply sit and watch him experiment with our club's future as if part of a big gambling ploy at the casino.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Double loss once again as 6 Nations opens

I spent Friday evening and all yesterday afternoon watching the opening 6 Nations. A great taster for my first match next Sunday at Murrayfield where, predictably, I will go looking for Scotland's first points of the tournament. The rugby this weekend was decent fare and once again a reminder just how exciting competitive sport can be.

That meant I didn't bother once again searching fruitlessly for internet feeds or following our efforts online in the frozen waste at the home of the Smog Monsters. My wife told me it was ten past three we were one down just as Italy cut the deficit temporarily against tournament favourites Ireland.  Before I set out to walk the dog between the two big rugby matches, I was informed via my wife's Facebook (a first) that we had managed an equaliser from the eagle-eyed John Berg Gudmundssen. As I passed the Royal Oak, Charlton Kevin shouted across the road that it was 1-1 and we both agreed it wouldn't last long. As I headed up Pound Park Road and before I made Maryon Wilson Park we were 2-1 down. 

The third was a matter of time and I guess no-one expected much more. My thoughts were with the diehard 250 who had made the trip only to be disappointed once again. From Chris Powell's Flat Cap, it was disheartening to read a fuller match report which tells of a continuing lack of heart amongst the side.

When I heard the line-up, it seemed clear to me that Luzon was resting Wiggins, Bikey and Vetokele for a more winnable match at home. Fox, Onyewu and Church came into the side to maintain a 4-4-2 formation that was probably hopelessly ambitious in the circumstances. However, we need to gamble because single points are no longer good enough. We are rock bottom of the form league and without a win in fourteen games. 

We don't need a recruiting Sergeant for the CAST's open meeting for supporters at the Woolwich Grand Theatre (Flamingo's, next to the Town Hall) on Wednesday 18th February at 7.30pm. Down to 19th in the table and with seventh placed Norwich visiting on Tuesday, we have to put our best eleven players on the field and go for it. There should be no room for any substandard performances. If we don't get a win this month, we are going to go in March looking to move into a relegation space and that could spell the end of of most recent stay in the Championship. A second visit to League One would look to confirm our yo-yo status once more, only with League One providing the back-drop as opposed to the Championship as was the case 15 years ago. Sorry, but after the serious warning we got last season, the relative size of our club and the wealth of our owner, that would be unforgivable for me.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Roland ploughs on

Good news, that the Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust have cast the first stone in response to my question yesterday! Their call for an open public meeting to discuss what frustrated supporters can do to try and make some fundamental points with our non-communicative owner and CEO, is hugely welcome. I will be giving it as much support as I can.

I suggested yesterday that this wasn't, perhaps, a fight for CAST, but in their announcement, they made it very clear that Katrien Meire had refused a request for further dialogue about the growing unrest but instead offered to get a lackey to discuss anything they proposed around increasing the fan-base. Not sure whether that was an ironic suggestion on the CEO's part or another unfortunate miscommunication. Anyway, finally something is moving.

The hot news from today is that Roland Duchatelet is clearly undeterred by any impact of Financial Fair Play implementation being delayed by legal challenges, because he appears set to make a bid for French club Lens as a Network addition. I suppose the larger the Network gets the greater the choice of replacement although at some point the favours are likely to be called in when we can afford to "help" other clubs. The over-riding fact is he is ploughing on with this nonsense undeterred.

Finally, I learn that Roger Johnson is known in the Midlands as "Relegation Roger" for his previous failures at several other clubs and they are suggesting we are just the latest. I will judge based on what I see and I am hoping he won't figure if Bikey and Ben Haim stay fit and just as long as he hasn't been signed to enable Ben Haim to escape the clutches of Guy Luzon.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

So, who will cast the first stone?

Relationships between the owner of Charlton Athletic FC and his paying Customers is at all time low in modern history. Journalists, Bloggers, Messageboards and day-to-day conversations are increasingly negative.

It appears evident, not only that Roland Duchatelet is unconcerned, but he is going to persevere using his Network model to run his clubs with least cost and convenience favoured over best value and good management practice. His decision on Monday to reappoint Jose Riga as manager at SL was hard to understand. Us Charlton fans are largely supportive of Riga based on his cameo and relegation avoiding stint at The Valley, but why wasn't he good enough to carry the job in the Summer if he's good enough for the top Network job?

The token addition of 32 year old Roger Johnson to our defence on deadline line has also amused as many as it has disappointed those of us who know precisely where the teams shortfalls currently lie and has lead to even more criticism.

There is still a vocal lobby of eternal optimists and those who accept completely that the owner can do whatever he likes with his football club and that us mere supporters, without whom there would quickly be no club, would do well to join their Uriah Heap impersonations.

What's for sure is that there will be consequences. I said at the top if this post that things are currently the worst they have been in modern times. The levels of disatisfaction and anger aimed at the Glikstens (Michael in particular) was more pointed and direct. The common argument at the time was that the family had bled Charlton dry over the decades and this contrasted badly with the parlous state Michael left us in with the club a shrunken image of it's previous pre and post war glories. The "Glikstens out" protests raged during and after matches and there was an angry mob baying for blood behind the West Stand on occasion.

The whole Back to the Valley campaign wasn't driven by any anti-ownership feeling but by the single issue of saving our club from slow death away from SE7, although the strength of feeling and conviction of the fans to do something has never been rivalled.

So, I am left wondering when the disaffected will make a stand. Some are calling for the Supporters Trust to pick up the cudgel but I think that unlikely. They exist, ultimately, to represent the supporters at large when interacting with the Club and to safeguard the existence of the club. Whilst there are still Uriah Heaps and the owner is minted, the Trust won't be burning bridges.

On the basis that dialogue won't work, we need a strategic plan of independent action to get under Roly's skin and encourage him to sell us on. Perhaps it will take relegation to ignite the fans but there will be several thousand less by then who give a toss. I wonder what the "Royal Oak" group are up to - they have been unusually quiet?

Monday 2 February 2015

Guess the sequence...

We are in a right mess, I think we all know that. Looking at the next critical five games I am really worried that we might actually witness the full car crash with the worst of consequences. My take is we will do well to take four points from the fifteen on offer and that will put us in the relegation sink. Trouble is, I can't see a win...

Middlesbrough (a) 3rd - Lost
Norwich (h) 8th - Draw
Brentford (h) 5th - Lost
Wigan (a) 23rd - Draw
Derby (a) 2nd - Lost

Guesses on an email....

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.