Sunday 29 November 2015

Charlton Athletic Nil v Ipswich Town 3

Another live TV match and another ritual embarrassment. The third there-nought humping at home so far and there is the real threat that some of these will get bigger as the season progresses and our heads drop further.

In truth, 3-0 probably flattered Town but they went for it from the off and when teams do that at the Valley we invariably capitulate. The first goal saw a game of head tennis which we just about managed to clear but when the ball was hoisted back into the mixer you knew that second-time around the visitors would have an extra spring and a determination to head home. On-nil and we were on the back-foot.

Just before half-time and with four minutes of added time being played, Ipswich broke and in a foot-race between Patrick Bauer and Freddie Sears, it was Sears who got a shot off under a blocking challenge from the German, however, all Bauer succeeded in doing was giving the ball the slightest deflection which took it home through the narrow gap between Henderson and his near post. 

After the break Ipswich were content for long periods to suck it up and with a misfiring Makienok (oh for Tony Watt) it was left to Holmes-Dennis playing left wing and Ademola Lookman to try and carve the openings in the resolute Blues back-line. No surprise to see Ipswich score a third on the break and that was that. The Covered End were singing an abusive Duchatelet  chant as I left the stadium for the comfort of the White Swan and a few pints of Darwin Origin. 

I had helped the enterprising young Joe Reid getting his '2%' leaflets out before the match so was slightly disappointed by the vaster-than-normal empty seating in the three Charlton stands. Even the North Upper had huge gaps which are normally solid. The stand-up protest in the second minute proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the malcontents number far more than 2%. By my reckoning there were a maximum of 8,000 home fans at the match, some 4,000 less than published which is a real mark of the depths we are plumbing when a third of those who have purchased tickets can't be bothered to turn-up. Live TV obviously didn't help the gate but it was a glimpse into the not-so-distant future the way things are going and makes complete mockery of the notion of a realistic Target 20,000 campaign.

The final thought from me is that the next step simply has to be an all-out boycott. Those who are still too grateful just to have got rid of the spivs are numerous and they rightly point to a number of positives under Duchatelet. However, we don't owe the owner a living and the fact that the previous pairs' plans went belly-up shouldn't mean we should be ever so 'umble for the rest of our days. I am also blatantly aware of being careful for what you wish for but I honestly would take the chance of future Administration under someone else than watch us shrivel away as is happening before our eyes at the moment. A billionaire owner is little use when his policy is to run the club at break even and when he has only a passing interest in the first team performances and results. Bringing youth players through an Academy is merely a production line for someone else when you are under pressure to sell them on to pay the bills.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Let's crank up the volume

Ipswich Town are Saturday's lunchtime visitors and, maybe more importantly, so too are the Sky cameras. A perfect chance for those of us who are disilliusioned with Roland Duchatelet's nonsensical and ambivalent approach to owning our club and exasperated by the arrogant Katrien Meire's inept running of it, to again let them know we aren't going to settle for our club being run down and made a laughing stock.

Madame Meire has dismissed the protesters as a "negative 2%." Another typical self-serving poor judgement. On Saturday we will be behind the West Stand again at Midday let her know we want her out and to give her another opportunity to re-estimate the size of the disillionment and consider her position.

The crowd will again be well disciplined and as respectful as should be expected. This time we will also sound our frustration in the second minute of the match by holding up black and white 2% flyers and chanting "Stand up for the 2%." Let's make her cringe.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Tony Watt, Played 24 Scored 7

When Standard Liege bought Tony Watt from Celtic a little over a year ago, I was excited. Excited because he had become a network player and one with a reputation for not getting on with others, thereby giving us the prospect of seeing him at some point in a red shirt. My Uncle is a huge Bhoys fan and he told me Watt was an unpolished diamond with huge potential.

Sure enough, Tony Watt made his way to SE7 last year in time to spur a revival in our fortunes and to show how just what potential he has. He was truly an exciting player and one capable of turning and winning matches. Yes, he had the playground immaturity to want to beat one player to many and his desperateness to get on the ball often saw him go out of position to seek possession. For all that, however, he was a distinct step-up from the likes of Simon Church and Reza Goochannejhad. He also promised to bring more out of Igor Vetokele.

In the 24 matches Tony Watt featured in, he scored seven and gave us some memorable moments. The bustling charge through the centre of the Huddersfield defence and his dramatic finish will live long in the memory as will his committed time-wasting as he ran the clock down against Forest. Watt was a real character and I was amazed to hear from excited Addicks that he was in McDonalds in Charlton barely fifteen minutes after a match finished and that he was happily chatting and signing autographs for all and sundry. He was an active communicator with fans and commentator about the club and other players. Not afraid to speak his mind but generally seen as supportive and positive.

After a fine start to this season where he again showed he can live with a better class of opposition (QPR and Hull), like the rest of the side, his form dipped. With little in the way of service, he was egged out of position and left having to beat three men to get into his striker position. He lost possession too often and he was dropped. He appears to have been disappointed more than most of the other players when Guy Luzon was sacked but well have also been picking up on the mood of the fans.

Irrespective, he hasn't featured in our two latest surprising wins and perhaps that has cast the die and emboldened Madame Meire to decide we can offload him to a Championship rival. She has already wagged her finger and said we are over budget. Vaz Te has come in and so Watty is taken off the wage bill. The person who told me he wouldn't play for us again on Saturday also said a fee had been agreed. That might not be the case but I doubt we will see Tony play for us again. At the grand old age of 21, I think we are making a mistake in letting him go. Reza Goochannejhad is still here, for fuck sake, and Makienok is clearly not going to weigh in with enough goals. There will be huge pressure on Vaz Te now and if he doesn't hit the mark we will be struggling again very soon.

Madame Meire really doesn't get it either does she? Already the target of the fans continuing protest, she must have known precisely the effect this casual move would have. Perhaps she has no option but again the club fail to attempt to justify the decision at the time it becomes public. It's true that the long awaited Comms Supremo won't start until February but that's no excuse. What we are left with is another huge own goal by the CEO laced with her usual slice of arrogance.

I am left eagerly awaiting the gift she offers us when she is finally forced into commenting. Her 'negative 2%' has already caught the imagination of more than 2% and I think she will be suitably embarrassed on Saturday when she has to endure another West Stand barracking pre-match and then listen to chants of "stand up for the 2%" on two minutes as decidedly more than 2% of those present make their point.

Monday 23 November 2015

Charlton Athletic In Pictures 1975-2015

Returned home this evening to my pre-ordered copy of Steve Bridge's Picturebook showing off over one hundred of his best photographs of Charlton players, fans and venues over the last 40 years. 

The dates coincide close enough with my own Charlton history, so it feels fairly personal. Many of Steve's shots are familiar already but there are still enough I haven't seen before to make it particularly worthwhile having. His hard-back print run has sold out but he's planning on a paperback follow-up if there is enough demand. Let him know directly if you are interested at 

Ironic that my snap of Steve's cover doesn't do it justice!

Saturday 21 November 2015

Birmingham 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

After surviving an opening-half barrage, Captain Johnnie Jackson rose to meet a Holmes-Dennis cross to plant a header in the Blues net and give Charlton a lead they held onto. This was another unexpected win and it lifts us out of the bottom three. Birmingham couldn't capitalise on a stream of crosses from the right in the first-half as we failed to protect Morgan Fox but Henderson played his part and the Blues fluffed everything else. Katrien Meire and Karel Fraye will both sleep easier tonight and we can all look up the table tonight.

The atmosphere should lift for next Saturday's visit of the Tractor Boys when we should get to see Vaz Te make his first appearance at the Valley in a red shirt. He came on in the second-half for Ademola Lookman who had another decent hour. A good mate is telling me that Tony Watt won't play for us again and that we are lining up his sale. I hope that's not the case but his recent absences have been a little unexplained and the arrival of Vaz Te begged a question in terms of affordability given the fact that Madame Meire has been told to balance the books. If there is any truth in this then it will be another step towards confirming the direction that the protesting Addicks believe we are being taken in.

For now,  I am just happy that we are out of the bottom three and have halted the slide towards League One.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Meire continues to call the tunes...

News from the Charlton Athletic Trust (CAST) that representative, Steve Clarke, has been given a private audience with Madame Meire and Richard Murray as a promised follow-up to the recent meeting with wider supporters groups.

It's another step in the right direction, in that there has been more dialogue, although it's hard not to be cynical about the outcome of the discussions. Seeking supporter help on Target 20,000 is welcome, as is "a group to look at strategic development" although that could mean anything and nothing. The only other step was an agreement to revamp the Fans Forum although helping Target 20,000 and dealing with "day-to-day issues as and when they occur" sounds like more of the same.

No compelling commitment to wider or more regular, more open communication on club strategy and progress (or lack of it) towards achieving it . No commitment to responding to supporter's complaints or any of the other long list of discontent.

I can hear Madame Meire telling us at some hard-pressed point in the future that "I thought we had done all this last time when we had the fan's meeting and then met the Trust."

On with the protest!

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Muddling along

A tough trip to Birmingham beckons. We have moved to strengthen our striker options (and to give Ahearne-Grant a much needed rest) by bringing in Ricardo Vaz Te on a free transfer. That now looks like a pre-emptive strike before announcing that Igor Vetokele will not be fit to return until New a Year at the earliest.

Vaz Te looks like he may have had his moment in the sun a few years ago when his scoring peaked at Barnsley. West Ham paid £1m for Riccardo but he has failed to deliver and at 29 he could be in Last Chance Saloon which we will have to hope gets the best out of him once again. We are also being linked with a variety of other lower league hopefuls, although I am treating most of those with a large dose of sodium chloride.

Karel Fraye will be feeling slightly more secure having heard Richard Murray and Katrien Meire making supportive noises about him having turned a corner after the surprise 3-0 win over woeful Wednesday. Saturday should be a good test of the turnaround before we face Ipswich, Sky TV and another fans protest. 

Katrien won't be pleased that "the negative 2%" look like gaining support for the Ipswich demo and the fact that the similarly disgruntled Leeds fans are keen to join forces in the home match that follows, to unite in condemnation of useless owners. La Meire may have difficulty estimating the size of a crowd but the latest published record of the Fans Forum, released under Freedom of Information guidelines, tells us that 3,000 Charlton ticket-holders on average don't bother turning at games they have paid for. No surprise to any of us who have been going long enough to gauge it but something of an indictment on the attractiveness of what's currently on offer in terms of entertainment. 

Katrien should really reflect on that if she is serious about another Target 20,000  programme as we are closer to Target 5,000 the way things are headed. Roland Duchatelet will be looking at the P & L and you can't spin that for too long. Like Vaz Te, she looks in Last Chance Saloon to me and really needs to acknowledge some basic mistakes and reach out to all of our supporters including the Negative 7% before it gets much bigger.

Thursday 12 November 2015

City A.M. on the money

Another fine piece from City A.M. here revealing a direct link between Tony Jiminez, Kevin Cash and Charlton Athletic - maybe for the first time?

Anyway, the pair are being sued by an unhappy US businessman, Darius Khakshouri, who leant them £1.8m in the September of 2013 in order to keep the club trading. Khakshouri's claim is based on his assertion that the pair agreed to include him in a Greenwich Peninsula property deal associated with the club developing land (we know where and what for) and that this was to be a key term of any sale of the club, which clearly it wasn't. Just why Mr Khakshouri has waited two years to get this point is unclear but the legal process isn't exactly quick. The loan was repaid but Khakshouri had sold business interests in the US on the basis of the larger opportunity he is now claiming he was denied.

What I find fascinating about this is why Kevin Cash, and Jiminez for that matter, would need to finance the club at that stage with someone else's money given their own wealth - particularly Kevin Cash. That assumes, of course, that the new ground on the peninsula was always a pipe dream and that Khakshouri might not have actually been a valuable contributor had it gone ahead. The fact that no clause was agreed with Duchatelet and that there were, presumably, a lot of major obstacles yet to clear before any possible move could have become a reality, does suggest that the motive may simply have been to play with someone else's money. The trio had all worked together previously on Jiminenez' Les Bordes golf club development....


Wednesday 11 November 2015

"It was unacceptable"

I was following the Tweets and updates from last nights select gathering of two dozen Meire-invited supporters to hear her, Richard Murray and Johnny Jackson respond to the escalating criticism and challenge of the leadership and direction our club is headed.

I had very low hopes of hearing anything remotely genuine in terms of a change of tack. Instead I expected some platitudes and a few token steps to address some of the smaller issues but that the main differences would remain and the struggle would continue to intensify as the club continues to drown.

I was staggered to hear that Madame Meire's plan was to accept zero responsibility and actually harden her stance. I cannot believe she had the temerity to suggest Saturday's protest was unrepresentative and only from those with negative attitudes! She actually said that she is expecting supporters who believe that Roland has a well founded strategy and that she is doing a brilliant job, to make their voices heard and, presumably, show more support than the protesters.

Kyle Andrew catches the specifics very well in his post on this so I won't repeat and, frankly, don't want to waste my time on.

A definition of insanity is doing the same things repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. I can't think of a more fitting description of Madame Meire at the moment. There is an argument, of course, that she will get a different outcome - a much larger and more viceriferous protest.

As we said last week, she has to go and unless he does something radically different, so does the dictatorial Duchatelet. The gloves are well and truly off now. The protesting must continue pre and post match and I will be cancelling my Valley Gold subscriptions this morning. I will also support any agreed plan of action including boycotting matches until she is gone.

Saturday 7 November 2015

Charlton Athletic 3 v Sheffield Wednesday 1

Well, well, not many will have seen that coming. Wednesday third in the form table and us bottom. Our side furthered weakened by the absence of Jordan Cousins and Tony Watt, but we bossed the match against a strangely subdued and ineffective Owls.

But first, I want to talk about the protest. My reckoning is that as many as 700 fans crowded around the main entrance behind the West Stand at 2.30pm to chant their opposition to the way the club is being run and about the incompetence of Katrien Meire's leadership. A respectful distance was maintained and the club had wisely decided not to waste money on a bouncy castle.

The chanting was predictable and sustained. Dozens crowded onto the stairwells for a birds-eye view and there were also those inside the lounges who peered down curiously. After six or seven minutes when the focus of the protest was perhaps shifting, she appeared at a window as if to taunt those below, maybe with a smile. I suspect she may have thought she was invisible behind the smoky glass but we could all see her as she took a couple of snaps on her phone. She flounced off trying to look disinterested but she can't have missed the size of the crowd or failed to hear us bellowing "you don't know what you're doing." She then appeared in the lounge below and tried to act as if nothing was happening. There weren't many there but it looked very awkward (good) from below.

To the game then and we started brightly. Injuries neccessited a reshuffle and Sarr partnered Bauer in the back four which meant Alou Diarra was moved into central midfield at the foot of a diamond with Jackson on the left, Ba on the right and Gudmundsson behind the front pairing or Rez and Mak. I honestly couldn't see us scoring with those two up top but both proved me wrong.

We started well and camped in Wednesday's half. Gudmundsson looked back to his best and tore into the Wednesday defence at every opportunity. Diarra anchored midfield and that allowed Ba to have his best game yet that I have seen. Time and again he picked up passes from Diarra and strode forward at pace into gaps in the Wednesday defence which allowed Gudmundsson, Solly and Fox to get forward and provide balls for Mak and Reza. 

After about twenty-five minutes Solly signalled to the bench and he made way for Holmes-Dennis. Young Tariq's first touched enabled him to skate into space and as he drove at the back-pedalling Owls, his attempted cross was diverted out for a corner which earned him a pat on the back from a couple of more experienced pros and you could almost see him growing in confidence. He had a solid game after that and it was from the corner he won that we opened the scoring. Johan Berg Gudmundsson whipped the ball into the six yard box and there was the Sheffield-Nemisis himself powering in at top speed to thump a header home. Johnny Jackson had a relatively quiet game but he had played his part and spurred those on all around him for the remainder of the match.

Just before half-time and without any threatened response from the visitors, Gudmundsson broke down the left and from the goal-line he picked out Simon Makienok's near-post run and the big Dane was able to sweep home from close range.

After the break and still no big response from an unusually small Wednesday side. Normally you have to be over six foot and fourteen stone with four vowels in your surname to qualify for the blue and white stripes. Then something quite amazing happened. We scored again. The persistent Fox exchange passes down the right before breaking clear and running the ball to the line and into the six yard area. Just when it looked like he might shoot, he pulled it back for Reza Goochannejhad to net from six yards and sew things up.

Wednesday did manage a consolation, after a Sarr mistake, but most of their fans had left well before the finish. The home fans were in good voice throughout and backed their side as we always do when they are playing for the shirt. None of us want to see our side lose, even if there would be a bit self-schadenfreude at the moment.

It will be interesting to see what Meire does next re Karel Fraye but she does appear to have got one message. The protesting fans sang "you can stick that effing sofa up your arse" and when I took my seat I could see they had already removed it. Small steps and all that. If only she could be a big enough person to acknowledge some mistakes, show some humility and actually communicate openly. Reports from Tuesday's select gathering should tell us more about where we go next but don't hold your breathe given her performance today.

In the meantime, flyers are cranking up the Spell it Out in Black & White campaign for the Ipswich game where we need to make our point as forcefully as possible to a wider audience.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Meire - the weakest link - [Reissued]

[This post is being reissued as Katrien Meire has paid to have negative articles about her largely cleansed from search engines - no-one should be able to control free information]

As Charlton fans prepare for their first day of protest at the Valley on Saturday at the current ownership and management shambles, I believe Katrien Meire has to become the target of our ire. She is Roland's representation in SE7 and her CV during the last two years includes the following off the top of my head and I am sure you can add more;

- sacking of Chris Powell the season after getting us out of League One
- sacking of Jose Riga after he managed to keep us up that same season
- failure to properly support Bob Peeters when his squad were clearly short of resources prior to January
- failing to tell the truth about the recruitment of Guy Luzon after being undermined by her boss and believing she could lie her way out of it
- refusal to listen to supporter groups or respond to individual fans complaints
- setting a V I P supporters meeting to coincide with a fans protest meeting in Woolwich and then refusing to answer certain direct questions
- deciding not to renew the V I P scheme on the grounds that "we don't need the money" (this when V I P members actually pay more in advance than the match-by-match value of tickets)
- that Northstand lounge pass fiasco
- false economies with Valley Express and tolerating ongoing incompetent management of the service
- cocking up the offer of compensatory food vouchers for West Stand season ticket holders turfed out of their season to accommodate gloating Bournemouth fans in our end-of season humiliation game
- condoning the cheap shot sex-on-the-pitch advertising stunt which probably brought in bugger all additional revenue (she would have said otherwise after the furore)
- closing the ticket office on Thursdays and refusing to sell tickets to fans who arrived unknowingly
- cocking up the mailing out of season tickets and trying to blame Royal Mail
- deciding to stop disabled supporters from using the main lifts in the West Stand to reach their seats on Health & Safety grounds when they really wanted to avoid them inconveniencing Vista Lounge members (it was ok for them to use the service lifts)
- sacking the incumbent programme seller third party without first ensuring an adequate replacement service
- that ridiculous sofa which makes our club look cheap and for what?
- being naive enough to slag our older fans off to foreign journalists, telling them she doesn't care about our history and belittling a complainant
- failing to back Guy Luzon with a competitive first team squad
- publicly backing Luzon a week before sacking 'our Alex Ferguson' (or failing to check with Duchebag first on his intentions)
- sacking Damian Matthew along with Luzon, after all Matthew has done for our club, without any adequate explanation
- sacking David Martane only months after appointing him without any adequate explanation
- appointing yet another Belgian nonentity
- extending the ticket office closure to Wednesdays as well as Thursdays
- now looking at options to develop the club shop for flats
- presiding over a new low point in Club-Supporter relations, which takes some doing given our history and at a time when we have the wealthiest owner in our history

What's next?

She has to go and soon.

Tuesday 3 November 2015