Friday 29 April 2016

Leeds? Leeds? Leeds?

My fellow Blogger, Blackheath Addick, posed the question this week, "has there been a more irrelevant game in our club history?" It's a good question and when I considered it for a moment, I have to say there probably hasn't been. I decided last year that I wouldn't be wasting any more time, money and ultimate disappointment travelling away for the rest of this season and I haven't been disappointed by that decision - not even the enormous scalp at Brentford. So, no chance of me being amongst the 175 or so Charlton fans who make the trip. I booked a camping weekend down in darkest Kent months ago and am looking forward to it.

Burnley? I really can't be bothered and I don't want to be there for a second season to have my nose rubbed in it but a side celebrating promotion and winning the Championship title with ease at the Valley. However, I have a colleague at work who has met me for a few pre and post-match beers on the last couple of Burnley visits and he has asked, very graciously, if there's any chance I can get him three tickets for the match. On that basis, I will suffer it and I will join in the protests. I will also take the time to hurl my season ticket back at an appropriate moment.

The player exodus will begin immediately after the Burnley match, and the game we should all be playing is, "who stays" rather than "who goes?" I have reviewed this in some depth and having made my considered assessment, I have come to the realisation that the nucleus of the side for August will be all the crud on longer terms contracts who no-one else would touch with a bargepole, certainly wouldn't pay a fee for and, who might actually find League One closer to their level.

My hunch is that Meire will stay on, either because Duchatelet is selling up and won't concede failure before he announces he's cut his losses or because he decides to trade his way out of a huge loss through stubbornness (could get very expensive Roland) and continues to believe he can prove everyone else wrong, in which chase, Meire as Chief Exec will remain part of the same ambition. If this proves to be the case, I believe another relegation could come before the next promotion.

Personally, as I have said many times before, I won't be renewing my season ticket until they have gone (first time in 39 years) and I will go match-to-match but in the knowledge that I am likely to attend only a handful of matches and may well find myself happier at Welling or Blackheath. In summary then, for me Leeds on Saturday is the most irrelevant match in our history but it's likely to be surpassed next season unless there is a change of ownership and control.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Hillsborough 96 Unlawfully Killed

It was three and a half years ago that we got the first revelations that the Liverpool fans were telling the truth and the authorities, particularly the Police, had lied about Hillsborough all those years ago (27 years now).

I wrote a piece about it at the time and said it would take "another few years" before we got justice. Well, we finally got a verdict from the longest running public inquest in history that those who died were unlawfully killed.

We can now look forward to some of those responsible for contributing to the unfolding tragedy being brought to book and for others to be found guilty of the more serious crime of perverting the course of justice. No right-minded person likes to see individuals prosecuted or persecuted for doing their jobs badly and certainly not for the unseen consequences of a disaster on the sale of Hillsborough, However, there were people in authority who tried to cover up their actions, and worse, actually blame the supporters themselves, including those who suffocated to death for causing the tragedy. A stain on the characters of the dead and others who suffered directly and indirectly as a consequence.

It's only right that the families of the 96 have justice tonight and that those still alive may yet live to see those responsible for the 27 year delay in getting that justice, pay a price for it.

Saturday 23 April 2016

Huge respect to the Seagulls

Beaten 3-1 today in a game which was always going to be more about protests than football. CARD-lead Charlton fans threw the kitchen sink at it today. Another massive march from the Lib wound it's way down Floyd Road and Harvey Gardens before the game with hundreds of placards and a ten-foot spherical Roland-head.

Once the game kicked off thousands of balloons were soon airborne and a volley of 1500 beach balls stopped the game for seven or eight minutes. Brighton scored within a minute of the restart which was fitting in the circumstances. As the protests continued from the home stands, we were treated to a rousing chorus from 3200 Seagull fans in the Jimmy Seed of, "we're Brighton and Hove Albion, we want Roland out." It was a refrain used several times as well as "we're Brighton and Hove Albion, we never forget." That was a direct reference to the support Charlton fans showed for Brighton in their darkest hour under Archer when they were forced to play away from their home town. 

Towards the end of the second half, after a further beach ball induced stoppage, fifty Charlton fans suddenly appeared in front of the Directors box and took the fight directly to Katrien Meire who was promptly escorted backstage. This is what it's come to Katrien and it will only get worse. 

After the match, twenty or more Brighton fans joined us in the Royal Oak for a post-match drink and we wish them all the best in their bid for promotion.

In terms of the match, I have to say that Brighton didn't really look like promotion challengers. Their team is unremarkable in terms of names (I am being harsh), although they are clearly the sum of their parts and I will be urging them on to pip Boro or Burnley to automatic promotion. Let's hope we can reward them by stopping Burnley in a fortnight's time. That would be fitting and would really give us something to smile about at the end of an horrendus season. Go Brighton!

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Bolton Wanderers 0 (R) v Charlton Athletic Nil (R)

Inevitable relegation confirmed this evening at fellow droppers Bolton. A dire match devoid of quality which should be hugely troubling for both clubs, neither of whom look like candidates for automatic returns to the Championship as things stand. The players should have put up a better fight this evening for the 200 plus who made the trip but I am not at all surprised we spluttered to scrape a draw. Most of our players will already either have an eye on moving to improve their prospects or know that they will be cut loose to continue the charge to break even on significantly lower revenues.

Bolton are in collossal debt and Charlton in organisational chaos and increasing debt. Hard to see what Bolton can do other than survive on a shoestring or face Administration. Charlton are still salvageable but it needs to be quick and we need to find the right owners.

Felicity Waller, Head of Commercial, won't be here either to help the cost cutting to balance the books. It transpires she, too, like Mel Baroni has resigned after a short tenure. What on earth is going on behind the scenes, I wonder? High time the Shareholder took a long, hard look at the state of his investment. It's all going south Roland - your under-investment and misjudgement of the Championship have cost us our status and your Chief Executive has alienated the Customer-base to such an extent that they aren't buying match programmes, hospitality, food or drink. They will be avoiding your new team shirt and are giving up their season tickets or delaying their purchases in their thousands.

Time to go Roland and Katrien, time to go.

Monday 18 April 2016

Charlton Athletic Nil v Derby County 1

Posting late after a busy weekend. A mate and I joined the Upbeats Walk on Saturday and along with well over 100 others we took a nine mile pre-match scenic route from Sparrows Lane to the Valley. I was pleased to see some familiar faces on the walk and not just the former players who joined us. Amazing how quickly the three and half hours flew by as we shared the troubles of this season and contemplated what the close season holds for our favourite football club.

After a quick post-walk pint in the Rose we went on to the Oak to meet a few more friends before the game. It was there that another Charlton regular was spitting feathers at having been been told "you know what you can do if you don't like it" by a ticket office employee after he complained at the £26 price of a North Upper seat for the match. Apparently Derby was designated a 'Gold' match? As a direct result he was adamant Saturday was his last match now until they're gone but I was left wondering which games will be 'Gold" next season.

To the match then, and it was really a summation of the season in 90 minutes. Frustrating and ultimately disappointing. We looked to be able to compete with Derby but were a few players short on quality, too easily put under pressure and unable to take the chances that did come our way. I have defended Morgan Fox on many occasions but he had a poor game on Saturday. Fanni and Tex were solid in front of Pope, who made the save of the season. I thought Chris Solly looked a tad dejected but put in his usual shift. 

In midfield, Cousins over-ran the ball too often and lost possession needlessly as a result. Diarra was overworked and neither of the central midfielders got much support from Gudmundson. Harriott was livelier but struggled to make any real impression on the Derby back line, although he did whistle a first-half shot just wide of Carson's right-hand upright. All of which meant Vetokele and Lookman were often dropping back to get the ball, leaving them with too much to do when they did get it.

We should have taken the lead just before the hour when Igor Veokele dinked a header towards the back stick but had to watch it bounce back off the foot of the post before being put out for a corner. From the resulting inswinger, Jorge Teixera powered home a header but momentum carried him into Scott Carson and that was enough for the officials to disallow it. Almost inevitably, Derby stormed downfield from the free kick and forced a corner from which Johnny Russell applied the finishing head in front of the Derby fans to win the match. 

We will be relegated tomorrow night at Bolton and will then have to gird our loins for the visit of a Brighton side closing in on automatic promotion and who scored five on Friday night. It promises to be a lively day with more  protesting planned against Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire. I fully expect us to lose again as our season fizzles out completely.

There is talk of a buy-out and even an asking price of £38m, although that is very much wishful thinking. Anyone acquiring a Championship club and selling it two years later as a League One outfit isn't going to get their money back, let alone double it. Sorry Roly but this is going to cost you a lot more than a new pair of shoes and I am afraid you have no-one else to blame other than yourself and your Chief Executive who has exacerbated your losses by managing to shrink the top line as well as the bottom one. 

We have to hope the end comes quick and is not protracted as the last two changes of ownership have been. When a new one does finally arrive, they will have a golden opportunity to milk the returning goodwill and gratitude of thousands of supporters who have deserted the Regime. A competent Chief Executive should be able to turn that into revenue and profit growth wish should give us a shot in the arm, although we are clearly going to need one by then. 

Sunday 10 April 2016

Meire The Deserter - [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]

I have been wondering what sort of facial expression Katrien Meire will manage when she is finally confronted with the sum total of her ineptitude....relegation. Will it be one of fake concern and sadness? Will it be an uncomfortable look of personal concern for her own position and safety? Or, will we simply get another trademark smirk?

Well readers, news this morning that Madame Meire is deserting the ship for a well-deserved holiday in Dubai where she will be praying she misses that relegation moment. I know what you are all thinking...."how can she go on holiday at this time of the season?" I have the same view but you have to get yourself in the Meire mindset. Her arrogance means she has no compunction in going on holiday when it suits her, not when it suits the football club she runs or the responsibility of her post. Her incompetence also demands she does it at the most inappropriate time in her two year tenure as CEO, although she won't be conscious of this because she sees herself through rose-tinted glasses. She has managed to pull the wool over Duchatelet's baggy face. That or he is actually giving her one and leaving her in post is an extravagance he can afford.

She leads such a charmed life, you have to wonder whether she will end up being poached by a bigger club with all the rewards she so richly deserves. If her old university can give her an Alumni prize to celebrate her successful career, you can't rule anything out.

If she can be bothered or is angry about the furore her desertion will cause inside and outside of the club, she might tell us that this is the only time she can go on holiday because the close season is such a busy time dealing with all the player contracts that need cancelling as we churned 90% of the playing staff. Our player recruitment policy (churn most of the squad every year) might make that a busier time for her, but going as we face relegation? Perhaps she's looked at the pitiful season ticket renewal numbers and decided there's nothing much more she can do to stop the ship sinking so might as well swan off for a bit of sunshine. That early Spring sun-tan will give the fans hope of better times. Something like that anyway.

The poor overworked and underpaid sods who still for her will probably enjoy the break without witchy-poo but what an example for a leader to set - deserting your post in a crisis.

'Kin' useless.

Saturday 9 April 2016

QPR 2 v Charlton Athletic 1

A decent Charlton side matched QPR for long spells today and the stats support an even contest. Unfortunately, QPR had nothing to play for and we were fighting for our Championship lives so we needed more than that.

Injury time goals in both halves cost us the points as all of our relegation rivals who could have won did so. We are now 10 points adrift of three sides all on 46 points (two of whom, Rotherham and Forest, play each other next week). That's 11 of course in real terms given our Karel Fraye goal difference. With only five games left, it's all over bar the shouting. We could be relegated next week if Derby beat us and the others all pick up points, but it's more likely to be confirmed at Bolton the week after. I hope so because I don't want Brighton to be rubbing our noses in it any more than they will already be doing the week after that. 

It means we will be relegated before the visit of Burnley on the last day which promises to be even more painful and galling than the last match of last year where Bournemouth humiliated us. Frankly, I will contemplate giving the Burnley game a miss but I would like to walk down to the front and throw my season ticket as far as I can onto the pitch to show my disgust at Katrien Meire's complete and utter incompetence and Roland Duchatelet's cluelessness and lack of ambition. 

I will not be renewing any of my season tickets. I am expecting another player clear-out and possibly another manager. We will likely gear-up for League One by recruiting more network nonentities, some of whom may find they can actually compete in League One. Roland will be pleased. He's going to take a bath on his revenues but he can rely on Madame Meire to cut costs to match and they will plough on with making whatever return they can from our assets. 

Somewhere along the line, though, he has to bail out and cut his losses. The sooner the better but we can wait longer than he can and he knows it. We have to hope he leaves or dies before we end up in League Two.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Ipswich Town 0 v Charlton Athletic Nil

Ordinarily a good away point, but eight points adrift of safety and with only six games left, we are running out of road. QPR away on Saturday won't be easy but we were in it tonight and we had 16 attempts, six of which were on target, so we live in hope.

The bigger problem right now is that those above us continue to take turns to pick up points. Fulham won at Preston tonight whilst Rotherham maintained their Warnock-bounce with a draw at fellow strugglers Bristol City. At least MK Dons squandered a lead to lose at home to Wolves.

Relegation is only confirmed in Spring but it is achieved throughout the season and we can look back at our leisure and identify all the opportunities when we failed to compete, fell apart or simply didn't show up.

The cracks are beginning to appear in the Regime and confirmation of relegation may be the turning point for Duchatelet to realise things are only going to get worse and that he needs to cut his losses to avoid further brand damage. Rumours suggest work at Sparrows Lane may have stopped and even that Duchatelet is actively looking to sell. If we can stay focused on depriving him if revenue there may yet be a silver lining even in a relegation season.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Charlton Athletic 2 v Birmingham City 1

Never a bad day when you win at home. Never a bad day when you shut up a large away following who have been disrespectful. The win keeps us in touch with MK Dons but they lost at Fulham who maintain a six point (seven with goal difference) lead over us.

Birmingham City are notoriously poor travellers but today, buoyed by an unlikely last tilt at the play-offs, they brought 3000 to the Valley. In years gone by, their away support has been as poor as ours, often barely bringing 500, a pitifully small percentage of their home gate. They are not favourite fans of mine (play-off finals v Leeds at St. Andrews in particular) and they showed their class by chanting "going down, going down" when we kicked off our stress ball protest shortly after kick-off.

The home attendance was again poor but those present gave it plenty early on with sustained singing of "we want Roland out" as 3,000 stress balls rained downed. The match was stopped for several minutes as the players and staff ran to clear the debris before the match restarted.

Point made and time to settle down and try to beat the Blues. We looked pretty solid along the back. Pope was still in goal and in front of him he had Suk-Young, Texeira, Fanni and Fox. Diarra (man-of-the-match by a mile) played so close to the back four, he often stepped in and Cousins was superb alongside him. Johan Berg Gudmundsson had another game where he  got stuck in and earned his wages. Marco Motta played his part on the other side giving us an outlet and stepping in to break up Brum attacks. I thought we looked lighter up front with Vetokele and Harriott. Igor's first touch is good but his second lets him down too often. Harriott, by contrast, has a dreadful first touch but can often recover using his pace but he's simply not good enough overall for the Championship. He may be one player to benefit from relegation.

It was a fairly cagey first-half with both sides keen to build and get men forward without troubling the respective keepers. Birmingham opened the scoring after the half-hour when another raid of theirs down our left side saw Paul Caddis find an overlap to fire in a cross which looked like it took a deflection to clear the covering central defenders and fall for Jon Toral to divert home past Pope at the far post. After that the highlight was a ball going into the low rows of the East Stand where a Charlton fan took a deliberately long time to carry it out from his isle and down the steps to hand to over the the ball-boy so he couldn't be accused by the club of throwing anything onto the playing surface. It was a poignant moment and one met with a round of appreciative applause from all of those who got the joke.

Five minutes later, a Charlton ball out of defence found Johan Berg Gudmundson along on the right wing and he tore inside. With precious few options he put his head down and straightened up 25 yards out before unleashing a fierce low shot which may have taken a slight deflection off a sliding defender but which ultimately beat Kuszczak with something to spare. At half-time that felt fair.

Into the second-half and Charlton put on more pressure. Diarra got on the end of a delightful right-wing cross from JBG but headed over from the back post when anything on target would probably have given us the lead. Ademola Lookman was on at half-time and he brought some guile as well as pace to our attacking play. With Vetokele, and Harriott, the trio began to trouble the Blues at the back with their pace and inter-passing but the final ball wasn't right. Lookman might have scored when he finally broke through on goal from the left but his rising cross-shot was superbly tipped over by a diving Kuszczak. Kuszczak then became the pantomime villain after a prolonged injury which looked feigned. He limped like a war veteran back from the resulting goal-kick but still managed to thump it 60 yards downfield. 

The last laugh was Charlton's as an injury time corner was dropped at the back post for Jorge Texeira to meet it with a deft header that squeezed in at Kuszczak's post to the delight of the home support.

The win keeps us in touch but I fear the next two away games this week at Ipswich on Tuesday and QPR on Saturday will effectively seal our fate. Both of them are going well and neither are happy hunting grounds for the Addicks. 

The prospect of relegation at home looms and we may also suffer the recurring humiliation of watching other sides promoted at the Valley. Brighton may well come on the cusp of promotion in a few weeks time and Burnley will almost certainly be celebrating on the last day of the season. Oblivious to the irony and salt-in-the-wounds, Katrien Meire will already be planning to inconvenience home customers to accommodate more money-spinning visitors, just like Bournemouth last year who royally took the piss out of us. 

At least a repeat is unlikely in League One, partly because there aren't many clubs who could outsell the away allocation even in the event of a promotion game and also because I reckon they may well close the upper West and North next season due to lack of interest. The match-day food and drink boycott may also be biting because one of the two main outlets behind the East was closed today. Those numbers are looking decidedly weak Katrien. Hope you have a book down your pants for your end of year report - Roly doesn't do failure does he?