Sunday 30 April 2017

Charlton Athletic 3 v Swindon Town 0

Another protest day and another day where the match was a sideshow. Relegated Swindon were comfortably beaten by a strolling Charlton side. The result leaves us in an elevated, and frankly flattering, 13th position. Meire will no doubt refer to this as an 'easy' season, as she did following our 12th place finish in the Championship prior to relegation but it felt anything but easy and was hard to stomach.

I had a prior appointment with God so couldn't make the game but I did catch-up with friends after the match in the White Swan where the mood remained defiant and determined that we must continue the protests until they are eventually forced out. As I have said before, I will boycott all games next season if they are still here, but I will continue to protest and play whatever small part I can in seeing it out. Nothing's going to change until they are gone.

The protests themselves lacked the high profile impact of previous shows but it was effective, nonetheless, as 2500 fans blocked the West Stand car park and hundreds more security and police personnel were deployed to protect Meire and Co as well as to try to contain any protests. As it was, thousands of spoof paper season tickets were cascaded from the upper West and thousands of black and white balloons were released causing play to be stopped for a couple of minutes. There was a post-match pitch invasion which even the serried ranks of security couldn't stop.

The rumoured 'anti-protest' predictably failed to surface but that's because it doesn't really exist outside the weird world of half-a-dozen would-be internet warriors. My guess is another repeat close season of failed expectations will probably quash even those before the season starts. All that supposes Duchatelet doesn't find a buyer before then. I remain convinced he wants out and that the club is for sale but that he still hasn't come to terms with the reality of the loss he is going to have to swallow to get out. Logic tells you he is going to have to get real one day soon because he's signing up for another year of hefty downside in 17-18. We won't see another Ademola Lookman for a few years at least.

Meire's hands will be tied even more tightly and her statement that the budget for the close season of "a million pounds" suggests season ticket sales won't rally based upon any galactico signings. The rumour is that Ricky Holmes will be cashed-in and, if that happens, I can't see us finding anywhere close to a replacement. Konsa and Aribo may attract the more vigilant bidders too but the bigger risk is just another cull and churn of the existing first-team squad as the wage bill is trimmed and we get even more mediocrity.

Gate revenue will inevitably drop again on the back of a further fall in season ticket sales. I can see another 30% refusing to commit to a whole season and more moving to a week-to-week model where they have the freedom to pay if we're performing and not if we aren't.

Strong rumours too that Chris O'Loughlin could be the next back-room departure following that of Nugent and Clarke this week. We have nearly lost more background staff than players in the last two years. It really isn't a settled ship. If Congo Chris does go, at least we will be spared the imposition of another Duchatelet aberration as manager . It could also open a space for Johnny Jackson who will surely say more than play more next season.

As supporters we deserve a break given the continued suffering and I intend to take one. Maybe things will look brighter come August?

Wednesday 26 April 2017

How much longer?

That is the question increasingly being asked by despairing Charlton fans. The lack of further news on takeover rumours begins to suggest the Aussie trail may have gone cold and if that news was a leak to leverage a deal or smoke out other interested parties, it may have failed.

This weekend Charlton fans will once again protest at the continuing slump in club fortunes and the ongoing oppression by Duchatelet and Meire at the final home game of the season against, fittingly relegated Swindon. Elsewhere, Leyton Orient, a club we have always been closer to in size and reputation than Arsenal have fallen out of the football league for the first time since we were formed in 1905 due to incompetent foreign ownership. If there is no-one ready or able to relieve us of The Belgians, I am afraid the O's are far more likely to be the route we follow than the Arse.

Sundays protest will be proportionate and well-directed as always but there is an increasingly vocal group (albeit very small) of 'anti-protestors' who, for some unfathomable reason, seem more desperate for the protests to stop than for any reason of actual support for the Belgian Regime. Frankly, I don't get it but they should be careful what they wish for - all of us would rather be supporting the club than burning resources, emotions and love for the club. This close season threatens to be another major step-backwards for the club we have all loved and, given where we already find ourselves, that would almost inevitably lead us to a new historic and future-threatening low. If the protests wane or stop altogether it won't be because of any other reason than our core support has finally fallen below critical mass to carry one out or there's basically too few supporters left attending games to care enough.

It's incredible that there is still anyone able to somehow believe that this close season will be any different to the pattern and plan of their last three. Regime talk about the long haul, commitment to learning from their continuing mistakes, supporting the manager etc is simply the line of false optimism they have to trot out to continue to justify their tenure on the club. They say it's the hope that kills you.

I pray that the protest this Sunday is hugely successful and that Meire is angered by it. I hope Duchatelet is embarrassed once again, like he should be and that our fans are fired-up once more to plan another visit to St. Truiden if necessary. Unfortunately, I can't be there until after the game as I am committed elsewhere - something I once would never have agreed to but another sign of what's happening to the club I loved so well.

"Poor-me" as a recent commenter posted on here. Poor-me indeed but I will be gone come August if they are still here, along with another tranche of supporters who have clung on thus far. That could really see us in a place where it will be more a case of "poor-you" who are still left suffering in relative silence.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Season over

If it wasn't mathematically certain following our 3-0 humbling of Medway's finest on Saturday, it was confirmed last night with Bury taking a point from Bolton Wanderers. We are safe for another season. All that remains is the paper challenge for Karl Robinson to avoid a stain on his copy-book and another blot on the Regime's of Charlton Athletic finishing in their lowest league position since we made our way through the leagues in the 1920's.

We have two games left against teams below us in the table which will determine things. Saturday's visit to already-relegated Chesterfield is not likely to get the pulses racing and you would expect us to collect points but it will likely be a case of who's bothered most. Swindon Town may be relegated on Saturday if they fail to beat Scunthorpe in Wiltshire and either Bury or Port Vale can manage home wins against Northampton and Bolton Wanderers respectively. 

I won't be at either game so my season is finished and I reflect on a season where the compelling attraction of forty years has finally been broken. Never for me a sense of entitlement or even of match-to-match expectancy. Buying power played no part whatsoever in attracting me in the 1970's like a moth to a flame. The relative highs and lows of the 1980's didn't affect my devotion either as I saw more than 90% of all games played, home and away. I did less away games in the 90's but still saw more than 75% of all matches. I kept my averages up during the Premiership years of the 00's and even the Championship and League One after our second relegation although there was, understandably, less of a draw to away games.

It's been a struggle to go to away matches for a few years now and certainly since Duchatelet started watching us on TV but I remained a regular at the Valley. That ended with me stopping my season ticket this year for the first time since I was in short trousers. I knew the likely consequences of this and so it has proved. I have just done a count and I actually only saw ten home games this season. I thought I had at least done half of them. Away from home it was limited to Bradford (with a mate back from overseas) and Coventry to support their protest. So, a little more than a quarter of all games....

As I have said previously, there is no chance of me renewing next season if Duchatelet is still ignoring us and Meire still smirking at us. My Wife has lost all interest. I am still in love with the beautiful game, even if The Regime has severely tested me. That season ticket at Welling or Ebbsfleet is looking more attractive. I like the idea of watching a club again that has ambitions and a realistic plan and who is honest with it's supporters. Success isn't the be-all-and-end-all but hopelessness and duplicity is intolerable. It wouldn't be like watching Charlton but it would be more enjoyable than watching Charlton under the Belgians.

Monday 17 April 2017

Congratulations to Brighton & Hove Albion

Really pleased to see the Seagulls promoted back to the Premier League today. Their brilliantly well-run club has maintained faith with the experienced and pragmatic Chris Hughton and have consolidated before making their push this season.

They are a classy outfit from top to bottom and a role model for football league clubs. Great leadership, honest ambitions, first-rate supporter engagement which generates excellent support and creates the conditions needed for success.

As Charlton supporters it is something we know and understand because we tasted it for the best part of ten years. I really miss it and am left wondering if we will ever see it again. 

Charlton Athletic 3 v Gillingham 0

Gillingham's dire history at the Valley continued this afternoon as they maintained their record of never having managed a victory in 15 attempts. In fact, they have only beaten us on four occasions in thirty league attempts.

The BBC stats suggest the match was close with the Gills having 53% possession and managing 18 shots to our 14. However, I understand they were poor in spite of the stats and that we were good value for our win which effectively secures League One football next season. I couldn't face it after Friday and felt sure we wouldn't show up so I am pleased we haven't checked out early this season.

Pearce headed home after 20 minutes to add to the recent spate of goals from centre-halves and the Gills were fished after half-an-hour when Ricky Holmes whipped in yet another free-kick. The Gills were trying but their final ball and finishing let them down badly. After the break it took nine minutes to wrap the match up when Magennis finished a Charlton counter-attack. Chelsea loaned Dasilva had another impressive game and has made himself a real contender after a slow start. He's very unlikely to be here again next season, of course, along with half the others.

I will miss the last two games this season, so another miserable season has ended for me prematurely. My interest now is purely focused on new ownership or, failing that,  continuing the fight to get an ambitious owner and a credible Chief Executive who knows what they are doing. It would also be good to see a number of the "just following orders" brigade finally dislodged when the time comes. We will also have to stomach those who will be wise after the event but I guess it was ever thus.

Praying we get some news now that our league status has been secured....

Friday 14 April 2017

Coventry City 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

Struggled up a congested M1 earlier today in order to join protesting Coventry fans who have had the stuffing knocked out of them over the last ten failing years by owners SISU. A coachload load of Addicks arrived prior to the 2pm march to the ground and they were warmly greeted with a round of applause by several hundred Sky Blue fans at the Cherry trees club. 

Along with maybe fifty Charlton fans already there, maybe 500 fans in total walked together carrying respective banners and placards. The march made its way down towards the Ricoh Arena and we were handed spongy pigs before getting to the ground. An accompanying policeman helpfully told us to conceal the pigs well as the Stewards had been instructed to search us on entry. At the turnstiles we were all frisked and pigs were bouncing out from pockets in all directions, but at kick-off hundreds rained down from both sets of supporters congregated at one end of the stadium. The match was halted and then the referee went to the unnecessary step of taking all the players off for five additional minutes before play eventually resumed.

As expected, it wasn't much of a match. Charlton saw more possession but Coventry took the lead towards the end of the first-half. Byrne head onto the Coventry bar from a superb Dasilva cross when he should have buried it. After the break the match continued in a similar fashion with the pony-tailed pairing of Holmes and Jones running the show for their respective sides. Bauer headed an unlikely looking Charlton equaliser and when the lively Jodi Jones was replaced by Kyle Reid you knew the match was over.

Sorry to be the ones to relegate our suffering hosts but I think they knew it was all over for them bar the shouting. A threatened pitch invasion by the disgruntled locals was faced down by serried ranks of stewards and police. The point effectively makes us safe given the number of sides still needing two wins plus to overhaul us. Nonetheless, it's been another miserably thin season and one we will look back on and thank Kevin Nugent for the seven vital points he won for us in the three matches he was caretaker manager sandwiched between the conservatively boring Russell Slade and the bull-shittingly hopeless Karl Robinson.

Thursday 13 April 2017

The final lie?

"The club is not for sale." Meire's latest pronouncement when questioned about the ongoing rumour and tell-tale signs that the club is in the process of being sold. Karl Robinson also told us this a month or two back after he demanded to know if there was any truth in what he was hearing which might suggest he was taken for a mug when appointed several months before. He too was reassured that the club wasn't being sold. It's looking decidedly like 'the club is not for sale" is the final Meire lie, akin to a managerial 'vote of confidence.' 

Of course, when you are attempting to get the best deal you can in a negotiation, denying a sale is ongoing is an understandable strategy. You don't want prospective buyers to see that you may be under pressure from your supporters as that could give them potential leverage in negotiations. You also don't want to disrupt the normal running of the club and it's revenue streams. News of change can also scare the horses and players might decide they don't need to try quite so hard or even decide that that their future lies elsewhere, both of which can be disastrous for results. 

In our case, of course, any sale is hardly likely to register on our commercial operation, given there is practically nothing happening on that front. Those blindly renewing their season tickets will continue to do so and match day sales are already at a realistic low-point. You could also argue, given performances under Robinson, that the players won't be affected either, certainly not detrimentally, or that we are safe enough now not to worry. However, Meire will maintain her line until it's hopeless denying it and then exit stage left.

The latest news from the Daily Mail that an Australian Football Consortium (that's their name too) is lining up a sale in order to take us into the Premier League and to aid development of soccer in Australia is the newest rumour. Personally, I am not convinced AFC will become our new owners but rather that news of their interest may have been leaked deliberately to push other candidates to firm-up better offers. 

There has been immediate concern that the Australians are a newly established body still looking for funds to acquire an English club and that they wouldn't have the backing to fulfil their ambitions or that we would become a club focused solely on developing Aussie talent. Both of these may be true but for me, anything is better than an absent owner who has no footballing ambition and who has inflicted a disastrous Chief Exec on us and who has been too stubborn to remove her, allowing the problem to fester and the club to plunge into decline on all fronts.

The hope, of course, is that we are eventually acquired by serious football owners with ambition and backing. Given the loss Duchatelet faces on his investment, we also have to pray that whoever buys the club does not commit the cardinal sin of somehow failing to own the key assets of the Valley and Sparrows Lane. Left in the hands of Duchatelet you could see how he could eye a way to eventually recovering his losses at the expense of the football club and it's supporters he has so little consideration for.

Monday 10 April 2017

Returning the favour

This Friday Charlton play the return league fixture against Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena. Back in October, relegation-threatened Coventry City supporters turned up in decent numbers for a joint protest about bad owners of football clubs. Seven months on the Sky Blues teeter on the brink of what looks like a certain relegation. With Charlton probably needing another three points to ensure their own survival, it's ironic that we could achieve it at the expense of our fellow-sufferers and send them down.

Joy Seppala and disastrous SISU have taken Coventry on a downward spiral that makes even ours look jovial during the ten years they have been in control. They have ripped the heart out of Coventry City and look certain to take the club into the fourth tier of English football for the first time in their history. The club have very few remaining assets and are in their final year of renting at the the Ricoh Arena and are likely to start the 2018-19 season at another venue having already spent time playing home matches at Northampton's Sixfields.

Several hundred Coventry fans marched up from the Antigallican back in October to join around two thousand Addicks in processing down Floyd Road in unison before occupying the club car park in a pre-match protests. Famously,  both sets of supporters then threw several thousand stress-ball pigs onto the pitch in further protest which held the match up for ten minutes and which gained extensive worldwide media attention.

Now is the time for Charlton fans to return the favour and join the Sky Blues fans at the Cherry Trees Club at 1.45pm or earlier and support their march and protest. Make the effort if you are going - they played their part, let's play ours.

Saturday 8 April 2017

Charlton Athletic 2 v Southend United 1

A late own goal by the Shrimpers handed the Addicks a lifeline at the Valley this afternoon. The three points moves the Reds onto 50 points and keeps them 16th in the table, five points clear of the drop. I can't comment on the match as I decided not to bother at the last minute. I did the Upbeats walk this morning and shared a couple of pints with fellow walkers before kick-off but couldn't bring myself to risk sitting through another game like Tuesdays. The walk was another reminder about all that is good about the supporters of Charlton Athletic and the brilliant work of the Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust. In excess of £20,000 raised by the time we set-off.

By all accounts we held our own today and deserved to edge it, although Nouble might have grabbed a point for the Shrimpers at the end of the match but, predictably, fluffed his lines. We should be safe now and the relative comfort gap  may be enough to secure another win that would almost guarantee our League One survival. Ironically, we could end up relegating fellow strugglers and Regime-sufferers, Coventry on Friday if we manage a second consecutive win, although we might be getting ahead of ourselves there.

Katrien Meire carried out her latest PR victory today when she met Valley Gold reps pre-match. Apparently, she said that Karl Robinson will have a transfer budget of "around a million" for the Summer. For once that sounds an honest appraisement but would clearly be insufficient to change this squad into promotion-challengers. News too that "Roland wants to come to games" but feels he can't at the moment. Almost too ridiculous to comprehend given the fact that Meire can swan about at home matches unscathed with only a couple of security men in attendance. She should know that her presence is more inflammatory than the ignorant, absent, hapless President. Still, blaming supporters is the only thing left for his shameful absence. Let's hope that we can all consign this drivel to history in the coming weeks with new ownership.

Elsewhere this week we had to witness the Club Secretary apologising on behalf of his wife  on her Facebook account for her most recent outburst against protesting supporters when she managed to equate the level of hatred towards the Regime with that of ISIS. Mr Parkes has been with his wife for over 50 years and his words were heartfelt but very sad that she couldn't bring herself to say sorry or show some humility. 

On a more positive note, I was pleased to see the Charlton-Welling connection strengthened this week as Alex Dyer gets his first chance in management. A thumping 4-0 win at PVR against relegation-threatened Gosport gives the Wings breathing space as the season winds down. If the Regime are still here come August, I am heading over the hill for my football fix.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Charlton Athletic 0 v MK Dons 2

First home game since Millwall for me and I was there primarily to share the minute silence for PC Keith Palmer. My wife and girls were also present but we all left shortly after 9pm when MK scored their killer second which had been coming before half-time.

The silence for PC Palmer was perfectly observed. I think his brother joined the alternating centre-circle ring of PC Palmer's former colleagues and players from both sides for the tribute. He was up in the stand, just along from me within minutes of kick-off and I am pleased to say that it looked just like another league game where we sit and there were no attention seekers or eegits looking for selfies. 

Keith Palmer will have had a wry smile at what we suffered again this evening. From kick-off we were second-best. Second to every ball, second to every head. Reduced to watching MK play neat triangles at the back to thwart our clumsy forward thrusts and pedestrian through the middle as they broke with speed supporting one another with short accurate passes. O'Keefe hit the opener on seven minutes from close range in front of the Covered End after Rudd had beaten out another attempt as they struck with ease. There was no real let up until half-time and we were comprehensively out-passed and out-run.

I made a deal with the family that we would depart upon a second and it wasn't long in coming as Barnes curled home on 57 minutes. As we left I could hear a booming rendition of "just sell the club," followed by "we want Roland Out!" 

The gate of 10,943 was decent in the circumstances but it looked disappointing, especially at kick-off. Another sign of how far we have fallen and how bad things are. Port Vale crumpled at Rochdale and Millwall did us a favour by winning at Shrewsbury but our game in hand has gone and we face play-off contenders Southend on Saturday in a match we now can't afford to lose given that seven out of the eight sides below us are also at home and points will almost inevitably be picked-up elsewhere.

Our line-up was about as strong as Robinson could hope for but the players simply aren't showing anything like the desire or, frankly, the effort required. That has to sit with Robinson. Pearce was back alongside Bauer at long last but was fortunate to stay on the pitch in the second-half after receiving a deserved booking and then flying into another tackle minutes later which conceded a foul and had the ref thinking very hard before deciding not to flash another one. Chris Solly and Dasilva filled the full-back spots. Solly was unusually wasteful in possession and exposed by overlapping runners. We barely saw anything of Dasilva whilst I was there. For those wondering why he hasn't played much, it's probably because he sees so little of the game himself when he does get on.

The midfield was a diamond formation with Jackson in front of the back four, Aribo and Forster-Caskey in the centre and Holmes tucked in behind Watt and Magennis. Watt looked much fitter than last time I saw him, although he wasn't much fitter than me then, so that's not saying a lot. He huffed and puffed as usual but there was no end product. Magennis managed one long shot straight at Nicholls just before half-time but that was his lot. Holmes was the busiest red shirt again tonight but he struggled to create any space or decent opportunities.

The final denouement of Duchatelet's disastrous reign at the Valley would be for us to be sold as a Fourth Division club. It's still unlikely but increasingly possible and it would be cruel for us to suffer that additional indignity. Those who still think Karl Robinson is the man to be trusted with rebuilding and managing a side capable of promotion are smoking strong herbs. I am afraid he's just another poor decision in a long, long line of poor decisions. What excuses will he come out with this evening, I wonder?