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Stickleback

Quirky when sober

21 August 2016

Walsall 1 Charlton 2

My second game of the season saw me riding the rails again. This time to Birmingham New Street, surely the most unpleasant station in the country, then on to the Bescott Stadium, a few miles north of the city.

It's the second time I've been to the Bescott and it's a relaxed-feeling ground, dominated by a laughably out-of-scale north stand, as if the club won the lottery a few years ago and decided to blow it all on one end of the pitch, while leaving both side stands still pretty basic. Still, since the ends of grounds are traditionally the cheaper and more poular seats, perhaps that's a democratic move. Away fans get the south stand, which is presumably nearly always big enough for travelling League One opposition.

The first half was fairly even. Walsall looked quite limited in their attacking play, using similar tactics again and again. They ought to be quite easily neutralised, but Charlton's defence still isn't quite working smoothly, and only a couple of terrific saves by Declan Rudd prevented them from going ahead. Charlton's opener came shortly before halftime, Nicky Ajose able to get onto a loose ball and delight the fans behind the goal.

Some very encouraging performances. Ricky Holmes again looked like the best aquisition of the summer, while Josh Magennis was impressive, especially given his size, for the effort he put in all over the pitch.


Before the game as usual a few banners were draped over the empty seats near the south stand, including this one. You'll notice it's folded at the bottom. For a brief time it wasn't and you could see the phrase "Roland Out". At half time word went round that Walsall's Chairman had asked the police to cover up the words.

While you can expect football club owners to stick up for each other, this was an unnecessary breach of freedom of speech. The words aren't offensive or inflammatory: just an opinion.

It was at this point that I decided I wanted Walsall to lose and be relegated. A view hardened when, following their goal, they played goal music. Charlton had allowed Walsall to press early in the second half and that's not, currently, a safe tactic.

Hardly had the music died away before Charlton regained the lead: Nicky Ajose again. And that was about it, apart from the vigorous and repeated singing of a new chant, possibly in reaction to the censorship. If you can't display it, say it. Despite the likely victory that was unfolding, the message to Duchatelet remains clear: Just sell the club.

12 August 2016

Katrien Jong-Un

Image from http://www.thelondoneconomic.com
When you look at someone's CV and you see a mysterious gap of a few months, you being to wonder what they're hiding. A prison spell, perhaps. These days, any professional in the football business would rather you believed that, than the horrible, shameful truth: that you spent some time working for Charlton.

Mel Baroni, the turned-out-to-be-interim head of communications, doesn't mention her time at Charlton on her LinkedIn page. She shouldn't be ashamed. Her resignation after the {...} statement was one of the few honourable actions to have come from the club in the last few years.

I can't believe she's ever regretted it, least of all today when once again Charlton's management have managed to make their public image even worse.

The club's letter to a fan, threatening removal of his season ticket if he wrote anything derogatory about the club on social media has predictably gone all over the internet and been picked up by the national media, allowing Nick Miller in The Guardian to summarise the chaos of Duchatelet's ownership in an article that's all the more persuasive for its calm and measured approach. We weren't imagining or making it up: all these things happened.

It's not just the attitude of the management that's repulsive; it's the sheer thundering incompetence that allows such enormous damage to be done. But the person responsible gets away with it every time.

Oh well, the protesting season starts again tomorrow. You know what you've got to do.

08 August 2016

The FA Council

News broke last night that the CEO of Charlton Athletic now has a place on the FA Council. Unless membership of the Council is football's equivalent of the naughty step - sit there in endless, boring meetings and think about what you've done - it's an absurd, dishonourable appointment. Meire's failures on and off the pitch are obvious and hardly need repeating. To give her any influence at all in the management of the game is bewildering and insulting.

But what is the FA Council, and what does it do? It's easier to say who it is: a full listing is given on the FA website. Lots and lots of names, mostly from the lower levels of the game. Almost all of them presumably male (the site adopts the quaint, some might say sexist, policy of referring to men by their initials, while the few women on the list have first names or a title). Two "inclusion representatives" (one of whom is Paul Elliott), one disability representative and, almost an afterthought, a solitary supporters' representative (Dr M Clarke, who should be expecting to hear from us).

Attending a meeting so stuffed with blazers would surely be a kind of hell. Perhaps it is a punishment, after all. Equally, it seems likely that Meire's appoinment is seen as a welcome touch of diversity. Not only female but, presumably, considerably younger than the average. Presumably, too, also much less competent than the average. At least you'd hope so.

What does the Council do? The website tells us that
The FA's Management Team, working together with The FA Board, Council and staff, aims to deliver an effective and professional organisation for the greater good of English football.
which, of course, actually says nothing about the specific role of the Council. With such a huge membership, it's hard to imagine it is a dynamic, forceful presence. I haven't spent hours searching (I like to pretend I have a life) but I can't see any details of Council meetings on the site - no dates, no attendance lists, no minutes. North Korea would be proud of this level of secrecy.

In the end my guess is that the Council does nothing. It's a bit of window-dressing by the FA to make it appear more democratic, but that's it. Real power lies with the management team, and we know full well that they do exactly as they please.

What's in it for Katrien? Another entry on her CV, which might impress some people who don't know better, in exchange for a few boring meetings.  Another demonstration that the important thing here is her career.

31 May 2016

In lieu of a proper salary

Charlton's quest for a new manager continues, four weeks since Riga resigned. It used to be so easy, huh, Katrien? Interview 24 prospects before breakfast, find a new Ferguson, awkward press conference, phew, off to Dubai for a week.

Not now. Britain's finest managers seem strangely reluctant to sign up. Currently Russell Slade is the bookies' favourite at 1/4. (I say "bookies". At the moment only SkyBet are interested enough to quote odds.) He's been in the frame for a couple of weeks now, and I can't help thinking that if that was going to happen, it would have been settled by now.

Maybe it's a question of control. British managers will be aware of the restrictions that come with the job and will be looking for strong assurances that their hands won't be tied/strings won't be pulled.


But I've no doubt it's also about money. Remuneration. Pay. It's widely believed that the club will be offering a very low salary in comparison to other clubs. It's rumoured that Rochdale offered Keith Hill more. Few managers will be happy with that, especially if they then have to manage players earning vastly more.

With network managers, like Luzon and Fraeye, you can understand they might have seen the Charlton job as a way into British football, and they'd accept a low salary against the prospect of future riches.

For British managers the job could be a way into the Duchatelet network. Once firmly inside, nothing you may do, however incompetent you may be, will get you thrown out, huh, Katrien?

But it's a poison offer. The network in general, and Charlton in particular, have nothing to attract an ambitious manager. No wonder it's taking so long.

09 May 2016

Charlton 0 Burnley 3

The morning was spent reading a succession of tweets from people realising this would be their last visit to the Valley unless and until Duchatelet sells up. I joined in, feeling that mixture of anger and sadness that was apparent in those I read. I've had a season ticket for about 12 years, an eyeblink compared to some. And some of the stories of family memories - parents and children building a bond by their love of the club - were heartbreaking. So much history and commitment being thrown away by this most careless of ownerships.

My neighbour, a fan who can't make many games, had asked me to buy him a programme. So I did, for the first time since the start of the season, and what a shadow of itself it is. But what struck me most was the absence of any comment on the season by the ownership. Not a word of regret, far less of apology, from the woman who wrote in August last year that "there is no-one to hide behind".

I've said before and will continue to say it: while she remains in post it is impossible to believe that Roland Duchatelet has good intentions for the club. The highpoint of the day - possibly, sadly, the highpoint of the season - came when two fans draped a banner over the directors' box, pointing her out as a liar. For once the smirk left her face, and for once you might have felt some pity for her, but she can very easily avoid all this.

She should go, but she won't and even if she does it's too late.

Even a half-empty ground required a huge amount of security. Frail old men, long-term supporters, had to be frisked before entry. Netting in front of the covered end (possibly illegal). A huge number of stewards. Sniffer dogs, for god's sake. This is not a viable way to run a business.

The authorities were well prepared to prevent a pitch invasion. As full time approached, they sealed off the covered end. But once again Charlton's protest movement showed its commercial nous. Not content with picking up the sponsorship that the club so carelessly lost, it proved adept at outsourcing, getting a northern outfit to run the pitch invasion. Not the police and stewards' finest moment: they sent everyone down to the front of the covered end as full time approached. Who could have imagined that the Burnley fans might want to celebrate seeing their team win the title?

They poured onto the pitch and then something wonderful happened. While some made futile efforts to pull down the netting, others gathered in front of the directors box, protesting against Duchatelet. Eventually any Charlton fan who wanted to got on to the pitch, and both sets of fans joined in the strange mixture of celebration and protest.

The fans sofa - a symbol of the regime - was ripped apart joyously. The Police and stewards regained some composure and common sense and let it happen then gradually shepherded the fans towards the south-west corner exit.

A day that had seen so much anger and sadness ended with a vague feeling of triumph. No doubt left about the Charlton fans' feelings, but no serious trouble, thanks largely to the supportive involvement of the Burnley fans, which won't be forgotten.

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29 April 2016

Duchatelet

Two years ago, for no good reason,
Arrived Roland Duchatelet.
He's not been to a game this season.
I wish, I wish he'd go away.

In business he's a boss, a winner:
Bravo, Monsieur Duchatelet!
In football he's a mere beginner.
I wish, I wish he'd go away.

His decisions have all been appalling,
Thanks, Mijnheer Duchatelet.
And with the third division calling
I wish, I wish he'd go away.

His skin is like that of a rhino:
Pachyderm Duchatelet.
He's mad. He thinks all's fine. Oh
How I wish he'd go away.

He surely can't ignore forever
The hatred that we send his way
And one day, better late than never,
We'll say Adieu Duchatelet.

24 April 2016

Charlton 1 Brighton 3

It's my unimaginative habit to use the scoreline as the title of match review postings, and I'm stuck with it, but I had to think for a moment what the score was yesterday. Another heavy defeat - the 14th time this season Charlton have conceded 3 or more - was irrelevant to the home fans, who gladly saw the points go to a Brighton team whose supporters were magnificent in joining in with the protests.


The fires of protest had been stoked in the morning by the revelation that in January Katrien Meire had drawn up an agreement for Chris Solly to go on loan to Gillingham for the rest of the season; an agreement that he had flatly rejected. Funnily enough he wasn't in the squad. Presumably he was sat on the naughty step with Stephen Henderson, with a space saved for Johnnie Jackson, in the squad but not used. His manner on the touchline was silently eloquent, though, making it clear he supports the aim of the protest. He's made a very public commitment to being at the club next year, making it defiantly clear that if he isn't, it won't be by his choice.

I'm fairly sure Duchatelet would like to get rid of him, but Jackson's statement has made that a deeply poisonous action. Doesn't mean he won't do it, of course. Every day Katrien Meire remains in her job is an insult, but there she is, grinning unscathed while she wrecks the club. Every game that Duchatelet doesn't attend is an insult, but there he isn't, once again.

No-one really knows if Duchatelet is interested in selling the club. Even if he wants to, he'll be hiding his cards. He'll deny any interest, while leaking out inflated estimates of what it would cost to prize the club from his loving embrace. In the two weeks of season that remain, we've got to convince him to leave it, Roland, it ain't worth it.

Next week, at Leeds, the mad-owner derby is likely to be nothing more than a curtain-raiser for the game that's already being billed as Judgement Day. Truth be told, Judgment has already been made. We're just waiting to see what punishment follows.