Quirky when sober

26 September 2016

Oxford 1 Charlton 1

 It's tempting to say more about the trip to Oxford than the game, just as it was more tempting to stay in the pub (Beerd, on George Street) than to get the bus, the slow, slow bus, to the Kassam Stadium and my lofty seat offering an excellent view of the car park.

The first 45 minutes didn't help, don't help. A fairly frantic opening saw Charlton pressing for about 5 minutes, then Declan Rudd making an excellent save before the game subsided into a low quality affair, Charlton ever more defensive and Oxford unable to make any clear chances.

Half time came along with its village fete style entertainment featuring a man in drag (on a stag, was his excuse) and his best man trying to catch a football in a wheelie bin. It was both less and more amusing than it sounds. Generally their efforts were about as successful as the two teams' had been.

The second half promised more of the same. Charlton's goal came from a penalty, one of the clearest and most unnecessary handballs I've ever seen, and was confidently put away by Johnnie Jackson. Charlton, particularly after Ricky Holmes came on, pressed forward more, overstretched and let Oxford equalise. It was a pretty good game from then onwards but both sides didn't look particularly likely to score and didn't.

A packed bus, a slow, slow bus, took us back to town and a packed train - three coaches, GWR? Who do you think you are, Southeastern? - got me back to London.

It looks like this might be the last game I'll see for a while. All the away games next month are problematic for me in their own way so perhaps I'll try the non-league experience again.

23 September 2016


Another bizarre week at Charlton.

The least expected thing was that Roland Duchatelet turned up in SE7. Or SE9 at any rate, when he attended a meeting of the Target 20k group at Sparrows Lane (we think - but even the venue hasn't been officially disclosed).

Completely predictable was that he'd say something stupid, probably involving a percentage figure. And so he did, pointing out that Charlton represents about 1.5% of his interests, so he can't give the club any more time than he has. When you think of the way he has used the 1.5% so far - appointing Katrien Meire, listening to Thomas Driessen, selling Yann Kermorgant, sacking Chris Powell, appointing then sacking Bob Peeters, Guy Luzon and Karel Fraeye, writing the notorious Statement {...} - you can see he's been busy and perhaps we should be grateful he hasn't given the club more of his valuable, poisonous time.

The ball's now in Katrien's court. She's got to come up with a ridiculous statement involving the figure 1%.

Maybe it will represent the amount of deliberation by the T20k group that isn't confidential. The anonymous representative of the group said today that most of the discussions are confidential and the rest is circulated, but he didn't say where.

Which isn't very satisfactory. No-one seems to have ever seen details of the group's discussions. What are they discussing and why is it so secret?

I imagine they spend most of their time eating biscuits and laughing at the sheer absurdity of a target of 20,000 attendance in the present circumstances. Then Katrien Meire presents her lastest big idea, and they all have another good laugh. (If this isn't what happens, the group can easily refute it by releasing some minutes.)

It's been clear for some time that her main idea is to give away tickets to anyone who'll take them: local residents, schools and other groups. I suspect that what's being covered up is how badly that's working and the lack of any other plan. Or to put it another way, Katrien's incompetence.

While it's never been clear what Duchatelet's motivation is, it's increasingly obvious that Katrien is using the club to advance her career. For her it's important that any failure is unreported. Why is a group of fans colluding in this?

Hungry Ted and Albury Addick have also blogged about this

03 September 2016

Walton Casuals 3 Greenwich Borough 2

You don't need to know the details but a "transport police incident on the line near Romford" this morning meant that I had the afternoon unexpectedly free, and so I decided to support non-league day with a visit to the Whyteleafe Stadium, where Walton Casuals were playing against Greenwich Borough in the FA Cup preliminary round.

I feel like I should know more about Greenwich Borough as they're relatively local, but I don't even know where they play. According to a flag I saw today they call themselves the Pride of SE9, which narrows it down, but is honestly one of the most modest claims you could ever read. Recently they've signed Bradley Pritchard, and while I don't share a certain fellow blogger's total devotion to him, I did appreciate his performances for Charlton. But he wasn't playing, so really I was a neutral at the match.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable game. Greenwich took a quick two-goal lead and were well worth it for most of the first half. On 40 minutes, though, Walton got back into it as Greenwich eased off. And in the second half Walton stormed it, outplaying their visitors and thoroughly deserved their 80th minute winner. They go into the draw for the next round and though I've no intention of doing a "road to Wembley", I'll look out for them. They are currently guests at Whyteleafe while their own ground is redeveloped, and their hosts also won today, so there's a possibility of a landlord and tenant derby.

The ground is small but nice, coping with today's crowd of 71 with plenty of room to spare. It is set in beautiful Surrey suburban countryside. Just opposite there's this very Dickensian front gate to a world of forbidden passions and family intrigues.

So, all in all, a good day out, and I'd recommend to anyone the experience of going to somewhere a bit out of the usual.

02 September 2016

Thomas Driesen (3)

... and here - thanks to @ce2310craig is a picture of him shortly after Jose Riga took over.

Thomas Driesen (2)

The News Shopper has found a couple of pictures of Thomas Driesen, the mysterious network scout, and he's not at all the spotty nerd we feared he'd be. Perfectly clear skin.

28 August 2016

Thomas Driesen

An article appeared in a Belgian magazine ( about Roland Duchatelet's football methods, and scans were posted on twitter (thanks, @ibnkafka). Here's an extract, quickly translated by me. For copyright purposes, this is probably as much as I can get away with.
So who are the other scouts “in England and elsewhere in Europe”? One name keeps coming up: Thomas Driesen. O’Loughlin admits that he met Driesen while he was trainer at STVV but doesn’t know him any more than that. In fact no-one seems to really know him. Apparently a twenty-something with little football experience. That’s all anyone knows. Try to find out more and you hit a wall of silence: Duchatelet won’t talk about him; neither do his close associates.  Driesen himself, listed on Facebook under an assumed name, doesn’t reply to any contact.
A search on Google gives some help but may  be misleading since the author refers to a “Thomas Dressen”. Denis Lapiere, a walloon comic artist and long-standing supporter of Standard Liege, is working on a series about power struggles within a football club. Hence his fascination with the machinations within his favourite club. In November 2015 he joined in a blog debate about the sporting fortunes of Standard, and he seems to be very well up on the internal politics of the Liege club. He wrote: “For his sporting options, Duchatelet consults Christophe Dessy, Dudu Dahan and his two personal advisers (Dylan Salomon and Thomas Dressen) as well as the scouting teams of the clubs in his stable."
Driesen apart, these are names that appear regularly in the media. Dessy is currently the manage of the Robert Louis-Dreyfus Academy. Dahan is Luzon’s agent; Duchatelet has blind faith in him, and he has negotiated transfers on behalf of Standard. Salomon is more than just an intermediary: he’s behind almost all the transfers of players from France to Duchatelet’s clubs. Unlike Dahan, Salomon has always worked for him.
And Thomas Driesen? He is the mysterious “network scout” that Luzon spoke of. The man who, based on statistics and videos, gives the green light (or red light) to the signing of any player.

Otherwise, the article goes on to say that Driesen impressed Duchatelet with his chutzpah, rather than his actual experience or ability. Remind you of anyone?

Out of nowhere, Driesen sent Duchatelet an email pointing out all the things Standard had done wrong, and "explained" why Mario Balotelli had missed a penalty. Duchatelet made him his "sporting oracle", but, according to the article "success has not yet been achieved".

Driesen appears to have a preference for small, skillful players, perhaps not best suited to the Championship.

A final quotation:
After a defeat, the coaches would often find an email in their in-box, full of comments and recommendations for what they should do in the future. The email was signed by Duchatelet and cc'd to Meire and Driesen.

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.