15 February 2015

Charlton 3 Brentford 0

Let me begin with a quote from someone else who saw the game:
What we saw today was a team playing without belief and seemingly going through the motions. Their confidence and pace had been sapped as if by an unseen force as the ball was turned over with monotonous regularity ...
But, for a change, this was not about Charlton, but about their opposition from this - I think - very fair summary of the game by a Brentford blogger.  I actually didn't think Brentford were that bad: technically, at least, they were well above Charlton at their recent worst, but there was a recognisable lack of pep and vim about them.

From a Charlton point of view the match proved what an unpredictable and therefore addictive game football is. After Tuesday's game, when everyone, even Solly, was off-form, here everyone, even Bulot, was playing well.

Especially Bulot. His performance was a revelation - a nice revelation, not a horrible one like at the end of the Bible. What made that happen?

The obvious answer is that for once Charlton played with a free attacking spirit. At last we saw Watt and Vetokele together from the start, and we liked what we saw. They seemed to like it too, with all the signs of a bromance blossoming on the most appropriate day for it. Watt's sheer enjoyment of the game is, I suspect, infectious. He simply loves to run at defences with the ball at his feet, and to find out what he can get away with. He also blatantly loves the limelight, which might be a problem later on when, inevitably, he will turn in a bad performance but for now he's out to dazzle us, and by god we need some dazzle in our lives after the last few months.

Maybe the Brentford blogger is right and they were really bad and Charlton were lucky to meet such a demoralised team. A more demoralised team than Charlton? These are strange days, indeed.

A curious and almost forgotten feeling suffused Floyd Road after the match. Happiness, and a slight aftertaste of optimism. Maybe this will be the performance and result that turns around the mood. Winter isn't necessarily over, but this felt like a spring breeze.

07 February 2015

Ivan Vukomanovic joins the chorus

In my last post, I looked at the press conference where Jose Riga was unveiled as the new head coach of Standard Liege. The elephant in the room at that conference was Ivan Vukomanovic, clearly unhappy at his treatment. Since then, he's unsurprisingly refused the offer to stay on as a coach and now he's spoken out, joining the chorus of managers sacked by Roland Duchatelet. I can't see the whole interview, because it's behind a Belgian paywall, but here is what's relatively easily available from RTL Sport.
I was surprised when the management told me of their decision. I thought it was a joke. Even today, it sticks in my craw. If it had come after a series of defeats, if they had said I wasn't up to it ... but I'd got 13 points out of 15.
The Standard management had justified their decision by his lack of experience. He says
I had the experience of a well-travelled professional footballer, who'd won 5 titles and 3 cups. I have less experience as a coach but the management knew that when they gave me a contract for the rest of the season. Two questions: what experience do Bruno Venanzi [Vice-chairman] and Axel Lawarée [Sporting adviser] have in their roles?
The players, he said, "blew a gasket" when they heard about his dismissal.
They didn't understand the decision. We had worked well together. They did all they could to convince me to stay, but it just wasn't possible.
He talks about the offer to remain as a coach in the organisation.
The offer ... was purely made out of political correctness, to appease the players and the supporters. I could have been a hypocrite and accepted. Could have gone along with Jose Riga and done nothing but I'm not like that. I am someone who's straight and honest. So I decided to leave Standard.
Form your own opinion, of course, but I'll go with the only comment on the RTL site, which says that while Duchatelet is a good businessman, he's "un ignorant pathétique du football", which really doesn't need to be translated.

02 February 2015

Jose Riga appointed head coach at Standard

Following the rather surprising news that Jose Riga has been appointed as head coach, Standard of Liege has put online a video of the press conference. It could hardly be more awkward.

The first thing you may notice about it is the absolute lack of excitement, and that Riga hardly speaks in the first part of the conference. What's really surprising is that the former head coach, Ivan Vukomanović, is there, and really doesn't look happy. Duchatelet, of course, is not there.

Axel Lawarée, who's listed on the Standard website as the "Sports Adviser" begins by explaining that Riga has been brought in, not because results have been bad, but because they might get worse, and the club wants to avoid that. The club wants to keep Vukomanović on as a coach, because he has a lot of potential. Vukomanović, as far as I can see, is uncertain about this, and says he'll need to consider his position. This has obviously come as a shock to him.

Finally, at about 7:20, Riga speaks. He says he was approached very recently (yesterday evening), and understood that the club wanted his help, because it's all about results (sadly Vukomanović is out of shot at this point). Riga says he's had a discussion with Vukomanović and made it clear that his help will be useful.

About his relationship with Duchatelet he says "He is just a chairman looking for a coach, full stop. [...] Just like when he first gave me a job with Standard, or the job with Charlton." He also mentions that had been out of work for a few months.

So, there you go. Still baffling. Look at the video even if you don't understand a word of French: the facial expressions and body language are fascinating. And if your French is better than mine and you hear something I've missed, please let us know in the comments below.

01 February 2015

Charlton 1 Rotherham 1

You know things are bad at Charlton when you hear that Stuart Pearce has been sacked by Forest and replaced by Dougie Freedman and you think, even for just a moment, that he, either of them, might not be a bad option.

But just look at what we have got. A new manager coming into the job with no goodwill at all. If he doesn't start getting wins instantly, he'll completely lose any support he has. He won't get any leeway, or any time to settle into the job.

In fact he got 60 minutes. The usual limp attacking display had been provoking chants for Tony Watt to come on (which Watt himself did nothing to discourage), but the withdrawal of Vetokele (who Watt replaced) when Watt came on gave some sign of how Watt was going to be used, why Watt wasn't already on, and where Watt would be playing.

Watt's body language was encouraging: he obviously wants to play and thinks he can make a difference. He didn't, but that's probably not his fault. Because once again we had a collection of individuals on the pitch, not a team. Some of them, the ones you'd expect it from, were playing for personal pride: stranded in this shambles they want to maintain their dignity. Others, you know who I mean, couldn't be arsed.

So the result, another sodding draw spitting itself out of the jaws of victory, was almost irrelevant.

While I was drowsing through this terrible game, my mind on Penelope Cruz and the question of whether Inma Cuesta, star of Spanish TV's Aguila Roja, is a suitable replacement for her in my increasingly worrying fantasy life, others were watching Guy Luzon's touchline performance. Lots of impassioned if slightly batty gestures, it seems, but no-one in the team paying any attention to them or him. How can they possibly have any respect for him? Those who know him hate him. Those who don't know him know that he got the job purely through a kind of notional nepotism. He's like the idiot son Roland Duchatelet never had.

Sorry, that's a terrible thing to say. For all I know, Roland has lots of idiot sons scattered all over Europe like abandoned VW tourers full of grey, antipodean underwear.

And yes, actually, she is.