Pages

Saboteur

04 December 2016

Letter to Roland Duchâtelet

Yesterday the Belgium 20 delivered around 200 letters from Charlton fans to Roland Duchâtelet in Belgium.
One of them was mine! In case Roland somehow lost it and wants to read it again, here it is.
Dear Mr Duchâtelet

May I belatedly and sincerely wish you a happy birthday. You have obviously been a very successful businessman and have shown a genuine concern for the future of your society which goes beyond many businesspeople’s selfish and overriding search for greater profits at any cost. Now, as you said when you sold Standard: “Quality of life and personal happiness are the most important things in my life”. You have clearly earned the right to enjoy yourself and to indulge in the things that make you happy.

It’s hard to see how your continued ownership of Charlton Athletic can be one of these things. As you and Ms Meire have pointed out, it’s costing you a lot of money to run the club and there’s no guarantee you’ll recover that investment. It looks like an expensive hobby and a hobby you simply don’t enjoy.

One of the reasons Charlton fans don’t like your ownership is that you show no interest in the club. Famously, you don’t attend games, and any recent trips to SE7 have been timed to avoid attendance at any match. If Charlton win, are you happy? Does it ruin your weekend if they lose? Probably not. When Charlton were relegated last season, completely avoidably, did you find yourself furious with anger at the mismanagement that had caused it? Probably not.

To us, the supporters, it seems as if you have bought the club and forgotten why you did that. There has never been a clear statement of what ambitions you have for the club. When you bought the club it was in a position of great potential, given clever investment. Instead, the team was weakened by some disastrous decisions from the start, culminating in the appointment of an interim head coach who was clearly out of his depth and made relegation certain. None of this needed to happen. Would you tolerate this level of mismanagement in one of your industrial businesses? Probably not.

When you have expressed an opinion you have tended to blame the fans. Most recently you said that the protests in Belgium recently were the work of a group of core actors and you were reported as saying that fans are unhappy because they don’t like the idea of a female CEO.

If you look at Charlton’s history you’ll understand that the club’s fans have a reputation - sometimes quite smugly so - for social progressiveness. I think many fans were, like me, delighted with the appointment of a female CEO. We can see that women are underrepresented in football management and were glad to see the club doing something to change that. For most people, the issue with Ms Meire is not her gender or her nationality but her competence. The team has not succeeded, and revenue, with diminishing ticket and merchandise sales, must be savagely reduced. Presumably you have given her achievement targets and unless they are incredibly minimal, she can’t have achieved them. If she were a manager in one of your core businesses, or in something you care about - STVV, perhaps - would she still have the job? Probably not. I don’t wish her ill, but her performance and your acceptance of it is another demonstration of how little you care for Charlton.

I wasn’t one of the “core actors” who visited Belgium recently, but they have my admiration and full support. I’m one of the much larger group who are protesting by staying away from games at the Valley. I have supported Charlton since I was a child and had held a season ticket for 12 years. It wasn’t an easy decision not to renew it but I simply want to make owning Charlton as expensive and unprofitable for you as possible, so that in time you will look for and find a buyer who will give the club respect and develop the enormous potential. Potential not just in terms of the facilities and location of the club, but in terms of the fans. Look at the energy, creativity and imagination that has gone into the protests. Imagine having that behind you! It could have been yours but you blew it and the chance won’t come back.

Again, I’ll quote your comments following the sale of Standard: "I have felt it was complicated for me at Standard. For the Standard fans too - those who didn't see in me the leader they wanted".

You’ll never recover the trust of Charlton fans, just as you’ll never recover the money you’ve spent.

Cut your losses. Sell the club.

(Source of quotations: http://www.castrust.org/2015/06/duchatelet-sells-standard-liege/ )

03 December 2016

Tooting & Mitcham 1 Faversham 0

Yes I am a glory hunter. Tooting & Mitcham are currently on a great run of form, solidly on top of their league (The Ryman Isthmian South) and their last 8 league games had brought them 8 wins, with an aggregate score of 37-7. So I was expecting a good game, with lots of goals.

That didn't quite happen. Faversham Town have apparently been in decent form themselves and for most of the first half they kept the Terrors trapped in their own half. The home team looked nothing like the side I saw trouncing Cray Wanderers a month ago. Maybe it was the after-effect of a trip to Guernsey midweek, or of celebrating that 6-0 victory, but they were disjointed and a bit sluggish.

So it stayed into the second half, but by then Faversham were looking tired, and following a smart substitution, T&M got the goal (O'Neill after a well delivered free kick) that gave them a scarcely deserved 9th successive win.

A match I endured rather than enjoyed on another freezing day beside the mighty Wandle.

15 November 2016

The Sacking of Russell Slade

Tolstoy famously and wrongly said that all happy marriages are alike while every unhappy marriage is different. There are many successful alternative models for a happy marriage, while unhappy marriages tend to share certain features: bad communication, distrust, lack of a shared objective and, if there are children, deep distress, fear and confusion. They don't know why their parents are arguing but they know something's wrong, and they may respond with tantrums or sulks or more serious antisocial actions. A good social worker can diagnose the health of a relationship by looking at the childrens' behaviour.

People routinely underestimate the intelligence of footballers but even the dumbest of them can feel the same vibes that upset small children, and even the dumbest of them, spending hours in the company of their smarter teammates, will come to understand exactly what's gone wrong in the managment of the club they represent.

The great Richard Cawley (who unlike Tolstoy is seldom wrong) tweeted this last night while the sacking of Slade was still unconfirmed:

Either deliberately or carelessly, Slade's position was being undermined by this public display of a yellow card warning him to improve or face the sack. I think we saw the outcome at Swindon on Saturday when, by all accounts, even the brighter, older children Jack and li'l Chris threw a 90 minute sulk. They knew Slade was unsupported by the ownership and nothing he could have said - even if he were a far more charismatic leader than he appears to be - could have brought more out of them. The backstage actions had once again wrecked any semblance of team spirit. Just as happened immediately before the sacking of Powell, Peeters, Luzon.

No-one can manage Charlton successfully in the current set-up. Slade is probably not a great manager, but I can't believe he's not better than his record at Charlton will suggest. Those few months, those 16 games will be a blot on his otherwise decent but unspectacular record and a cause of nightmares for years to come. I actually feel very sorry for him. In spite of the baseball caps.

13 November 2016

#taxiforRoland

CARD's latest brilliant idea had me making an unexpected Sunday morning trip to the Valley

 A taxi decorated with images from the anti-Duchatelet protests is heading to Belgium today, to deliver Roland's birthday presents and to publicise the campaign. Two other cars are going, less flamboyantly, and a total of 12 people will be spreading the word. They'll also be visiting First World War memorial sites.

On its return the taxi will keep the decorations for three months while Chris, its driver, continues to ply for trade around London, so look out for it. At the ground this morning there was some discussion of how it could be pre-booked for strategically important journeys, such as to the FA or the EFL offices. I've a feeling we'll hear more of that later.

This little charmer won't be going to Belgium. Gadafy is her name and she stole everyone's heart when she dragged her human along to the photoshoot in front of the North Stand.

At 11 there was a short and moving act of remembrance outside the West Stand, with details given of people connected with the club who died in the two world wars.

The people going to Belgium are paying their own way, it should be pointed out, but if it's been a while since you contributed to CARD funds, maybe it's time to slip them a few quid.

06 November 2016

Tooting and Mitcham 4 Cray Wanderers 0

My third non-league game of the season brought me by Tramlink to a ground I've gone past a few times while cycling the Wandle trail. The KNK stadium is, but what do I know, pretty impressive at this level (rymans isthmian league south). A decent stand on one side and covered terracing at either end for the small but noisy group of singing home supporters who, in true old school style, switched ends at half time. I don't at all consider myself a football traditionalist but that's one of the things - alongside players wearing shirts numbered 1 - 11 and match officials in black - that I prefer about the non-league game.

I've enjoyed good luck with my non-league games so far and that continued. This was an enjoyable affair on a bitterly cold afternoon, both teams trying to play a skilful game perhaps because they didn't have the pace or the physical presence to do otherwise.

Billy Dunn's 25th minute goal separated the teams after a fairly even first half, but in the second half three goals in five minutes (Mike Dixon twice and Chace O'Neill) - largely the result of calamitous defending - destroyed any spirit in the Wanderers, and the game fizzled out, with only a few hearty fouls to cheer any visiting supporters (I didn't see or hear any, but they had nothing to shout about.)
Osibodu lumps the ball upfield

As the Wanderers' match report says:
It came as something of a relief when the final whistle went and there could be no complaints, the better side had won today and showed how tough this division is going to be.

The sun set gloriously over the far side of the pitch and I managed to grab a shot of it which by pure luck includes some actual football action, so I've added a caption.

Another thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at a new ground. A friendly feeling in the stand and honest effort from all the players on the pitch. I could get used to this.


22 October 2016

Beckenham Town 1 Lancing 3

Another enjoyable game in the world of non-league gave me what was surely a better experience than watching Charlton scrape a point at Gillingham. For one thing, it didn't involve going to Gillingham, that bit in the "Garden of England" where people have dumped their burst mattresses and old fridges.

Beckenham's ground is ridiculously easy for me to get to (5 stops on the Hayes line) and with admission at £7 (£4 concessions) why wouldn't I go there?

The game was one of 101 ties in the first round proper of the F A Vase which, if I understand it correctly is open to teams in Step 9, which both Beckenham and Lancing are. Although they play in different leagues, their level should be roughly equal.

That was how it turned out for the first half, both teams playing decent football. Either team, with a little more precision in attack, might have taken the lead but Beckenham's Alebiosu, a clever player on the ball, took a well-worked chance.

In the second half, though, Lancing's better organisation and teamplay overcame the increasingly ragged efforts of the home team and two goals in the first 15 minutes turned the game around. Beckenham didn't give up, but didn't have any ideas, and away victory was clinched with a sweet individual goal from Alex Fair with less than 5 minutes to go.

The travelling supporters, about 10 of them, celebrated loudly and their team will go into the draw for round 2 with some optimism.

17 October 2016

Charlton 3 Coventry 0

To the Valley for the first time this season, breaking my boycott to be part of the protest. Details of the Pigs in Space event have been widely reported, including - importantly - in the Belgian press, and video of the violent suppression of a peaceful protest made it to the Evening Standard. The irony of that is exquisite. I'd suggest that at the next game CARD try to make the stadium a sea of North Korean flags, with two possible outcomes. Either a striking image is created or there's a beautiful story of hundreds of symbols of an oppressive state being censored.

The game itself wasn't bad, in fact. Not high quality, but open and, in a way, flowing. Coventry weren't as clueless as you'd expect, except where it mattered (scoring and defending). Charlton played much more attractively than they have in the away games I've seen. With Ademola and Holmes both starting, they tested the opposition more.

The first goal was against the run of play but well taken by Holmes. A suspicion of offside but the replays showed the officials got it right. The second goal was apparently well made, but I was standing at the urinal at the time, and the third goal came as I was leaving, hoping to get home before the rain. (This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am not your man for a full match report.)

But I never leave early, I thought to myself, and I've cycled through snow to get to a match. Clearly I don't have the same attachment as I used to. During the pre-match build-up and at half-time it felt like being at an away game, observing the rituals from the outside rather than feeling part of them. It's a testament, I suppose, to the importance of Dave Lockwood. When he was trying to raise interest in the absurd fans sofa or the ludicrous pie-cam, I would feel sympathy for him, as for an actor lumbered with an awful script. I simply didn't care about what was going on on Saturday. I've searched hard and found I don't even have an opinion about the crossbar challenge.

And the stadium was so empty! Rationally, of course, I knew it would be, but I was still shocked. Presumably it's usually emptier still, without returning exiles. Without the Coventry fans and without the protests the atmosphere would have been dead. Once again, though, we saw that a protest can bring some life to the team, and the biggest win for some time.



So, despite the win, a rather depressing experience. This is not how it's meant to be.

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

Confidential

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 (www.sportmagazine.be) 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.

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.

This blog isn't sponsored by anyone and doesn't carry adverts, but if you require the kind of service that Axis Europe plc provide (I've no idea what it is) you could probably do worse than choose them.

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.

20 April 2016

Melexis

Melexis is one of Roland Duchatelet's firms. To celebrate its AGM today, I looked at some reviews of the company by people who have worked there. Here are some of those opinions.

A business development manager wrote:
Very very very slow ... No business acumen and stick in their slow and dated ways DONOT have the Silicon Valley apples and culture which is detrimental to success
A manager wrote:
slow/ stuck in their own old ways. Change is not almost but certainly impossible , decision have to be mulled over to death and then some
A former employee:
Advancement relies heavily on internal politics. Difficult to advance if you haven't made the favorites list.
Twelve percent of ex-employees would recommend the company to friends. (Damn! I really hoped that would be two percent.)

The comments begin to sound familiar:
The ownership is very cliquey, and this is reflected throughout the management hierarchy, ridiculous project schedules, unspoken expectations for long hours, only way to move up is to suck up. Merit pay is based on things beyond the average person's control, and reviews are only good if you're helping your manager look better than they are (most are pretty bad at their jobs, here). Everyone I've met, seems tired of bad management.
Embittered ex-employees really are everywhere, aren't they? 

Relegation rage

The other day my roll of cling film finally ran out. It had been coming a long time, the roll getting thinner and thinner on its cardboard tube, but it was never possible to tell just how long it would take. As I pulled off the final piece I felt relief that I could at last move on to the next roll, and I thought this is how it will feel when Charlton's relegation is finally confirmed. How wrong I was.

The sheer anger I felt last night took me by surprise. When there was absolutely no hope left of a miraculous survival all that was left was rage at the incompetence and arrogance that have brought Charlton to this. I won't go through the list of disastrous decisions that led to last night's relegation. They've been well documented over the last 30 months, but we might sum them up as every decision being the wrong one.

Less surprisingly, Katrien Meire's statement - which was presumably written a few weeks ago ready for use when needed - made things worse. She has a knack for that.
We apologise for our mistakes
Sharing the blame. When things go wrong it's somehow everyone's fault. No sense of real personal sadness or guilt.
I and the club’s Senior Management Team will start the rebuilding work immediately. Our sole aim is to be fighting for promotion next season and our top priority is to put together a squad that can help Charlton Athletic get back into the Championship.
The last thing we need is She and the existing management team having anything to do with the rebuilding work. They've had two seasons to build a team that can survive in the Championship yet here we are. Even if Lennie Lawrence is appointed as Director of Football (in a blatant attempt at crowd-pleasing) there's no prospect that the overall approach to running the club is going to change; no acceptance that the way they've done things is fundamentally flawed.
This is not the time for excuses.
But I somehow think they'll start tomorrow or next week.

Big protests planned for Saturday. Between now and then, remember the anger you felt last night. Nurture it, put it in a warm cupboard, let it grow. Bring it to the Valley on Saturday.

05 April 2016

Duchatology


Hey, heyey Ro-o-land! (ooh! aah!)
I wanna know (oh oh oh)
Why you're such a ...
I've spent a lot of time considering if Roland Duchatelet's football empire might be nothing more than a criminal organisation. I'm sure it isn't, but maybe it's more useful to think of it as a cult.

Let's start with the premise that insanely rich people start out by being insanely avaricious. Their avarice is fed, rather than sated, by their increasing wealth. Their wealth is proof of their worth: they are rich because they deserve it, not because of anything as dumb as luck. And when you've made a few fortunes through business, you might think you have the Midas touch and be ready to move into another sphere. 

The founder of a certain cult* is quoted as saying
I'd like to start a religion. That's where the money is!
Football is like a religion for many people, and there's far more money splashing around. Get a piece of that, your inner demons may whisper, and you can be even richer, have even more money that you could never spend in a thousand lifetimes.

With the Duchatelet organisation there's a clear expectation of reverence for the Leader, who is rarely seen among his people. He keeps away from the business end of affairs, surrounding himself with a trusted group of close associates. It's hard to get into that group, but once you're in, you're made for life.

Any criticism of the Leader is seen as heresy, and the heretics are accused of trying to bring down the organisation. They have to accept him as a benign, knowing figure.
The owner wants the best for Charlton. He does it his way and [the fans] need to accept that
The aims and above all the timescale of the organisation are deliberately vague. The Rapture is coming really soon, and Charlton will be swept up into the Paradise of the Prem, but for now, please be patient; your reward will come. Any setbacks on the way are just part of the plan: in time all will be clear.

There is, or was, a trace of a moral programme. The Leader might have thought that indignation at the absurd salaries paid to top players and coaches could be manipulated into support for a crusade against the system. Duchatelet has gone silent now on the line that he wants to reform football in Europe, and there's nothing to replace it. Certainly not a desire for success on the pitch.

Duchatelet chairs a board meeting
Cults fall apart, I suspect, when it becomes obvious they are driven by moneylust and ego rather than principle. It becomes clearer and clearer that it's all about the money for him. Making a Belgian billionaire even richer is not a campaign that's going to win many hearts and minds outside the charmed inner circle. It's not just that Duchatelet's project is failing, but that we've seen behind the curtain, and we know that Duchatelet's dreams, whatever they are, don't include you or me. So let's keep giving him nightmares.


*which is notoriously litigious, so shall remain unnamed

03 April 2016

Charlton 2 Birmingham 1

A comeback from a goal down, an injury-time winner, and all the fun of another brilliant protest made this the most enjoyable day at the Valley for a long time.

I had heard that people were being searched and having their balls seized on entry, but that ownership tactic worked about as well as the appointment of Karel Fraeye. No sooner had the game started than the pitch, particularly the penalty area in front of the covered end, was covered in the things and three sides of the ground were chanting for Roland out.

Oh, it's just those negative individuals who want to see the club fail, Katrien might have been thinking. But once again a strong and vocal protest was followed by a strong and committed performance from the team. You could tell things were different from Birmingham's first corner. Surely by now everyone knows how to take a corner against Charlton? Not Birmingham. A stupidly elaborate play quickly lost the ball and led to a Charlton attack.

It was slightly against the run of play for Birmingham to score first, but the result of familiarly bad defending. Probably everyone feared a collapse, but within six minutes Johan had scored the equaliser, setting up a rather exciting second half.

Both sides went for it, but Charlton - supported loudly - finally got the goal and a deserved three points.

The win was celebrated joyously. It may not be enough, but it was a rare moment of exhilaration in this terrible season.

But Charlton are still six points plus goal difference off safety, with seven games to go. Just imagine what this season might have been if Karel Fraeye had never been allowed near the team. I go on about it, I know, but that appointment was a truly terrible decision. The kind of decision that Roland will continue to make as long as he's in charge. So we mustn't ease the pressure. Eventually, he's got to realise he's not welcome and has to go.

29 March 2016

Return of the Centre Back

In 2007, before he changed his name and became a footballer, Michael Morrison released the hit single "Return of the Mack". How prophetic these words were:
So I'm back up in the game
Running things to keep my swing
Letting all the people know
That I'm back to run the show
'Cause what you did, you know, was wrong
And all the nasty things you've done
So, baby, listen carefully
While I sing my come-back song
He even included a chorus where most of the lines begin with the words "You lied to me". 

Morrison's done rather well since he moved (meaning was given away) to Birmingham. Captain of the team and acknowledged as a brilliant signing by Gary Rowett.

One team's brilliant signing is another team's disastrous misjudgment. Throwing Morrison away is up there with selling Kermorgant as part of the undermining of Charlton's success on the pitch. Apart from his defensive solidity, what's really been missed is his role as a leader and motivator, a natural captain when Jackson's not available.

He's back at the Valley on Saturday, and should get a warm reception, even when he inevitably scores a hat trick from corners. 

Meanwhile the club has been pursuing its own unique brand of charm offensive. Emails from fans have been answered, after a fashion. Usually the response has been that "We're sorry you feel this way; we are trying our upmost [sic] to make things better" but with no real detail, conviction or attempt to win the fans over.

Flaggy has been brought out again, this time to win fans' hearts and minds by threatening them that throwing a beachball can be a criminal offence and could get you banned from the ground (which isn't really a deterrent).

And the quest for the fans who met Roland Duchatelet continues. Still no-one has come forward, while Target 20000 have made clear it wasn't them.


I've been looking again at the slogan "Building a Better Future Together". I crossed out every word in that phrase that's untrue or inaccurate, and here's the inspirational message that remains: "a".  

24 March 2016

Disappearing sponsors

It's unusual for me to be out of the house before 9am these days, but today I was up and out to get to Sparrows Lane to join the protest outside Charlton's training ground.

Organised with very short notice, the protest was intended to warn potential sponsors of the risks involved in being associated with the club these days. Sponsors were due to visit the training ground in the morning, before going to the Valley for a lunch. We expected sponsors to arrive from 10am onwards, and by then there were about 30 of us gathered outside the gates.

We saw lots of players arrive, nearly all in similar oversized cars with tinted windows (footballers have no imagination when it comes to choosing a car). A few waved as they passed. Jason Euell stopped for a slightly longer conversation. But only four sponsors showed up. Two of them stopped and chatted on their way in, and shared the concerns they had, saying they would be raising questions with the management.

It felt disappointing, in a way. I was carrying an A4 sheet with TOXIC BRAND on it and I would have wanted more people to see it. But I suppose the low turn-out was evidence that sponsors already know how toxic the club is. Like season ticket holders, they don't need encouragement to cancel.

Talking of which, a season ticket renewal form was waiting for me when I got home. Like a lot of people on my twitter feed, I probably won't be using it - at least not in the intended way. And it was later confirmed that Andrew Sykes, one of the club's major sponsors, will not be sponsoring the team next season. It's terrible that we now want the club to face these short-term setbacks, but it honestly seems the only way we'll get rid of this awful ownership and give the club a future.

16 March 2016

Statement

It's still there, anonymous and behind an unassuming link, but Duchatelet's head-spew still graces the official website in all its styleless glory. Like a lot of people, I've copied it, in case it's deleted or edited.

As it stands it's deluded and unedited, and surely can't have been subject to any professional oversight, even at the basic level of house style {...}.  The "Whom" that starts the second paragraph would not have got past any internet-era editor. The claim that RD has met the fans in recent weeks might have raised an eyebrow. My bet is that RD said publish it just as it is, and the comms team said well if that's what you want ...

It's hugely insulting but that's no surprise. What's amazing is how clumsy and counter-productive it is. It's guaranteed to keep the protests going partly because of the insult, but even more because it's a crack in the impassive facade. We can scent blood.

Dear Fans,

Last Sunday, some individuals did not come to The Valley to watch the game and support the team, but came to create disorder on the pitch and interfere with the players and the game. Disorder which is, allegedly, needed to drive change in ownership and management.

Whom would they expect the club to be sold to? How long would a sales process take? Is it easier to sell the club when it is in League One rather than Championship?

Some individuals seem to want the club to fail. This is a confused approach, since following this logic leads to exactly the opposite of what we all want: staying in the Championship.

Allegations regarding the CEO are misrepresented* and are continuously used as a method to discredit and fuel personal abuse, hatred and with a risk to personal safety.

Although certain individuals tell you it does not happen, in recent weeks Roland Duchatelet has met the fans, the CEO has met with several different groups of fans and the communications team have attended several fans meetings.  We will continue these meetings and constructive dialogue with fans.

We have 9 games left in which we have to get 6 points more than our competitors.

The team just got 7 points out of 3 games.

We still have the chance to make it happen with the support of the fans until the very last game. We must believe it is still possible. Every football fan knows the 12th man is a crucial factor in the success on the pitch. 

*I think the difference is also because fans don't see themselves as customers and {…} they go to the restaurants with their families every week and they go to the cinema but if they aren't satisfied with the product will they go and scream to the people in charge of it? No they don't, but they do it with a football club and that's very weird (meaning unique) because they feel a sense of ownership of a football club and that's a really difficult balance of how you try and engage with fans and make them, incorporated into some of the decisions of the club, {…}.

13 March 2016

We want four! We want four!

This tweet provoked mixed reactions yesterday.

Mainly, people seemed to find it crass and insensitive. And while I can understand that, I preferred to see it as subversive: a message of resistance smuggled out of the propaganda machine, saying Yes, we know how shit things are.

It must be horrible to be working for Charlton at the moment, especially if you're a fan. Forced into silence on a subject close to the heart - it can't be healthy. They could, in theory, quit and many have, but I think it's better to keep some Charlton fans in the club. We want them there when this horrible experiment is over. So let's cut them some slack.

Even if I'm wrong, and the tweet was just idiocy, at least it's raised more anger, which can be put to use this afternoon.

I'll be walking out on 74 minutes. Do the same, I urge you, please do the same. Even if the game's finely balanced, even if Charlton are winning. Especially if Charlton are winning. Show the Sky cameras that it's not about the short term, but about the future. We want Charlton to have one.


09 March 2016

Charlton 0 MK Dons 0

The fear was that the importance of the game would be too much for the team. This was so clearly must-win, should-win game, that perhaps the players would be overawed by the occasion.

But it seemed no-one had told the players what was at stake. So little enthusiasm was shown in a torpid first half, that we could have been watching a friendly. MK Dons weren't much better, and clearly would settle for a point. It could have been boring, but it became maddening: the whole team playing as if the result didn't matter. They've accepted that relegation is inevitable. They're already thinking of getting a new job with an actual football club, rather than Duchâtelet's bizarre experiment, and it'll be us poor sods left to re-experience the horrors of league one.

With ten minutes to go Riga got the memo, and switched to a more attacking formation, bringing on Lookman. The game suddenly got interesting, but without any real threat of a goal. Charlton finished this most crucial of matches having got a total of one shot on target.

A full, despairing account of the game is available in Kyle's reliably excellent blog, if you can bear to relive it.

What we certainly saw last night was the death of the myth of Jose Riga. The idea that he single-handedly saved Charlton from relegation two years ago was always wrong. Back then he had the remains of a carefully assembled squad of players who actually cared about the club, rather than the thrown-together gang he's got now.  I don't know if anyone could motivate the current squad in the current situation, but obviously he can't.

And finally, let's never forget these words of Katrien Meire in the matchday programme of 8 August 2015:
It's vital to be successful in the Championship ... there's no-one to hide behind anymore.
She has utterly failed to deliver and if she had any decency she'd admit it and quit. If Duchâtelet doesn't sack her, it's the clearest possible sign of his contempt for the club. I'm not holding my breath.

01 March 2016

A winning CARD?

The Football League is currently asking for nominations for Supporter of the year. I've nominated the Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet, and here are the reasons I've given. 
Just as organisations as well as individuals can win the Nobel Peace Prize, why should fans' organisations not be able to win this award? I'm nominating CARD as representing all the Charlton supporters who have pursued a lawful and peaceful campaign to persuade the club's current owners to sell up and allow someone who has a genuine interest in footballing success to take over. Initiatives have varied from the obvious (after-match protests), through whimsical (a Pinocchio day to celebrate the Club's CEO) and the adventurous (taking the protest to Belgium, our owner's backyard) and will continue. All have been carried out with a sense of style and humour despite the anger felt towards the current management. The protests have gained publicity in the British and Belgian media.

While many fans would simply give up supporting a club that has turned its back on its supporters, CARD are showing a determination to make the club better again.

Giving the award to CARD would serve a wider purpose in discouraging the actions of careless and disrespectful owners who seem to be proliferating in British football.
I also gave a list of websites where protests and activities have been reported (mainly BBC but also some Belgian media).

  • http://footnews.be/news/5992/M%C3%AAme_%C3%A0_Saint-Trond,_Duch%C3%A2telet_est_critiqu%C3%A9_ouvertement 
  • http://www.rtl.be/sport/football/football-belgique/des-supporters-de-charlton-dans-les-tribunes-de-saint-trond-pour-protester-contre-roland-duchatelet-798148.aspx 
  • https://storify.com/Mattjobob/pinocchio-day-at-the-valley 
  •  http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/35329778 

Of course, it doesn't have a hope in hell of winning. The league wouldn't want to upset an owner or reward "troublesome" fans. But it's another tiny step that might make a difference. If you want to follow my lead, please use as much or as little of my reasons as you want.

I should also point out that I'm not involved in CARD, except as a fellow Charlton supporter and a participant in the protests that they have co-ordinated (and I have made small financial contributions to the funds).

29 February 2016

The eastern front

I was delighted to see that a group of 20 Charlton supporters made the trip to Belgium to take the protest against Duchâtelet into his backyard. While he doesn't own Sint-Truiden (STVV) it's clear he has a lot of influence over the club. Why else would the reaction to a totally peaceful protest be so strong? The supporters had their banner confiscated (fair enough, I suppose) but were evicted from the ground and handed over to the local police, which seems unnecessary, to say the least. STVV fans are already unhappy with the management of their club. Perhaps the heavy-handed reaction to the protest will encourage them to continue making their voices heard.

"Wanted: club with ambition!"
The protest achieved its first objective. As well as being reported in Britain, it made news in Belgium too. It's part of a drip-drip approach, to convince the world of football, and perhaps the Belgian business community, that an association with Roland Duchâtelet is bad news.

One of the Belgian news sites ran a poll, asking "is there a place for Duchâtelet in the world of football?" After some eurovision-style tactical voting from southeast London, the result was conclusive: currently 98% of 765 voters have said "non".

Meanwhile, last week, the Coco5 sports drink company was talked out of considering a sponsorship deal with Charlton. I've no idea how serious their interest was anyway, so let's not get carried away. But it does show that sponsors don't want to be associated with a toxic product like Duchâtelet's Charlton.

Mark Griffiths (@Markg2004) has compiled a list of businesses currently sponsoring Charlton and has written to most of them urging them to reconsider. A model letter is here if you've got the time or the mail-merge expertise to do the same.

Some people said that the protest after Saturday's game felt tired. I agree. Although it's important to keep some sort of protest going, it's hard to maintain the momentum when nothing seems to change. But the thought that some sort of protest will happen means Katrien Meire has to prepare for it. The expense and inconvenience of that is part of what we hope will eventually drive her and her puppeteer out of Charlton. Home and away, we need to keep the pressure on.

PS Last week also brought the news that Belgian second tier club Lommel have appointed Karel Fraeye as head coach. It's hard not to believe that Duchâtelet's had a hand in that appointment. Belgian football seems to run that way. His job is to save the club from relegation. Good luck with that, Lommelers!

28 February 2016

Charlton 3 Reading 4

It should have been so good to see a commanding performance from Yann Kermorgant giving his side a 3-1 lead at halftime, scoring twice and making the third. It was one of his best performances at the Valley. Such a shame he was in the wrong colour shirt.

In the days before the game he'd given his account of how he came to leave Charlton. It's the familiar story of misjudgement by Roland and Katrien. This man, they declared, was not good enough. (I'm also still convinced the decision was part of a campaign to force Chris Powell to quit, cheaply, rather than have to be sacked). The folly of that decision firmly bit them on the bum today.

As did later decisions that have left Charlton with wet tissue paper where a defence ought to be. Six, possibly seven, defenders started the game. In the maths of football Stichelbach's Law says the number of possible defensive cockups increases in the following way. If x is the number of defenders, then y, the number of possible confusions, is xx: x to the power of x.  Where x=2 , y=4. There's possible confusion but both defenders have a good chance of knowing what they're doing. Where x=3, y=27, more things can go wrong. And so on. But 6 to the power of 6 gives 46,656 ways of getting things wrong, and we saw most of them in the first 45 minutes of the game. Reading's 3-1 lead at half-time was no more than Yann's performance and Charlton's defending deserved.

Charlton looked devastated after the third goal, and I feared another drubbing. But Reading eased off in the second half, and their deficiencies became clearer. Like Charlton, they are weak in defensive midfield play, and gave the ball away too much. The game was almost rescued by the surprisingly effective combination of Makienok and Sanogo, but an injury time goal for Reading gave them the points. It seemed a harsh result after the second half effort, but if you concede four goals at home ...

Strangely, the gap between Charlton and safety didn't increase yesterday, but games are running out. Winnable home games seem particularly scarce, with a stream of highly-placed teams set to visit the Valley. Some bookies now have a price of 1/50 for relegation. Dark, horrible days.

13 February 2016

Duchâtelet Speaks ...

He arrived early to get a good seat
... and no-one listens.

The protests and perhaps the calamitous form of the team lured Charlton's owner out of his misty mountain-top lair in Belgium and while visiting he gave a full and frank confession of all the mistakes he and his CEO have made. Of course he didn't. There was, to be fair, the tiniest acknowledgement that (in the universal language of non-apologies) mistakes have been made.  How Duchâtelet must wish he could speak Spanish, where it's normal to say se han cometido errores - mistakes have made themselves.

There was nothing to change the view that mistakes will continue to make themselves.

Mr six-managers-in-two-years Duchâtelet won't sack himself because it would undermine stability. And he won't sack Katrien Meire because she's quite nice.

Tactically, of course he couldn't sack Katrien. He would see it as a sign of weakness, inviting more protests. And that's fair enough. If he had sacked her, I'd be out dancing in the street. Actually, by now I'd probably be in a secure unit, but my point stands.

He could have given a little ground. He could have said he is going to support her with some consultants to get things back on track. (As everyone knows, the support of management consultants usually means someone - anyone, absolutely anyone except the consultants - is eventually sacked.)

But he's chosen to stick his fingers in his ears, whistle a happy tune, and pretend nothing's wrong. "We're not even thinking about what relegation might mean, tra la la."

The failure to sack Katrien Meire until it's too late is like the failure to sack Karel Fraeye until it was too late: a sign that he can't see or doesn't care, and doesn't - despite his claims - learn from mistakes. 

So, even if this afternoon's game is a thrilling 5-4 victory by a totally committed team battling back from conceding two early goals, I'll be outside the West Stand at 5pm. This isn't over.





11 February 2016

The sacking of Katrien Meire

Well, someone had to do it.

If Roland Duchâtelet's objective really is to run a successful football club, he would surely have shown Katrien Meire the same ruthlessness and impatience he exhibits towards Head Coaches. By any normal measure, her management of the club has been an embarrassing failure. Most obviously on the pitch, of course, but income and profit must already be falling steadily - all those empty seats every week. And all those stewards to control a protest that may or may not materialise don't come cheap.

And in this, a relatively quiet week, we had the farce of her resignation/dismissal as a director of Charlton Athletic Holdings being mischievously hoaxed. Whoever did it (and I must point out that the stifled laugh you hear from this blog in no way condones the illegal act) must have been amazed at how easy it was to get away with it. All because the company didn't use the free verification service offered by Companies House, apparently. Something that any competent lawyer should have corrected. Where's a competent lawyer when you need one, Katrien?

So her failures as a CEO have led to financial turmoil, and have left the holding company unprotected against corporate identity theft, the consequences of which could have been much worse than the embarrassment we saw this week. If it wasn't already, the reputation of the club is in tatters.

In any normal business, the owner would have been replacing the fake document with a real one. Sorry, Katrien, but you've failed.

But this isn't a normal business, of course. It's certainly not a normal football club and Duchâtelet's long-term objectives remain as obscure as ever, although footballing success seems ever lower on his list of priorities.

So the protests must continue. We won't know until noon on Saturday what the twist will be this week, but we do know that there will be a protest after the game. Let's make it another big one.