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


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 Duch√Ętelet'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 Duch√Ętelet 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).


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).