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09 May 2016

Charlton 0 Burnley 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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