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.

12 August 2016

Katrien Jong-Un

Image from
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.