28 January 2016

Taking sides

José Riga's playing a good game, taking every opportunity to put some distance between himself and the Duchâtelet deathstar. Here's what he said to the BBC on his return to Charlton.
A lot of people think I am part of the network but I am not at all, because I went to other places. For me it is a professional relationship between an owner and a coach - not more.
But it's very similar to what he said when he was appointed as head coach at Standard for the second time:
[Duchâtelet] is just a chairman looking for a coach, full stop. [...] Just like when he first gave me a job with Standard, or the job with Charlton.
So, that's four times now that Duchâtelet has been just a chairman looking for a coach, and Riga has been that coach.

Either Riga is exploiting Duchâtelet's fear of strangers, or Duchâtelet is exploiting Riga's fear of the dole queue.

Today the talk has all been about Reece Oxford, by all accounts a brilliant 17 year old defensive midfielder with West Ham. Opinions were divided on whether his putative loan move to Charlton was a good thing or not. Consensus: excellent prospect, but not what Charlton most need, especially with Tony Watt apparently heading out the door again.

Late in the day it appeared the deal had broken down because Riga had vetoed it. And suddenly the story offered a bewildering flowerhead of possibilities.

1 In time-honoured fashion, the deathstar arranged the deal without speaking to Riga. On learning about it, he said no.

2 Oxford did a bit of research, realised what a snakepit Charlton is, said no, for god's sake no, and Charlton devised a story to cover this up.

3 The whole thing was never going to happen, but it made Riga look like an independent-minded man.

The problem with option 1 is that it assumes Riga has the power to say no. Option 2 doesn't seem likely: it's based on a tweet by Oxford that was misinterpreted. His anger and frustration was not at being shipped off to Charlton but at the fact that his chance to get some gametime was being denied. Option 3 could only be true if Charlton were run and managed by a lying, immoral group of chancers who are desperately trying to regain some credibility.

Hmmmmmmmmm. Which of these, dear readers, is the most likely explanation?

25 January 2016

Alcorcón again

I honestly didn't intend to refer to Alcorcón again, but in a week when Charlton ejected a Charlton fan for the crime of displaying his devotion to Charlton, and the Charlton Chief Executive remains harder to find than Wally in a Where's Wally? fan convention, what's been going on in Spain?

Two actions valuing the supporters, that's what.

First, the two hundred longest-serving season ticket holders will be honoured with a special ceremony and a memorial on 31 January

Second, any fan with a birthday in January is offered a free ticket for a guest to the game against Real Valladolid on 30 January, and to enjoy a pizza and a drink in the VIP lounge afterwards.

As I've noted before, Alcorcón (a club that cherishes its supporters) appears to be on an upward trajectory, while Charlton (a club that throws out supportive supporters who show their support) is plummeting. Perhaps there's a lesson here ...

Of course there's a lesson here. A lesson so obvious that only a stupidly arrogant man and his hopelessly incompetent protegée could miss it.

Reality and sense are queuing up and knocking at Roland Duchâtelet's door but he's turned the lights off and is pretending no-one's home.

24 January 2016


As widely reported, this fan was evicted from the ground yesterday for displaying this banner. According to @CAFCfanDanii "He was manhandled and his mum was hit in the face all by stewards." I hope he takes further action against the club and urge any witnesses to support him.

But who needs a protest recruitment campaign when the club's management can stoke the flames of protest so effectively? The stewards' intervention was provocative: it could have started serious unrest in the North stand. Perhaps that was the intention. It's only the patience and decency of the fans that stopped that happening. The troublemakers here aren't the fans.

Yesterday's protest was impressive. No-one expected the boycott to be 100% solid but it seemed to me that fewer people than usual had bought programmes or food or drink. There were several bizarre sightings of people in black and white scarves buying things. I'm not sure how they can reconcile their actions, but that's an issue for their conscience.

After the match a massive crowd assembled outside the West Stand. Much bigger than the protest after the Forest game, but again it was on the whole peaceful though angry.

I've no doubt this is going to be a long campaign. Roland has deep pockets, and the indifference of a very rich man to what people think of him. If you haven't already, please consider making a donation to the campaign fund. Details of how to do it are in this thread on the Charlton Life forum. You don't need to be a member of the forum to contribute cash, but if you have any ideas on what action should be next, I'm sure they'd love to hear them.

It's payday next week for a lot of people, so please offer whatever you can. Any amount is helpful. Let's keep this movement going!

23 January 2016

Charlton 1 Blackburn 1

For some time now I've been working on a post with the title "Omertá" - about the way football squads keep silent about any problems, and how that's normally a good thing but can be destructive. When a team - a hypothetical team, let's pretend - knows that its bad morale and performances are caused by something it can't even talk about, the frustration and indignation must easily become damaging.

But in a less hypothetical team, there's an increasing sense of a shared oppression: the team and the fans are both suffering from the bizarre decisions of the club's owners. The team can't say this, of course, but they have to understand that the fans know it.

The crowd today clearly knew it. Strong support for the team alternated with strong attacks on the ownership. After about 15 minutes this happened:
It was a stupid, unnecessarily provocative thing for the stewards to do, and it guaranteed a massive turn-out for the 5pm protest.

Meanwhile, a match was taking place and the team Charlton put out looked promising. Tony Watt provided some moments of excitement that have been missing, while newcomer Jorge Teixeira looked a worthwhile addition (a four and a half year contract, though?). There were some pleasing passages of play by Charlton, with even Bergdych looking like a footballer at last. Jose Riga is clearly the best coach Duchatelet has inflicted on Charlton and I'd like to believe he's repairing the damage that the others have done.

But it's still a long way to go. One-all was a fair reflection of the first half. In the second half, Charlton visibly weakened, and the game became scrappy. As in so many games this season a better opposition could have run riot - and I suppose that's what happened at Huddersfield and Hull. For all the undoubted effort shown by the team today, there was a lack of quality. Chris Powell could make a team perform above its limitations, and we saw Jose Riga do the same two years ago. We're depending on him to do that again to keep the club in the Championship.

And so a point was taken from the kind of game - at home, against out-of-form opposition - that Charlton need to be winning. More positively, it was a massive improvement on the last two league games.

After the game, the protest was bigger than ever, but I'll deal with that in a separate post tomorrow, possibly.

Protest this afternoon

Unnecessary reminder, I'm sure, but after supporting the team today, whatever the result, don't forget to gather outside the West Stand at 5, to reinforce the message that we'd be awfully grateful if M Duchâtelet and his friends would kindly go away. Polite but forceful should be our approach. We're in this for the long run, and even if there's no apparent response we need to keep being a nuisance, eventually wearing them down.

14 January 2016

Let's go round again

Baby, I'm back
And right away I have come to you
To see if the love that we knew before
Has passed the test of time, ooh
Time could change almost everything
Sometimes it seems the better side are the feelings we once shared
So baby, Let's go round again
Maybe we'll turn back the hands of time
Let's go round again One more time
Let's go round again Maybe we'll turn back the hands of time
Let's go round again One more time, one more time, one more time
One more time
Now baby, I know that you think I will be different now
Inside of me nothing has changed
So I'm asking you again, ooh
Please no one else could have brought me back
No one could ever change, the memory I kept within my heart
Let's go round again
Maybe we'll turn back the hands of time
Let's go round again One more time
Let's go round again Maybe we'll turn back the hands of time
Let's go round again One more time, one more time, one more time One more time Let's go round again Maybe we'll turn back the hands of time Let's go round again One more time, one more time, one more time Let's go round again, one more time

13 January 2016

An open letter to Katrien Meire

The following open letter to Katrien Meire was written by @mikejwhite, and I'm hosting it here as I'm sure it reflects a lot of people's views and expresses them firmly and clearly. I'm grateful to him for sharing it.

Dear Katrien

I am sure you have received a lot of emails similar to the one I am about to write but I can’t stay quiet any longer and suffer in silence, I need you to know how I and thousands of others feel about the way that you think it is appropriate to run OUR club.

In my opinion, on a basic level at the very least, the role of a CEO is to understand the ‘customers’ and to communicate with them in order to deliver a great ‘customer’ experience. Having seen what is going on at Charlton recently I doubted myself, thinking that perhaps I didn’t really understand what role a CEO plays within an organization, and so I turned to our good friend Google. I typed in a simple search: “the basic role of a CEO”. I clicked on the first article that appeared in the search results. I suggest you also have a quick read using the following link:

As I began to read I realised two major things. The first was that I was right all along. I now know I shouldn’t have doubted myself. Your role as CEO is to communicate to the ‘customers’ a clear strategic vision and to drive the company’s performance, resulting in a successful organisation that delivers a rewarding and satisfying ‘customer’ experience. I don’t think many people can disagree that this is the basis of being a successful CEO.

The second thing I realised as I thought about it is that, on a footballing level, during your two years at the helm, you have not achieved any one of the 5 key points mentioned in the article.

You have not outlined a clear strategy other than ‘to make Charlton a financially stable Championship club with Premier League ambitions’. What does this actually mean? Is it code for we aren’t going to spend any money to try and even get into the Premier League?

As relegation threatens, you certainly have not provided the adequate resources on and off the field. I appreciate balancing budgets and resources is not an easy task in any business but as the article suggests, the skill in making such decisions lies in understanding ALL aspects of the business. With all of the ill-timed and uninformed comments you have made about the supporters, sorry I mean customers, you certainly appear to have completely misunderstood the football side of this business and what this club means to us.

Point three refers to building a culture within the organisation that influences all of the employees and ultimately the ‘customer’ experience. In your case you have alienated both loyal employees and supporters of Charlton, outsourced important aspects of the club such as ticketing, and by all accounts made the club a generally uneasy and unsatisfying place to work. Congratulations!

The next point made me chuckle as it is titled ‘Make Good Decisions’. I think the appointment of our managers during your tenure would be a good case in point. We are on to our 5th manager in that short period and you have previously stated that our position has always improved and they have always proved to be the right decision. Considering the win percentage of each manager and the league standings during their time in charge, I cannot see how you can justify that statement in any way or call them ‘good decisions’. As I write this Charlton sit 23rd in the league off the back of a humiliating 5-0 defeat away to Huddersfield and with an ‘interim’ manager in charge who has a win percentage of just 14%. Add to that the fact that he didn’t even have the decency to face the post-match press and embarrassingly sent one of the players to conduct the interviews. Stand up and take some responsibility! Was it a good decision to put him in charge? His position is surely now untenable and it remains to be seen if you will now make one good decision and replace him with someone long term that has the experience needed in our current situation.

How is the search for a new manager going by the way? I am presuming the club has spoken with a number of potential candidates to date although there has been zero communication from you on this subject.

The final point in the article touches on overseeing and delivering the company's performance. Well, I think our league position says everything that needs to be said on this point so I will leave that one there.

Your comments in a recent interview referring to the supporters of Charlton Athletic as ‘customers’ were understandably not very well received by fans. That comment was uneducated and just underlines how badly you lack the knowledge and understanding of the football world that is required for you to successfully do your job. Football fans (of any club in the world) and cinema or restaurant customers are not the same. Please let me take some time to make it clear why we are not just customers.

How many cinema customers do you know who would spend all of their hard earned cash to travel from London to all the corners of the country on a Tuesday night, with work the next day, to stand in the cold and see a rubbish movie?  The answer is NONE, ZERO, absolutely nobody! How many Starbucks, McDonalds or any other restaurant chain customers do you see with that restaurant’s logo tattooed on their body? Again, NONE, ZERO, absolutely nobody! That is why we are not customers. This may be difficult for you to get your head round but we are supporters and the supporters make a football club.

We love Charlton, some of more than we should do, and we would do anything for this club. As fans we have an emotional attachment to whichever club we support, which you seem to think is weird and again, clearly don’t understand. I don’t mind admitting that I cried on that famous day in 1992 when we returned home and again in 1998 when we gained promotion to the Premier League. Those special moments made all of the effort from so many people and all of the tough times of the previous years worth it. They were our aims, our goals and WE, as a club, achieved it TOGETHER and that is what Charlton Athletic is about, we are a family and you just don’t get it! Nobody with any attachment to Charlton wants to have to go through that again but every single one of us would if we had to and we would still be there at the end of it on a cold wet dark night in the north of England singing Valley Floyd Road as loud and as proud as we can. Customers and owners come and go but us as supporters will ALWAYS be here. We will still be here when you have gone because WE are Charlton Athletic, we are not customers!

As a fourth generation fan I am an emotional and passionate man when it comes to Charlton (weird isn’t it?) and I have decided that with everything that has happened at Charlton in recent times I will not attend another game until things have changed. I will continue to support and love Charlton as much as I have always have but I will not contribute to an ownership regime that I don’t trust or believe in. You will never lose me as a supporter but for now you have lost one very unhappy customer.

10 January 2016

A tale of two cities

This is probably my last look at AD Alcorcón, you may be pleased to hear, but I find it interesting that there's such a difference in their fortunes and Charlton's.

Yesterday, while relegation-haunted Charlton were losing to Colchester, currently one of the worst teams in League 1, Alcorcón gained a 1-0 win over Girona, taking them into third place in the Spanish Second Division, ie well within reach of promotion to La Liga and games against Real Madrid, Barcelona, etc.

Like Charlton, Alcorcón is a club on the outskirts of the capital, but it is newer (founded in 1971) and has a much smaller capacity (6,000), so its achievement is remarkable. And the most amazing thing of all is that Duchâtelet's ownership hasn't wrecked it.  I think the reason may be linguistic.

To get on in Belgium, you really need to speak two languages: French and Flemish. If you have any international ambition, English too. Three languages is enough for most people, and I'd bet that very few Belgians bother learning Spanish, for example. Probably not Duchâtelet or his cronies, at any rate.

And so he can't simply send in his own people to run the club. He needs Spanish-speakers. In the organisation chart of Alcorcón, almost all the names seem to be Spanish.

The head coach,  Juan Ramón López Muñiz, is every bit as Spanish as his name. Born in Gijón, he had a playing career with Sporting and Rayo Vallecano, and a management career with Español, Málaga and Racing Santander, sometimes working under Juande Ramos. It's fair to say he knows the Spanish game. I imagine he, and the local management, are pretty much left to get on with things most of the time.

Seems so obvious, doesn't it? If you want to be successful, employ people who know what they're doing and let them do it. That's what Duchâtelet seems to have done, almost by accident, in Alcorcón.

Learning from mistakes can be hard for some people: in the first place, you have to accept that you've made mistakes, and some people will never do that. But learning from your successes - seeing where you've done things well and trying to repeat that - if you can't do that, you're an idiot.

09 January 2016

Happy New Year from Roland Duchâtelet

While I was trying to find out about Karel Fraeye's CV, I came across a completely unexpected thing: in December 2014, a year after buying the club, Roland Duchâtelet issued a New Year's message to the fans of AD Alcorcón.

It's in the form of a pretend-Q&A session (now, where have we seen that recently?) and some of the comments he makes are astonishing reading for Charlton supporters.

Asked about the fans, he says:

We have a great set of fans, who have always shown me great kindness and consideration, which I must publicly acknowledge. They are the best "ambassadors" for the club, and we are sure that, in looking at them, the world will understand the values of AD Alcorcón. We will continue to work with our ticket holders and followers to make the club bigger yet.
He expresses his support for the women's team and the club's community activities. In reply to a proper patsy question ("Our trainer, José Bordalás, is having a very good season; what's your opinion of our trainer?"), he says
His work has been magnificent. He's a great trainer.
 He gives his new year wish for the fans:
I wish our fans a year of hope, health and happiness. Happiness is the most important thing in life. Of course it sometimes depends on things we can't control. But still, the biggest part of our happiness is what goes on inside our heads.
It's largely nonsense of course, as routine as you could wish. But at least he took the trouble to pretend to care about one of his children. He never did that with Charlton. And, by the way, has never done it again with his Spanish child.

The history of Mr Fraeye

Karel Fraeye has spoken to the South London Press about the claims that he was influential in scouting the players that Charlton have, mostly unsuccessfully, picked up since Roland Duchâtelet arrived on these shores.

Nothing to do with me, mate is what he basically says, claiming instead that he was Duchâtelet's main man at AD Alcorcón:
From the day I left here, which was in May 2014, my job was for the owner, of course. I was responsible for the whole side of the Spanish team - Alcorcón, which is in Madrid. And I did 100 per cent of the recruitments for the Spanish team last year - and also for this season. I worked very closely with the president Enrique Perez. That was my job from when I left here.
Well, maybe, but he was definitely a shadowy figure. I searched for his name on the website of Marca, the Spanish sports newspaper. Not a trace of him, although a similar search for Duchâtelet shows that Marca frequently reported on the club after the takeover in 2014, but never mentioning Fraeye. Incidentally, Duchâtelet's ownership seems to have been much less controversial there; in December 2014 he even wished the Alcorcón fans a happy new year.

Maybe Fraeye's overstating his role there, just as Charlton overstated his role  in the Riga months at the Valley.

Meanwhile, according to Dr Kish, Fraeye found time to visit the Valley on Boxing Day 2014, apparently saying that "The bell is ringing for me", whatever that might mean. Someone else found a link showing that even then, Fraeye was head coach at VW Hamme, leading one supporter to say, 10 months before the rest of us:
I don't know whether to laugh or cry here.

So help me God if they appoint someone who is a boss of team from division three in Belgium.

I would seriously consider my attendance at home games if this were to happen.  Putting money into Duchatelet's pocket whilst he f**** around with our club will be too much for me.

While he's possibly overstating his importance to Alcorcón you'll have noticed Fraeye doesn't mention his job at VW Hamme. Fair enough, it's not something to make a song & dance about, a job so meaningless he could give it up for an interim post far from home. And as we all know, the team's results perked up noticeably after his departure.

In fact, Fraeye had been at Hamme since May 2014. It's not clear how he got the job. Not on his experience, even at that level, you'd think. Duchâtelet doesn't own the club, and so it's tempting to think it was some kind of favour: give this man a job where he can't do too much harm, but can boost his CV a bit, and I'll keep paying his wages. You don't mind if he does a bit of scouting for us, do you?

We basically don't know what he was doing between May 2014 and October 2015. Nominally he was head coach at a Belgian third division team.  He says he was also scouting for Alcorcón, although not officially part of the set-up there. Why wouldn't he also be scouting for the Network as a whole? This is how we're led to believe it works, after all. But as usual there's a fog of uncertainty around everything in Duchâtelet's web of businesses. 

It's hard, however, to avoid the conclusion that, even before he and Riga were sacked, Fraeye was - for some reason - being groomed for the job at Charlton.

Why would Duchâtelet have tried so hard to work Fraeye into the job? Some have argued that he wants the club to be relegated. But Peeters or Luzon could have achieved that. Is it just a sign of a strong friendship between the two men? Did Fraeye save Duchâtelet's life after a boating accident on the canals of Bruges? Did he donate a kidney to save the life of an ailing relative?  I'm ruling out the possibility that Duchâtelet thinks Fraeye's a good manager; that's just too unbelievable.

It's believed that Fraeye is on a salary that, by Championship standards, is tiny - well below that of most, if not all, other managers; well below the players. And maybe that's all that matters: he's the only one prepared to do the job for that sort of pay.  Perhaps he's expecting some other reward in due course.

The more I think about it, the more puzzled I get and the more I realise that I simply don't believe anything that the Duchâtelet people say. If anyone thinks they know what's going on, please let me know.

07 January 2016

Stickleback speaks candidly about that interview

At least it proves that no-one in the media team is so lacking in self-respect that they are prepared to put their name to this transparently staged interview.

Easy questions posed, and glib answers given: the only concession being that some players turned out to be unsuitable for the Championship. We had noticed.

The big questions missed. What is happening with recruitment of a permanent head coach? How bad do results have to be before Karel is sacked? Shouldn't someone in the club's management (someone with power, not you, you stooge) have some experience of competing in the Championship?

Basically the message is we'll carry on doing things the same way, but the outcome will be different, you just watch.

Increasingly, though, we won't.

01 January 2016

Protest on Saturday

It's unlikely that anyone who reads this blog needs to be told, but here's a quick recap.

Largely as a result of Katrien Meire's calamitous appearance on a "web summit", the current of opinion has fully turned against the way she and her boss are managing Charlton Athletic. For a much more detailed history, look at Darryl's brilliant analysis.

There will be a big protest after tomorrow's game and probably a smaller one at 2:30. Please come along to either or both, and join in any chants during the game. Forest fans, of course, are welcome to join in.

The damage that has already been done to the club is serious. Perhaps this is the last chance to stop it being terminal.