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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.