Friday, 28 April 2017

One Last Protest?

Will Sunday's final game of the season be the last time The Valley will see a matchday endured under dark clouds set against the backdrop of passionate, widespread anti-Duchatelet protests? We can but hope. As rumours continue to circulate that maybe, just maybe, Duchatelet is finally ready to sell, perhaps by the time next season kicks off this heartbreaking and hugely depressing chapter in the otherwise proud history of our club will finally be over. Perhaps - dare I push this dream even further - we may even be feeling positive about our future once again under a new ownership that is clever enough to harness the passion and energy of Charlton's fanbase and ambitious enough to make watching games enjoyable again. 
Earlier in the week The Guardian produced this excellent video to tug at the heartstrings. If you haven't already, I urge you to watch it. If it doesn't make you want to head down to The Valley on Sunday morning to fight for your club, then nothing will.
Don't forget, Roland couldn't care less that you're on a full boycott. He doesn't miss you anymore than he misses your money. That much is undoubtedly true. What he clearly doesn't like is bad publicity, so let's do all we can (within the law, blah, blah, blah...) to ensure he is embarrassed and shamed publically again. 
See you under the Charlton badge behind the Covered End at 11am Sunday...

Thursday, 13 April 2017

It's The Hope That Kills You...

I came back from a long run yesterday afternoon and straight into a maelstrom of rumours on social media that Charlton were on the verge of new ownership, potentially as early as within a few days. A few credible sources added fuel to the fire. Something was clearly happening. I put a few beers in the fridge to chill just in case, whilst frantically refreshing my twitter feed for an announcement.
But, like everything else Charlton-related, when the news came it wasn't quite what we'd hoped for.   
If you can bring yourself to read the Daily Mail, the story of a possible takeover can be found here: Ready To Sell.
The intention of the would-be new owners, according to the report, is to turn Charlton into 'Australia's football club' which undeniably sounds ominous. As does the use of the word 'feeder club'. Most worrying of all is that the deal looks to exclude The Valley, which means Duchatelet would remain the owner of our greatest asset.
Out of the frying pan, and all that...
But on a positive, their stated aim would be to return Charlton to the Premier League and the feeder club and Australia links could simply mean we'd receive some young 'talent' to blood in the English game. You might also hope that with names like Mark Schwarzer rumoured to be involved this lot will have a better understanding of the English game than Uncle Roland has.
As a club we are not in a position of strength right now, and I think it would be very naïve for anyone to criticise any owner, Roland included, for balancing the books selling our better players from time to time. That's life, and we are far from alone. In fact, there will be very few clubs not having to face that disheartening issue. Selling out of necessity is one thing; all I ask for is realistic ambition.

I think it's also obvious that our knight in shining armour will not be a well-meaning Charlton-supporting local businessman with deep pockets...
As I've said many times, personally, so desperate am I for change, I'll roll the dice on any new ownership given how bad the current one is. My gut feeling is that it won't be Bruce and Sheila taking over at The Valley as they're currently searching down the back of the sofa for funds. But at least these latest developments give the firmest of indications Duchatelet is considering selling, despite the obvious denials from the club. That alone is a starting point I'll cling to in these dark times.

Hopefully the interest of the Aussies will force one or two others to step forward.

It's the hope that kills you.  

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

A Moment To Remember, A Game To Forget...

It's impossible for me to believe that there can be a single person who is honestly enjoying Charlton at the moment. Perhaps the most hardy of come-what-may, highs with the lows types are still clinging desperately to routine rather than genuine enjoyment, but as we, the fans, continue to be taken for absolute mugs by the club, even their patience must be stretched to breaking point. At a time our 'top six budget' should be gathering momentum for a promotion push we're facing down the barrel of a gun...yet again!
Are we about to enter the fourth tier of English football? How has it come to this?
Last night Charlton should have been driven on by the high-emotions and a boosted gate ready to set aside differences with the ownership for this one special night and get behind our Charlton. PC Palmer would have wanted that, right? Instead, those players in red froze under the focus. Not for the first time this season, our team resembled total strangers, shirked responsibility, lacked any fight and showed all the body language you'd expect from individuals that would rather be elsewhere (Jacko aside).
As always, if you want a match report then Kyle consistently performs in a way I wish our football team did.
Despite the obvious concern, I don't see us going down. The points difference is frighteningly tight, but we have a cushion of four teams below us before we get to the bottom four. I think that alone may save us. Surely we can amass a better points total in the last five games than at least one of the five directly below us? (*checks the current form table and face-palms)
For this season at least, that's me done.       
In truth, I made the effort to attend last night for one reason; to pay my respects to a fallen hero and fellow Addick, PC Keith Palmer. The football was always going to be secondary. Below is the footage I took of the pre-match tribute for PC Keith Palmer. Absolute class from everyone in attendance.
I shouldn't be so cynical, but anyone else find it odd that for the first time in ages the 'official' attendance seemed about right? No, perhaps we shouldn't dwell on that point... 
I can only hope that by the next time I make the journey to The Valley, Duchatelet and Meire will have gone, Sue Parkes will have been removed from the directors box and the new ownership will be building bridges to a disillusioned and suffering fan-base. Whether the Charlton I fell in love with ever returns, only time will tell. I miss it more than I can put into words, though.      

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

I Won't Miss You...

In the three-odd years of Duchatelet's ownership he and his hapless sidekick, Katrien Meire, have not given one ounce of a toss about my loyal support of Charlton Athletic, so how ironic that when the season ticket renew form dropped through my letter box on Wednesday it carried the opening line of "we've missed you!".
Very funny.
My former season ticket seat in the East Stand in Block E (zone 1) has risen to a whopping £500, which makes it only marginally cheaper that when we were operating in the halcyon days of the Premier League!
For nearly two decades my view across The Valley had comparable sightlines to the Directors Box and I took the many lows firmly on the chin, puffed out my chest and came back for more whilst enjoying the occasional highs with immense pride. 
Nowadays my view on a matchday is hindered by the 45 miles that separate my house to my second home The Valley. 
Perhaps most shocking of all is the closure of sections of the East and West stands at the southern end of the ground. The club suggest this is to "increase the atmosphere at The Valley and feel that bringing more supporters into the fewer blocks that are open will enable us to do this". Acceptance, albeit indirectly, that gates are continuing to fall at an alarming pace. Closing those blocks will not hide the embarrassing images of a sparsely populated Valley on a matchday. It will be worst next season still, and I'm actually surprised the club have kept open the upper tiers of the Covered End and West.
By the way, I wonder what sort of person would buy a £500 seat when they can purchase a £300 one a short distance away and stroll - unchallenged - to pretty much any seat in the higher-priced zone? Perhaps the club will use some the stewards surplus to requirements after closing some blocks to police the unruly 'Vinegar Pissers'?
I agonised for weeks about whether I should continue as a season ticket holder this time last season. Breaking a cycle that ran for nearly two decades because you feel so desperately disillusioned by the direction of the club was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. But I'm a man of principles and I won't be taken for a fool. This time around the decision is frighteningly easy. I will not be renewing again. Furthermore, having not attended a home game since early Feb, I've slipped into a full boycott as my apathy towards this current Charlton grows...
But I may well break that on the final home game of the season as CARD have announced a 'day of action'.
A CARD spokesperson said: “We plan to take back The Valley on the final day of the season and are asking fans who have been staying away, whether in protest or frustration, to return and send a resounding message to the next owner about what Charlton can be. This can be accomplished inside the ground or outside, for those unwilling to buy a ticket"
Once again, CARD are urging fans to delay renewing their ST for as long as possible. Absolutely no criticism of anyone who does, by the way. To each his own. I'll be back when they've gone, and how I dream of that day.  

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Missing Again...

As Charlton gear up for what is the last scheduled midweek game of the season tonight, I will once again be absent from The Valley. It will be the 5th game in a row.
I still cant quite comprehend how dramatically things have changed in a relatively short period. As little as two years ago I would never have believed it was possible for me to choose not to attend games. For over two decades, if Charlton was at home, I went, regardless of form and fixture. Simple as that. But under this cancerous regime the matchday experience has become a depressing shadow of its former self and results are becoming increasingly more irrelevant as the nonsense continues. 
I can't pretend staying away doesn't hurt. It does. So much more than I can explain in a few words. In the last year I've suffered bouts of IBS and anxiety that my doctor has put down to stress. I'm sure work has played a part, but I'm also certain the lingering anguish I feel about what is happening to my club has not helped. It's always there; especially when I'm on my own and my mind starts thinking deeply. I've gone from someone who craved solitude to someone who prefers to be around people.
Few beyond fellow Addicks would understand. In truth, by her own admission, even my own wife doesn't really 'get it'. Friends are perhaps understandably confused as to why it's taken me so long to come to this point anyway. 
For now at least, I just cannot face going to Charlton.
Last Saturday I went over the park with my boy instead. For nearly two hours the lad leathered balls at me in goal until my body could take no more. I loved every minute of it, but we can do that any time. I'd much prefer we could follow the fortunes of our club together on a Saturday afternoon as well.  
There are rumours circulating that maybe, just maybe, Duchatelet is exploring the idea of selling the club, to the point that nightMeire has supposedly shown potential buyers around The Valley. I can't allow myself to get excited, but as the speculation has come from some very credible sources it's impossible not to dream of the day this club is free of Duchatelet and Meire and I can have my Charlton back.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Pictures Paint Thousands of Red Seats...

The 'official' attendance was announced as 9,088 last night, but from these images (lifted from Rick Everitt's twitter page) it's hard to imagine the true figure much higher than 4,500. It is a truly shocking indictment of Duchatelet's regime and Katrien Meire's complete and utter failure at understanding the depth of feeling amongst the fanbase she serves.
As I've said before, quite what Meire honestly thinks when she looks out across the vastness of the Valley on night like this I would love to know. Her shameless approach would suggest she will convince herself the problems lay elsewhere. Perhaps she still thinks this is all down to results.   
The official figure will include season ticket holders who never went, so that goes some way to explain a ridiculously inflated gate figure, but that in itself is shocking. I saw countless examples on the CAFC hashtag last night of individuals openly saying they won't be going despite committing to ST's at the start of the season. If you assume they won't renew next season, we can at least expect a fairer reflection of actual gates.
In fairness, it would appear that those in attendance got behind the team, and they were rewarded with a much-needed win. For now at least, fears of relegation fade a little... 
I never went. For the third game running I felt no urge to. I should have felt a bittersweet feeling at missing the dramatic late winner, but in truth I felt nothing.  
Talking of Katrien Meire, I understand whilst writing this that she has been interviewed on Radio 4 this morning to comment on the Government's plans to involve more women in football. I should say that I never listened myself, but I did notice one or two people on twitter suggest she was complaining that she believes her 'treatment' is partly based on the fact that she's a women. Sadly ignorant people will pity her on that point, but Addicks will be of the opinion that being very bad at her job doesn't help her case. At the time Roland bought the club I was proud to support one of the few teams with a black manager and who had a young, ambitious woman at the very top. It felt 'proper Charlton' to be that different.
My pride in Sir Chris remains. 

Monday, 6 March 2017

Unity Protest...

As Charlton defining moments go, I can only pray that we will look back on Saturday's Unity Protest in Sint-Truiden and file it alongside the formation and ultimate victory of the Valley Party, the return to the Valley in 92' and the Play-Off final in 98'. It won't single-handily force Duchatelet to sell, of course, but the hope is that the highly-publicised protest in Roland's own back-yard, and the embarrassment and unwanted press it will inevitably cause him, proves to be the start of the end.
For a very good summary of the Unity Protest click here.
As things unfolded throughout Saturday I found myself becoming more envious of those who made the trip; estimated at around 300 Addicks who were joined by disgruntled local STVV fans. Those figures are impressive for a protest on foreign soil, and I cannot be more thankful to those who paid good money and committed their time to fight for the very future of our club. Images of a demographic covering the young and old, male and female, dispels the myth that this is a battle raged by a few disgruntled and mischievous ex-employees. That alone won't please Roland, who has now lost that mantra to hide behind.
Once again the protest was arranged with military precision by CARD, Belgium 20 and others, so much so the Sint-Truiden chief of police praised the organisation and execution of the march.
As yet there's been no response from Duchatelet, although you might imagine it wouldn't be too complimentary. Remember, this is a man who calls protesting fans 'stupid people' and, more recently 'vinegar pissers'! For the first time the old fool Uncle Rolly actually made me laugh with that rather odd description.
And whilst the Belgium protest was in full swing, 1400 Addicks were watching Charlton lose again.
If, like me, you gain no pleasure (or disappointment) from Charlton results anymore, then just allow yourself a moment to dream of that moment the club announce the 'Take-over has been completed - Charlton are under new ownership'. Every day is a step closer which ever way you look at it...
With three home games back-to-back, starting with the visit of high-flying Scunthorpe tomorrow, the next week or so could be defining for Karl Robinson and Charlton. The hopes of us sneaking into the play-off's, which I personally found to be completely without foundation, have given way to a stark realisation that the more likely outcome is a tense relegation battle. Our form is woeful and gutless performances are commonplace now. Most worryingly of all, it would appear as though Robinson has lost the dressing room, most likely as a result of his mixed messages, boring sound-bites and constant nonsensical jibber.
Earlier in the week he had called out the players and publicly hammered them, claiming, in particular, that many of them didn't care. On Saturday he shifted the blame to himself and told us the team was hurting. No...I don't get it either.
He's struggling massively.
But removing Karl would be embarrassing, even by this Regime's standards. In fact, I don't think it will happen. Regrettably, I think we're stuck with Karl regardless.
I just wish he was even half as good a manager as he is at talking.
I have no plans at this point to attend the Valley for any of the next three games, meaning I will have missed the last five. In my current apathetic state I  have slipped into a boycott without even really thinking about it. This, remember, despite missing little more than a half-dozen home games in twenty years previous to Duchatelet's ownership. I literally dream of the day he's gone.