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.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Empty Inside...

Down the years there is nothing I would rather do than spend an evening under the Valley lights supporting my team. I'd look forward to midweek fixtures above any other, regardless of opposition.
But last night I didn't have it in me to make the journey.
I had a ticket - annoyingly bought only the day before when I was trying to convince myself I was up for it. For over two decades I've done the 90 mile round trip to the Valley on my own and more often than not loved the solitude it brought me. A chance to listen to my music without the kids or the wife moaning. But as the clock ticked closer to the time I needed to leave the enthusiasm drained from me like water from a leaking bucket.
A night in front of the TV more favourable than the Valley under lights. 
For a while I stood in my kitchen, staring aimlessly out the window, desperately wanting to find the faintest flicker of a flame inside my belly, but I just couldn't force myself out the front door.
Charlton lost on a miserable night, but that alone doesn't vindicate my decision. As I climbed into bed my missus said "I bet you're glad you never went". But the truth is I'm not. I feel deeply sad and ashamed to have turned my back on my club. I'm gripped by a sense of detachment that is growing at an alarming rate.
I just want Roland gone before I reach a tipping point...
The official attendance was announced as 9,101 but gauging the response to those in attendance it seems more likely the true figure was closer to 6,000. The image above taken by Louis Mendez after around 8 mins paints a very bleak picture. Quite what goes through Katrien Meire's head looking out across the Valley I'd love to know. This, remember, a lady who when questioned on live radio about the 40% drop in season tickets blamed it on the inevitable result of relegation. 
As usual, Karl Robinson's post match interview was a mixture of sound bites and nonsense, but in fairness to him, what else can he say, he's on a hiding to nothing. Whilst lamenting the lack of cohesiveness in the team Robinson suggested "some people want to play, some don’t want to play and we have a mishmash of players". Describing perfectly the characteristics of a typical squad assembled under a Roland Duchatelet regime, perhaps the penny has finally dropped for our street-wise manager and he realises he stands at the base of a very tall, craggy mountain with flip-flops on! In the next breathe  he suggested "they’re a good group and an honest group. They work hard every day". You don't sound convinced to me, Karl, and I'm certainly not.
Instead of misguided play-off ambitions, Charlton's season is far more likely to end fighting to avoid being drawn into a relegation dog-fight.
The reality is, despite his commendable enthusiasm, Karl is trying desperately to finds the answer to a problem he is not in a position to solve. The cancer running through the core of the club has transcended way, way past the fillip that comes from a few positive results alone. The empty, bleak, soulless Valley will not return to it's former glory until there is change at the very top. The apathy that has gripped Charlton is as deep-rooted as the stubborn nature inside the man who owns the club and the lady he employs to mismanage it.
Ultimately there is one man responsible for the heartbreaking regress at Charlton, on and off the pitch, and if you think otherwise then you're part of the problem. This tweet below from an Oxford fan struck a cord with me last night. Sums things up perfectly for me.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Bang Average...

It's been a while since I've dropped by this blog. Work and general Charlton apathy have kept my mind elsewhere, but a train journey this morning has given me a chance to reflect on things a little, particularly the post-match opinion following Saturday's disappointing draw at AFC Wimbledon, when, for the second game in a row, we conceded a stoppage time leveller.
4 points dropped in two games. All very mid-table really.
It never ceases to amaze me how easily some Charlton fans get carried away with what has been, in my opinion, a pretty unconvincing campaign to date, even taking into account the recent 7 game unbeaten run. You'd need to go back to mid-November for our last back-to-back victories, neither of which our current manager presided over. A few bright moments aside, I've not seen enough this season to suggests Charlton deserve a play-off place.
If you can look beyond the fact that a club of our size and history should not be operating in this league (not arrogance, just an observation regarding the mismanagement of Meire and Duchatelet) then we are what we have become; a bang-average, mid-table League One team.
I get the fact that we are all clinging desperately to the hope of brighter days. I also get the fact a great many Addicks are fed up with the constant doom and gloom and want to concentrate on the positives, no matter how scant they are. It is disheartening seeing the all-too-frequent squabbles between the Duchatelet apologists (yes, they do exist), the Back the Boys mob and those who see no future of any kind under Duchatelet. The later just can't get excited about anything, even the thought of promotion.
Whatever view you have, this divide is yet another lamentable aspect of Roland's ownership.
I align myself with those who remain completely apathetic about Charlton under this current ownership. I'm still attending home games, but out of habit more than desire. I suppose I'm biding my time, waiting patiently for when Roland's gone, desperately hoping something can relight the fire in my belly.
The football is slightly better under Robinson, but one consistency remains throughout every managerial appointment under this regime. The squad is way too thin and too reliant on loanees and youngsters. Charlton face a gruelling fixture schedule that see's Saturday / Tuesday games from now until late March. Hard to see how this current squad will cope.
And what of Robinson? His passion is undeniable, but all-to-often manifests itself as an embarrassingly poor impression of David Brent. He should talk far, far less. The media boys must love him as his eagerness to get in front of the microphone and spout sound bite after sound bite are a dream to a department that has suffered more than any other under Duchatelet's dark cloud. 
Ok, I get it, I shouldn't be so negative and cynical. I actually like Robinson, it's just that I don't think he's quite gets the fact that action speaks far louder than words.   
After a period of reflection for CARD, the anti-Duchatelet protests start up again on March 4th with a very different approach. I think it needed to be. Teaming up with the Belgium 20 and newly-formed Women Against the Regime groups, the protests will be taken directly to Duchatelet's home town of Sint-Truiden, Belgium. I doth my cap to anyone who's parting with their hard earned money to make the trip (as I do those who will be at Northampton away on the same day). I have often wondered if Meire has quite cleverly managed to shield Uncle Roland from the true extent of the discontent at Charlton, preferring to portray it as a few, bitter ex-employees and lost sheep. In taking the protests to Duchatelet's back yard, he can see for himself. I considered making the trip, not least of all as I fell in love with Belgian beer 20 years ago, but alas my mind has been on work and now that boat has sailed.
I hope there is a huge impact in Belgium that day as well as a good win in Northampton, because, you know, it is possible to want both things...

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Best Of Luck, Foxy...

Farewell, Morgan. Best of luck on your move.

Often a scapegoat for the disgruntled, frustrated fan, Fox got his fair share of stick, much of which, in my opinion, was harsh to say the least. I can't deny that I've slumped in my seat or shook my head more times than I can remember standing to applaud Fox in a game, but then again, I also recognise a lad who gave everything for a club he clearly cared about.

In that respect he is a loss to Charlton at a time when characters you can believe in are sadly lacking. One must also remember some of the bang-average or out-of-position players he regularly had to operate with on the left.

But the truth is, after a little over a century of Addick appearances, he definitely needed a change, and I really hope he makes a success of the move to Sheffield. Some people are already bracing themselves for a repeat of the 'Simon Francis' effect, and I for one wouldn't be surprised if Fox goes on to become something we never quite saw regularly enough at Charlton. The transfer fee, reported to be £700,000, would suggest there's something there. Time will tell if it proves to be good value to Charlton or Wednesday.

As a Charlton academy graduate departs before he reached his full potential with us (yet again), a West Ham academy left-back is bought in to replace him on a two-and-a-half year deal. I know nothing whatsoever about Lewis Page other than at the young age of 20 he's got well-kept hair and has managed to cover himself in tattoos already! He looks like the modern footballer, but can he play?

Robinson said of the new man "He's quick, likes to get forward and is a good crosser, I really like that in a full-back". Hard to imagine there's anyone out there who doesn't, Karl, to be fair. More proven quality additions are required if we are to believe there's genuine ambition to grab a Play-Off place. Either way, I remain completely apathetic about Charlton these days, and my wish remains for Duchatelet to go above anything else. With Fox gone, that leaves Jackson and Solly as the last men standing from better times. Times I deeply miss. I doubt for one minute this will bother Meire, who seems to be making it her priority to dilute what being 'Charlton' really means.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Goodbye & Good Luck, Ademola...

From the moment he burst on to the scene at Charlton he looked too good for us. No surprise then that Ademola Lookman has finally been sold. Uncle Rolly's pocket's are bulging once again, and coupled with the sale of JBG and Pope in the summer, Charlton's much-maligned owner has pretty much recouped the amount he paid for the club three years ago!
As encouraged as I should have been about an obvious talent, I never allowed myself to get excited or attached to Lookman, so I would be lying if I said I was disappointed he's gone. His departure was inevitable and under this current ownership it's hard enough to feel any attachment to the team, let alone when you know the young stars are only passing through once they break out of the academy.
But who can blame them for aiming higher? 
Whilst it is always tempting (and very easy) to stick the boot into Meire and Uncle Rolly, can they be criticised for this sale? £7.5m rising to 11m (according to reports) is far too much money to turn down regardless of who owns the club, and is it fair to stand in a young man's way when a Prem team comes knocking? Perhaps not, but the fundamental question here is how much of the sale fee will be reinvested into the squad. Given the undeniable lack of ambition to date and Uncle Rolly's recent comments (if they are to be believed) regarding promotion as being 'not essential', then I won't hold my breath, but this sale does provides the Regime with an opportunity to shake off some of the negative opinions regarding ambition, and perhaps most importantly, intent.

In this regard, the next few weeks could be hugely important for Charlton's short and long-term future.  
Unsurprisingly Katrien Meire managed to muddy the waters with contradictory comments on the OS. This time last year she sat on a sofa in that infamous seminar video proudly stating through her trademark grin that she hoped Charlton would cultivate the Premiership stars of the future. Today, she said “Our intention was not to sell Ademola, we are very sad to see him go and our long-term ambition is that we get ourselves into a position where our talented young players, even when there is interest from Premier League clubs, want to stay with us.” Hmm. It can't be both, Katrien. You need to make your mind up or you'll end up looking silly yet again.
In all, Lookman made 49 appearances for the Addicks, scoring 12 goals (which coincidentally is comparable to Lee Bowyer's spell with the Addicks). I wish the lad every success in the world at Everton, and hopefully England.
As news of this departure was announced, Richard Cawley reported that Charlton have signed Jake Forster Caskey to bolster our midfield. It will be Karl Robinson's first permanent signing, and hopefully the first of many new faces.