Friday, 23 September 2016

The Great Mystery of CAFC Target 20k...

Given the current state of Charlton Athletic on and off the field, it would be very easy to mistake CAFC Target20k as just another parody twitter account set up by a mischievous fan looking for some cheap laughs. To have aspirations of attracting 20k fans to the Valley is genuinely funny, so in that respect, it works perfectly well. The problem is, it's not a parody account, it's a real 'thing', albeit a very mysterious one.
The committee has, in it's own words, designs to 'improve the matchday experience, attracting new support and retain current support'. All well and good, you might think. No fair minded Addick would argue against that, right?
So why do I feel like Target 20k is contributing to a problem, not solving one? 
It is impossible not to be cynical about the way in which Target 20k has come about, who is behind it and who exactly is benefiting from its existence. When they first emerged I questioned T20k via Twitter as to why they were a faceless organisation and whomever replied on their behalf stated that they feared abuse from Charlton fans. I can only have assumed was because of their uncharacteristically positive standpoint that was the polar opposite of what the vast majority of Addicks were feeling then and now. I replied that, in my opinion, by remaining anonymous it completely devalued their position and opened them up to suspicion. To my knowledge (and believe me, I've lazily not done a single second of research for the benefit of this piece), the members of T20k remain faceless, bar a member that left in April as the 'real issues were being ignored' and the most recent departure directly after Wednesday's meeting when a member was asked to resign after releasing some details in advance of an 'agreed time'. Sceptics might wonder if the 'agreed time' was set to allow the club a chance to portray the contents of that meeting via the OS to suit their own agenda. As I say, only sceptics would think that...
Oh, did I mention that Roland was there on Wednesday?    
For reasons that only Katrien Meire can answer, our much-maligned and otherwise fan-dismissive CEO has strangely embraced T20k in a way that is the complete opposite to every other group, including CAST. I, like many others, are left wondering why this group of individuals gained her attention enough that she was prepared to talk with them. With T20k remaining anonymous, it is no surprise there is a growing view that they have simply become a propaganda machine for a woefully failing regime. The last thing Charlton fans need right now.  
In having the occasional chat with T20k, Katrien Meire can rightly claim to be talking to 'fans' about 'improving Charlton', and thus straight-batting some of the negative press surrounding the club. Meanwhile, beyond the same words being repeated time and time again, nothing appears to change.
With no light at the end of the tunnel, Charlton's demise remains heart-breaking.
Only yesterday former Charlton media man and Addick, Jimmy Stone, ran a poll on twitter simply asking whether CAFC Target 20k should disband, with 91% of the 714 people who voted saying yes. That's a pretty clear indication that the vast majority of Addicks do not feel T20k speaks for them and would prefer them gone.
Rumours that Meire is trying to round up the 9% who want T20k to remain to bolster the group are unsubstantiated at the moment. 
Whilst I don't doubt the intentions of those individuals involved with T20k were anything other than sincere from the outset, no more than I would question whether they are actually Addicks, it's my personal view that they have allowed over time Meire and Duchatelet to use them as a smoke-screen for the mind-bogglingly appalling communications we typically associate with Charlton under this regime.

What is most alarming for me is that despite supposedly representing us, the fans, T20k clearly do not feel they have the responsibility to reveal the details of the meeting they are privalaged to attend, especially when Rolly turns up unannounced (not my perception - check their twitter account and you'll see). They talk of 'confidential minutes' taken, claiming they are not something they can distribute.

Let that sink in before drawing your own conclusions. 
Perhaps the greatest action T20k can do for the betterment of Charlton Athletic is to disband?    

Monday, 19 September 2016

First Impressions, Same Problems...

Normally a Saturday at the football is what gets me through the week. I say normally, it's been that way for as long as I can remember, up until early October of last year when I first began to accept things felt very different. Instead of counting down the days to get behind my team I was dreading it. I still went: enduring matches rather than enjoying them. Having a season ticket made me go.
Fast forward nearly 12 months and my lack of enthusiasm feels worryingly normal. I could have not bothered on Saturday even as late as when I was tying my shoelaces by the front door, wondering what I was doing with my life. No longer a season ticket holder, and with my home-printed ticket in hand, I reluctantly made my way to The Valley.
As documented in my previous couple of posts, Saturday was my first game of the season, so my first chance to take a look at Slade's new-look Charlton. I wasn't impressed. A serious lack of positive intention, verve and creativity continues to blight the team. Remember, this was AFC Wimbledon at home (with all due respect, blah, blah, blah...) and a game Charlton have to be expected to win if we are to believe there's any chance of a quick escape from League One. The effort appeared there, but the application was embarrassingly predictable and tactically basic at best.
Our two  most creative players, Lookman and Holmes, looked frustrated at times, surrounded by players more likely to destroy the momentum they were trying to build. Ulvestad and Crofts worked hard enough but neither appeared willing, or perhaps capable, to play anything other than the easiest option sideways. Ajose was non-existent, whilst at the back I struggled to understand how young Konsa is picked ahead of Bauer if the latter is fully fit and willing. I don't know if it's typical of Slade's style or not, but people will not be flocking back to The Valley to see our defence lump long balls forward to the sizable figure that is Megennis, that's for sure.
Mind you, perhaps I'm no longer the right person to judge...
Talking of crowds, Charlton announced an attendance of 11,927 for Saturday's game. I'm genuinely curious about this. Whilst it is obvious that inflating the true attendance will help hide the embarrassment of falling gates, surely there is an issue with gate revenue and what has to be declared in relation to the true attendance? I'd love to know the finer details of what clubs are allowed to manipulate to suit their own agendas (clearly they can, as I'm not suggesting anything illegal). CARD have announced they will provide a more realistic figure going forward, but I'm not quite sure how they will achieve this as their agenda (to which I obviously back 100%) is the polar opposite of the club. My own estimate puts Saturday's gate at around 9,500-10,000 at best, and this, remember, a London derby.
My own son didn't want to come, and I attempted to give his ticket away for free via Twitter. No takers, unsurprisingly.
On the plus side, I sat with Paul, who I was very pleased to bump into on the East Stand concourse. We both gave up our old ST seats last season, and I wondered if I'd see him much going forward. It's good, honest chaps like him, and others who cannot bring themselves to attend just yet, that are the last remaining incentive to go...
The only positive thing about my continual Charlton apathy is Wimbledon's late winner was never going to spoil my evening, let alone my weekend as it would have in the past. I don't thank Meire or Duchatelet for that, though. I want to have the hump in defeat because I want it to mean everything again. Sadly, the one thing Saturday confirmed to me is that it doesn't.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Forcing Myself...

I got an alert on my phone this morning reminding me to get a ticket for Saturday. I recall setting it up just before the season got underway, knowing already that this was likely to be my first game. As a season ticket holder of 20-odd years I wouldn't have needed to worry about a matchday ticket, but times are very different now, in so many respects. There were plenty of occasions over the summer when I doubted my own strength not to renew, more because of tradition than desire, but discarding the forms was as easy as opening the bin. 
The immense sadness I felt when I made that symbolic gesture of leaving my old booklet at the feet of Sam Bartram last season has long-since faded, but the deep resentment for those behind my decision has not. This current Charlton is not the club I fell in love with, and the cancer within it makes it impossible for me to see a future at all, let alone one to get excited about.  
The sad truth is there is not a single bit of me that is remotely excited about going on Saturday, and I have quite literally forced myself to buy the ticket. To try and attempt to create an angle to look forward to I've got my son a ticket as well, but I would be very surprised if he wants to go and I certainly won't force him. 
The problem is, once a cycle is broken, it can be very hard to get it back. Having made the decision to miss Bolton the one thing I do realise is how easy it is not to bother when you don't own a ST. In the dead of winter, when I face the prospect of a lonely 3hr round trip to the Valley, will I bother when we're sat mid-table, convincing nobody of our genuine ambition? At the moment, I very much doubt it...
My local team are not at home and I don't have other plans I'm sacrificing to attend the game, so it says a lot that potentially doing nothing still seems more appealing than going to watch Charlton. In many respects I'm shocked and surprised at my own apathy, but I just don't have the buzz anymore. If I could change that I'd do it in a flash, but then again if I had that power I'd rid my club of Duchatelet and Meire first.
I know there are a growing number who are getting behind Slade and the boys, deliberately or perhaps naturally ignoring the protests. Fair play to them. There is a clear change of approach on the pitch in terms of management and player recruitment, that much I will happily admit, but I remain unconvinced that Roland has added 'ambition' to his highly questionable intentions. For me, too much damage has been done in 2.5yrs of disgraceful mismanagement and it will take a whole lot more than the appointment of Slade and a few British-based players to convince me of change.
But having said all of the above, I would love nothing more than to admit to feeling differently come 5pm Saturday. The result will not alter my opinion; I've seen Charlton lose far more times than we've won! No, this isn't about league standings or results. What I hope for is that deep feeling I get inside my belly when I first see the Valley as I turn into Ransom Walk and exit under the railway arches. It's the sense of belonging that comes with the routines I've forged over two decades of regular attendance. It's the smell of the burgers and fags, and the sounds of the bustling crowd. It's the people I stop and talk to. It's the people I've sat with for many, many years. It's the friends I've made. It's the sense of pride when I hear the Red, Red Robin and see my team walk out. It's that little glance up to the Charlton badge atop the West Stand just before kick-off that (sometimes) brings us luck. It's cheering a goal like it means everything.
I just want my team to mean everything again...
It's everything Meire and Rolly wouldn't understand.
See you Saturday. Come on you Addicks!!! 

Monday, 1 August 2016

See You Mid-September...

A few days until it all kicks off again, and yet there has never been a time I've been less bothered about a new season ahead. In years gone by I'd carefully plan my family summer holiday around the football fixtures, but leaving for a two week break on Thursday has come at a perfect time to forget completely about the lamentable state of my club.
I'll miss Northampton and Shrewsbury whilst I sun myself in Mexico, and I'm very seriously considering missing Bolton in favour of an annual drink in Cambridge that gathers together the mates I grew up with. In many cases, it's the only chance I get to see them nowadays. I've missed so many of them down the years if they've fallen on a Saturday Charlton were at home, but the lure to prioritise my life has never been stronger.
If I did miss Bolton, it would be the first time in over 20yrs that I will have decided not to attend a game of my own free will. Of the half-a-dozen or so home games I have missed in that time, every one would have been unavoidable through holidays and weddings etc.    
No need to pass my season ticket on for somebody else to use...I don't have one anymore. I imagine I'd have had trouble finding takers anyway. At least Meire cannot include me in what is likely to be woeful, ever-declining attendances, boosted only by the club's desperate attempts to mask the embarrassment by issuing reams of free tickets to local residents and schools etc.
I predict the North Upper will be closed by Christmas, with dwindling numbers threatening the Upper West as well...
And yet I was pleased with Slade's appointment. I thought at the time he was a decent fit for Charlton in our current situation, and for a very brief period I felt a small bit of optimism. I'm not stupid enough to think Mr. Duchatelet and Meire have changed direction one bit, but I wondered if Slade's arrival might spark something missing at Charlton for over two years. To my immense frustration (and Slade's, it would appear) the lessons have not been learnt (no sane person thought they would), and Charlton look certain to enter their League One campaign woefully short of numbers and disgracefully under-prepared.
So much for a top 6 budget, eh, Katrien? Perhaps you was referring to our current league position given we're top six in alphabetical order? You do realise those positions will change, don't you? 
But perhaps there is intent behind the scenes. Perhaps Meire and her minions are working hard to try and make deals happen. Perhaps they do harbour ambition but are guilty only of doing next to nothing to suggest that's the case. No, I don't believe that either. It appears Slade's harsh-but-unsurprising assessment of his playing squad is falling on deaf ears.
Roland knows best. Who needs a new 'keeper anyway when you've got Big Rog at the back and you've just spent out on a new striker? 
To be fair, you'd have to question why decent players with ambition would even want to come to Charlton.
So as things stand it is most likely my first Charlton game of the season will be AFC Wimbledon at home in mid-September. By then we will have played 7 EFL One games and I fully expect us to be struggling towards the foot of the table.
I'm not a pessimistic guy generally, and you can be assured my apathy towards Charlton does not sit comfortable with me one bit, but I'm afraid to say if you can see positives, then please set me right. I long for the time I'm proved wrong, trust me.
I've pretty much forgotten what it's like to enjoy a day at the football rather than endure it just because it's what I've always done. I wholeheartedly blame two people for that. I resent their involvement in my club more than I could ever express in words.
See you mid-September.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Real Voice of The Valley...

Big Dave Lockwood's voice is synonymous with the matchday experience at The Valley, but sadly no more. The position he has held for 24 years will be filled by somebody else next season after Dave resigned from his position.

Big shoes to fill, in every respect.

I have never met Dave, but we occasionally exchange comments via social media. I gather from some of the things he has said over the years he may well drop by this blog occasionally, which is nice to know.

When I happened to mention over Twitter that I was talking my young son to his first ever Charlton game, Dave was kind enough to contact me direct and ask for the lad's name so he could give him a mention. It was a wonderful gesture and I will never forget how the boy's face lit up when he heard his name! When I took my daughter to her first game only a few years back, Dave found the time to give her a shout-out as well. I was able to record both as sound-bites on my phone.

In one of his half-time addresses when we played Southampton in 2002 he thanked my wife on my behalf for allowing me to attend the game...the day after my wedding!!! He won't recall any of those moments, but they are all cherished memories for me. His passionate, accommodating and inclusive nature, coupled with his professionalism (particularly evident in the last few seasons) is to his great credit.

Dave is clearly a man with principles and I can have no greater respect for that - take note Mr. Duchatelet and Katrien Meire. He could have 'gone quietly' with an official announcement from the Club and  a few words of thanks. Instead he has made the reasons for his departure very public and in doing so, has added further weight to the protests.

This club needs to be rid of Duchatelet and Meire to allow 'proper Charlton' characters like Dave to develop once again. God knows we need them...

The memories are numerous. Seeing Dave on the pitch at Wembley in '98, those glorious Premiership years when, in particular, I recall Dave would often be alert enough to credit those assisting goals as well as the scorer, and the now legendary shout of 'CHAMPIONS' a few years back to name but a few.

One things for sure, Big Dave shouldn't need to buy a beer in the pubs around the Valley on a matchday for a good few years.    

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

League One Fixtures...

My phone flashed up with an 'important reminder' alert a short while ago. Alongside a prompt for my brother-in-law's birthday came the depressing reality that the League One fixtures were released at 9am.
The anticipation now builds like an appointment to have a tooth removed at  the dentist for the opening game away to Bury on the 6th of Aug, with Charlton's first home game the following Saturday v's League Two Champions, Northampton Town.

The full set of Charlton's fixtures for next season can be found here.

And as if that excitement isn't enough, early this afternoon we'll learn who we'll play in the 1st round of the League Cup. Should be fun. I can't wait.
As is always the case with me, I am in absolutely no rush whatsoever for the new season to arrive. Unlike those who count down the days as soon as the previous campaign ends, I love the closed season. I need the break from the perennial disappointment of being an Addick. Euro 2016 has helped divert my attention and I'm quite happy being irrationally optimistic about England at the moment (whilst accepting that will inevitably end in heartbreak...).

I miss the start of the season anyway as I'm off on holiday two days before. In years gone by I'd have planned my family's holiday to avoid missing a game, but not now. At least not having a season ticket anymore means Meire cannot include me and my boy in what is likely to be a very poor attendance.
That said, I can't deny that occasional glances in the direction of Charlton are encouraging with the appointment of Slade and the signing of a few British-born players with decent reputations at this level. A change in direction it may well be, and despite my immense dissatisfaction with Duchatelet and Meire, I welcome it cautiously whilst remaining hugely sceptical of the chances for success under such a cancerous regime.
New faces lift hopes slightly, but we haven't had the mass exodus yet. Literally nobody will give a shit about Sarr leaving and only those with long memories of a short injury-free period not replicated since will be surprised Vetokele has departed either (both only on loan, which in itself is totally laughable and shows the failure of Meire to offload her mistakes). We can easily predict the likes of JBG, Teixeira and Lookman going (undisclosed fees to save embarrassment) as they are too young and full of promise to allow their careers to be harmed by the mismanagement of Roland and Katrien. I wouldn't even blame Cousins and Harriott for feeling a change of scenery is required.
Less predictable and perhaps more concerning is whether we'll hold on to the likes of Bauer, Pope, Kashi and perhaps even Diarra. Keep those guys and supplement them with hungry talent and we could have the foundation to hope on the pitch again.
I enjoyed this recent piece from Kyle regarding what we can look forward to in terms of fixtures, and those games that we'll dread. The season after the last Championship relegation in 2009 I attended more away games than ever before because I felt I wanted to do all I could to help the team back up.

Not sure I will make the same sacrifices this time around.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Welcome Slade...

After a month long search, Katrien Meire has finally found someone desperate keen enough to take the undeniable risk of leading Charlton Athletic. British and very experienced, particularly in the lower leagues, Russell Slade has put pen to paper on a three year deal at the Valley, and get's the title of 'manager' for the first time under Duchatelet's ownership.
A hint to a change in direction from Roland? I won't be holding my breath...
The appointment was deemed important enough for Meire to offer her words of wisdom, saying "We don’t underestimate the challenge of getting Charlton back into the Championship. We believe Russell is the man to help us achieve this and, with the help of everyone involved in the club, ensure that Charlton have a successful 2016/17 campaign". Quite what her idea of 'successful' constitutes is unknown at this point, but remember, this is the lady who said at the most recent fans forum meeting that she doesn't "want to build up expectations" in League One! 
Katrien has failed in understanding 'the challenge' consistently, refusing to accept good advice over Roland's stubborn vision of football, so forgive me if I continue with the thinking that this club will be considerably better off without her.
I'm not going to waste my time analysing the chances Slade has in succeeding where everyone else has failed under Duchatelet, not least of all as I'm going to try very, very hard and see this as positive worth getting behind. From what I know of him, I like Russell Slade. I have a Leyton Orient friend who worships him like we do Sir Chris. It's undeniable that Slade's experience means he's a good fit for Charlton in our current position, and you'd have to assume he's negotiated the level of control you need as an absolute minimum, otherwise his appointment will be over with pretty quickly. 
Actions will speak louder than words, so let's also see what Slade has been able to negotiate in terms of keeping the better players at the club and supplementing with new, hungry talent. I found it interesting that Slade made reference to the "passionate fans" in his statement. I wonder if he is fully aware at how pissed off the overwhelming majority of those fans are with his new employers?
Good luck Russell, you're going to need every single ounce of it going forward. My priority is to see Duchatelet go, but you will have my full backing from the outset.