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.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Dangers Of The Passive Fan...

So we are nearly a full calendar month without a manager or head coach, and let's face it, Riga's resignation was not exactly a surprise, so in many ways, the period without a defined focus on next season extends longer than that. It is a little under three weeks until the new fixtures are released and a little over 4 weeks until I expect the players to report back to Sparrows Lane for pre-season. I bet they can't wait...
I'm afraid if you can honestly tell me you have any hope whatsoever for the new season then I must assume you are stupid!
And all the while Katrien Meire continues going about her business in such brazen, shameless fashion. It beggars belief how anyone of sane mind can defend her performance as CEO of Charlton, and quite how she is still in the post is equally as baffling.
I recently tweeted that I felt the passive fan is as dangerous to the future of Charlton Athletic as Duchatelet and Meire, and from the comments I received it would appear I confused some people with who exactly I was pointing the finger at. I'm not quite sure how, but it is hard to articulate yourself in 140 characters on twitter! Anyway to expand my point, let's first briefly examine the three types of Charlton fans at present (as I personally see them):
1. *THE MILITANT FAN - The fan who has long-since given up on The Regime and has decided direct action by way of boycotts and/or disruptive protests to 'claim back their Charlton' is the overwhelming priority focus, even above supporting a failing team. The Militant fan will have only one wish going forward, for Roland to sell up and go away. Once their goal is achieved, the militant fan will revert quickly to the 'Back The Boys' type.
2. THE 'BACK THE BOYS' FAN - The fan who considers the otherwise perfectly reasonable 'back the boys' mantra above anything else and does not accept the disruptive protests despite openly disagreeing with The Regime. The 'Back The Boys' mob will renew their season tickets and be keeping their fingers crossed for a decent new manager and some new players above anything else, whilst hoping fortunes change on the pitch. 
3. **THE MINION - The fan who accepts The Regime and can't see what all the fuss is about. The Minion blames the fans for the current demise of Charlton Athletic. The minion (probably) hopes that the prawn sandwiches and vol-au-vents in the VIP lounge are as good as last season.   
*Perhaps militant isn't the right term as it implies violence, but let's roll with it for now.
**I'm only aware of one person, whom I don't know personally, who falls in this category if her infamous Facebook posts are to believed...
I simply have no time whatsoever for The Minion, so let's move swiftly on from them idiots. My 'passive' comment was really directed at the 'Back The Boys' type; those who recognise a problem but stick their heads firmly in the sand. It is their right, and ordinarily I would respect the alternative view even if I don't agree with it, but seeing my club being reduced to the heart-breaking mess it's currently in means I am struggling to accept it. Given the brazen disregard for the fans and history of the club makes it painfully obvious Duchatelet has learnt nothing despite an endless stream of mistakes and is not about to change course convincingly, so ignoring the harm just adds to the problem. 
I do accept, however, that there is probably a grey area between types one and two, where certain elements of the protests are not supported but some are. I would never suggest everyone has to throw things on the pitch or use industrial language to ask Roland why he has a certain personality trait to prove their dedication to the cause. In the same way, I don't join in with the anti-Belgian songs as I don't see them as relevant, nor the Meire chant that references Naby Sarr, which is childish at best. Those forms of protests devalue the overwhelming clever and well-though-out initiatives put forward by CARD and many others (the Liar banner above the directors box was a fine example of hard-hitting protest action that will resonate deeply due to high exposure).
Ultimately, the grey area stops at the hopes going forward. I would class myself as a militant because my only desire is to see this Regime gone. 
So in summary, apathy is harmful enough, but inertia is, in my humble opinion, as harmful as every one of Meire's gaffs and Roland's ill-judged decisions. It's hard for me to accept a fan can be against The Regime but is unwilling to voice their discontent. 
But this is a personal view cobbled together quickly to fill time during a short train journey, so I welcome comments. I'm pretty sure I've divided my modest readership anyway on this...

Monday, 23 May 2016

Taking Ownership...

I have no firm idea what the 'fit and proper person' test actually entails for football club ownership, but I would sensibly guess that it includes criteria on the general law-abiding character of the applicant and his/her business and football background. The football background perhaps only relevant if they are proven to have an interest in another club within the Premier or Football League. It's therefore not surprising, sadly, that Mr. Duchatelet passed the test no matter how much we wished he hadn't with the power of hindsight.
I would be very surprised if the aspirations of the applicant feature much at all, as, let's face it, nobody in their right mind would say anything that could be perceived as a negative. If a would-be owner had a propensity to asset strip the football club without regard for ambition on the pitch, then he (or she) is hardly going to admit it! Furthermore, there are many ways to spin a story to portray it in whatever light you want, so it wouldn't be too much of an obstacle for any applicant with half a brain.  
The argument put forward from Katrien Meire that Mr. Duchatelet is funding the club with his money so he can do as he pleases (and we all just have to accept it) is morally wrong at the very least. My personal opinion is nobody should be allowed to own a football club without accepting a number of set boundaries, much like those in place to protect listed buildings. In the case of listed buildings, the definable character cannot be demolished, extended or altered without special permission from the local planning authority, so why cannot this principle in preservation work for football clubs, but with the local planning authority replaced with an elected board of trustees?
It would obviously take some careful consideration to interpret the parameters of what the 'definable character' would be, and I don't pretend to have the answers, but to understand how the soul has been ripped out of Charlton would be to understand how it could possibly be avoided if a club had to follow some pretty basic guidelines.     
A standard that considers elements like the general infrastructure and running of the club including accountability, plus community, history, tradition and the emotional bond generations of fans have invested in their club should somehow be included.
In pretty simple terms, the owner may have the money, but he or she will know from the outset that the direction he takes the club will be judged, approved or halted by Trustees. 
It is obviously no guarantee of success and offers no assurances against failure, but in my humble opinion it would ensure that football clubs cannot become the play-things of the mega-rich, who have little or no regard for anything other than their own selfish vision.
Let's face it, if a system like this was in place then single-minded people like Roland Duchatelet wouldn't own football clubs and perennial failures like Katrien Meire would be made accountable long before they could cause so much harm. We might have avoided the demise seen at clubs like Blackpool, Blackburn, Villa, Newcastle, Leeds, Cardiff and Leyton Orient amongst others. 
After all, Duchatelet doesn't own Charlton because of a love for the club anymore than he has a love of the game. He should be encouraged to take his money elsewhere...

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Step Closer To Nobby Vinegar...

The approach for Chris Wilder was serious enough to have been recognised with a rare official Charlton statement, but a short while ago another brief statement on the official site confirmed the deal is off.   
I doubt we will ever know the full details, but it's hard not to jump to pretty obvious conclusions.
I've seen one or two credible sources suggest that the club (I assume this means Roland and Meire) refused to put into writing that Chris would have full control of football matters including player recruitment, and that's why discussions broke down. Let's face it, that explanation is entirely believable. Chris stood to lose nothing in hearing what Meire had to say, and I think it's pretty safe to assume he wasn't prepared to buy into whatever he heard.
And who in their right mind would blame him?
Personally I'd not even heard of Chris Wilder until this interview done the rounds on social media last November. I was struck instantly by Wilder's honesty when speaking so candidly during a period Northampton Town were on the brink of going out of business. A man of obvious principles, somehow Wilder led the League Two side not only to promotion but the league title.
I mean this with the greatest respect to Chris (and I genuinely mean that), but it is a sad reflection on how far Charlton have fallen that we can't secure the services of a man who's stock may well be high at the moment, but who has only ever operated in the lower leagues.
None the less, I wish Chris well. He deserves better than our shambles of a club anyway from what I can see...
The latest statement suggests "The club will now continue its search for a candidate to take the club forward". Expect Nebojsa Vignjevic to arrive in SE7 any day now...
Absolute joke. It just steadily gets worse.