Sunday, 30 April 2017

Charlton Athletic 3 v Swindon Town 0

Another protest day and another day where the match was a sideshow. Relegated Swindon were comfortably beaten by a strolling Charlton side. The result leaves us in an elevated, and frankly flattering, 13th position. Meire will no doubt refer to this as an 'easy' season, as she did following our 12th place finish in the Championship prior to relegation but it felt anything but easy and was hard to stomach.

I had a prior appointment with God so couldn't make the game but I did catch-up with friends after the match in the White Swan where the mood remained defiant and determined that we must continue the protests until they are eventually forced out. As I have said before, I will boycott all games next season if they are still here, but I will continue to protest and play whatever small part I can in seeing it out. Nothing's going to change until they are gone.

The protests themselves lacked the high profile impact of previous shows but it was effective, nonetheless, as 2500 fans blocked the West Stand car park and hundreds more security and police personnel were deployed to protect Meire and Co as well as to try to contain any protests. As it was, thousands of spoof paper season tickets were cascaded from the upper West and thousands of black and white balloons were released causing play to be stopped for a couple of minutes. There was a post-match pitch invasion which even the serried ranks of security couldn't stop.

The rumoured 'anti-protest' predictably failed to surface but that's because it doesn't really exist outside the weird world of half-a-dozen would-be internet warriors. My guess is another repeat close season of failed expectations will probably quash even those before the season starts. All that supposes Duchatelet doesn't find a buyer before then. I remain convinced he wants out and that the club is for sale but that he still hasn't come to terms with the reality of the loss he is going to have to swallow to get out. Logic tells you he is going to have to get real one day soon because he's signing up for another year of hefty downside in 17-18. We won't see another Ademola Lookman for a few years at least.

Meire's hands will be tied even more tightly and her statement that the budget for the close season of "a million pounds" suggests season ticket sales won't rally based upon any galactico signings. The rumour is that Ricky Holmes will be cashed-in and, if that happens, I can't see us finding anywhere close to a replacement. Konsa and Aribo may attract the more vigilant bidders too but the bigger risk is just another cull and churn of the existing first-team squad as the wage bill is trimmed and we get even more mediocrity.

Gate revenue will inevitably drop again on the back of a further fall in season ticket sales. I can see another 30% refusing to commit to a whole season and more moving to a week-to-week model where they have the freedom to pay if we're performing and not if we aren't.

Strong rumours too that Chris O'Loughlin could be the next back-room departure following that of Nugent and Clarke this week. We have nearly lost more background staff than players in the last two years. It really isn't a settled ship. If Congo Chris does go, at least we will be spared the imposition of another Duchatelet aberration as manager . It could also open a space for Johnny Jackson who will surely say more than play more next season.

As supporters we deserve a break given the continued suffering and I intend to take one. Maybe things will look brighter come August?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

How much longer?

That is the question increasingly being asked by despairing Charlton fans. The lack of further news on takeover rumours begins to suggest the Aussie trail may have gone cold and if that news was a leak to leverage a deal or smoke out other interested parties, it may have failed.

This weekend Charlton fans will once again protest at the continuing slump in club fortunes and the ongoing oppression by Duchatelet and Meire at the final home game of the season against, fittingly relegated Swindon. Elsewhere, Leyton Orient, a club we have always been closer to in size and reputation than Arsenal have fallen out of the football league for the first time since we were formed in 1905 due to incompetent foreign ownership. If there is no-one ready or able to relieve us of The Belgians, I am afraid the O's are far more likely to be the route we follow than the Arse.

Sundays protest will be proportionate and well-directed as always but there is an increasingly vocal group (albeit very small) of 'anti-protestors' who, for some unfathomable reason, seem more desperate for the protests to stop than for any reason of actual support for the Belgian Regime. Frankly, I don't get it but they should be careful what they wish for - all of us would rather be supporting the club than burning resources, emotions and love for the club. This close season threatens to be another major step-backwards for the club we have all loved and, given where we already find ourselves, that would almost inevitably lead us to a new historic and future-threatening low. If the protests wane or stop altogether it won't be because of any other reason than our core support has finally fallen below critical mass to carry one out or there's basically too few supporters left attending games to care enough.

It's incredible that there is still anyone able to somehow believe that this close season will be any different to the pattern and plan of their last three. Regime talk about the long haul, commitment to learning from their continuing mistakes, supporting the manager etc is simply the line of false optimism they have to trot out to continue to justify their tenure on the club. They say it's the hope that kills you.

I pray that the protest this Sunday is hugely successful and that Meire is angered by it. I hope Duchatelet is embarrassed once again, like he should be and that our fans are fired-up once more to plan another visit to St. Truiden if necessary. Unfortunately, I can't be there until after the game as I am committed elsewhere - something I once would never have agreed to but another sign of what's happening to the club I loved so well.

"Poor-me" as a recent commenter posted on here. Poor-me indeed but I will be gone come August if they are still here, along with another tranche of supporters who have clung on thus far. That could really see us in a place where it will be more a case of "poor-you" who are still left suffering in relative silence.



Thursday, 20 April 2017

Season over

If it wasn't mathematically certain following our 3-0 humbling of Medway's finest on Saturday, it was confirmed last night with Bury taking a point from Bolton Wanderers. We are safe for another season. All that remains is the paper challenge for Karl Robinson to avoid a stain on his copy-book and another blot on the Regime's of Charlton Athletic finishing in their lowest league position since we made our way through the leagues in the 1920's.

We have two games left against teams below us in the table which will determine things. Saturday's visit to already-relegated Chesterfield is not likely to get the pulses racing and you would expect us to collect points but it will likely be a case of who's bothered most. Swindon Town may be relegated on Saturday if they fail to beat Scunthorpe in Wiltshire and either Bury or Port Vale can manage home wins against Northampton and Bolton Wanderers respectively. 

I won't be at either game so my season is finished and I reflect on a season where the compelling attraction of forty years has finally been broken. Never for me a sense of entitlement or even of match-to-match expectancy. Buying power played no part whatsoever in attracting me in the 1970's like a moth to a flame. The relative highs and lows of the 1980's didn't affect my devotion either as I saw more than 90% of all games played, home and away. I did less away games in the 90's but still saw more than 75% of all matches. I kept my averages up during the Premiership years of the 00's and even the Championship and League One after our second relegation although there was, understandably, less of a draw to away games.

It's been a struggle to go to away matches for a few years now and certainly since Duchatelet started watching us on TV but I remained a regular at the Valley. That ended with me stopping my season ticket this year for the first time since I was in short trousers. I knew the likely consequences of this and so it has proved. I have just done a count and I actually only saw ten home games this season. I thought I had at least done half of them. Away from home it was limited to Bradford (with a mate back from overseas) and Coventry to support their protest. So, a little more than a quarter of all games....

As I have said previously, there is no chance of me renewing next season if Duchatelet is still ignoring us and Meire still smirking at us. My Wife has lost all interest. I am still in love with the beautiful game, even if The Regime has severely tested me. That season ticket at Welling or Ebbsfleet is looking more attractive. I like the idea of watching a club again that has ambitions and a realistic plan and who is honest with it's supporters. Success isn't the be-all-and-end-all but hopelessness and duplicity is intolerable. It wouldn't be like watching Charlton but it would be more enjoyable than watching Charlton under the Belgians.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Congratulations to Brighton & Hove Albion

Really pleased to see the Seagulls promoted back to the Premier League today. Their brilliantly well-run club has maintained faith with the experienced and pragmatic Chris Hughton and have consolidated before making their push this season.

They are a classy outfit from top to bottom and a role model for football league clubs. Great leadership, honest ambitions, first-rate supporter engagement which generates excellent support and creates the conditions needed for success.

As Charlton supporters it is something we know and understand because we tasted it for the best part of ten years. I really miss it and am left wondering if we will ever see it again. 

Charlton Athletic 3 v Gillingham 0

Gillingham's dire history at the Valley continued this afternoon as they maintained their record of never having managed a victory in 15 attempts. In fact, they have only beaten us on four occasions in thirty league attempts.

The BBC stats suggest the match was close with the Gills having 53% possession and managing 18 shots to our 14. However, I understand they were poor in spite of the stats and that we were good value for our win which effectively secures League One football next season. I couldn't face it after Friday and felt sure we wouldn't show up so I am pleased we haven't checked out early this season.

Pearce headed home after 20 minutes to add to the recent spate of goals from centre-halves and the Gills were fished after half-an-hour when Ricky Holmes whipped in yet another free-kick. The Gills were trying but their final ball and finishing let them down badly. After the break it took nine minutes to wrap the match up when Magennis finished a Charlton counter-attack. Chelsea loaned Dasilva had another impressive game and has made himself a real contender after a slow start. He's very unlikely to be here again next season, of course, along with half the others.

I will miss the last two games this season, so another miserable season has ended for me prematurely. My interest now is purely focused on new ownership or, failing that,  continuing the fight to get an ambitious owner and a credible Chief Executive who knows what they are doing. It would also be good to see a number of the "just following orders" brigade finally dislodged when the time comes. We will also have to stomach those who will be wise after the event but I guess it was ever thus.

Praying we get some news now that our league status has been secured....

Friday, 14 April 2017

Coventry City 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

Struggled up a congested M1 earlier today in order to join protesting Coventry fans who have had the stuffing knocked out of them over the last ten failing years by owners SISU. A coachload load of Addicks arrived prior to the 2pm march to the ground and they were warmly greeted with a round of applause by several hundred Sky Blue fans at the Cherry trees club. 

Along with maybe fifty Charlton fans already there, maybe 500 fans in total walked together carrying respective banners and placards. The march made its way down towards the Ricoh Arena and we were handed spongy pigs before getting to the ground. An accompanying policeman helpfully told us to conceal the pigs well as the Stewards had been instructed to search us on entry. At the turnstiles we were all frisked and pigs were bouncing out from pockets in all directions, but at kick-off hundreds rained down from both sets of supporters congregated at one end of the stadium. The match was halted and then the referee went to the unnecessary step of taking all the players off for five additional minutes before play eventually resumed.

As expected, it wasn't much of a match. Charlton saw more possession but Coventry took the lead towards the end of the first-half. Byrne head onto the Coventry bar from a superb Dasilva cross when he should have buried it. After the break the match continued in a similar fashion with the pony-tailed pairing of Holmes and Jones running the show for their respective sides. Bauer headed an unlikely looking Charlton equaliser and when the lively Jodi Jones was replaced by Kyle Reid you knew the match was over.

Sorry to be the ones to relegate our suffering hosts but I think they knew it was all over for them bar the shouting. A threatened pitch invasion by the disgruntled locals was faced down by serried ranks of stewards and police. The point effectively makes us safe given the number of sides still needing two wins plus to overhaul us. Nonetheless, it's been another miserably thin season and one we will look back on and thank Kevin Nugent for the seven vital points he won for us in the three matches he was caretaker manager sandwiched between the conservatively boring Russell Slade and the bull-shittingly hopeless Karl Robinson.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The final lie?

"The club is not for sale." Meire's latest pronouncement when questioned about the ongoing rumour and tell-tale signs that the club is in the process of being sold. Karl Robinson also told us this a month or two back after he demanded to know if there was any truth in what he was hearing which might suggest he was taken for a mug when appointed several months before. He too was reassured that the club wasn't being sold. It's looking decidedly like 'the club is not for sale" is the final Meire lie, akin to a managerial 'vote of confidence.' 

Of course, when you are attempting to get the best deal you can in a negotiation, denying a sale is ongoing is an understandable strategy. You don't want prospective buyers to see that you may be under pressure from your supporters as that could give them potential leverage in negotiations. You also don't want to disrupt the normal running of the club and it's revenue streams. News of change can also scare the horses and players might decide they don't need to try quite so hard or even decide that that their future lies elsewhere, both of which can be disastrous for results. 

In our case, of course, any sale is hardly likely to register on our commercial operation, given there is practically nothing happening on that front. Those blindly renewing their season tickets will continue to do so and match day sales are already at a realistic low-point. You could also argue, given performances under Robinson, that the players won't be affected either, certainly not detrimentally, or that we are safe enough now not to worry. However, Meire will maintain her line until it's hopeless denying it and then exit stage left.

The latest news from the Daily Mail that an Australian Football Consortium (that's their name too) is lining up a sale in order to take us into the Premier League and to aid development of soccer in Australia is the newest rumour. Personally, I am not convinced AFC will become our new owners but rather that news of their interest may have been leaked deliberately to push other candidates to firm-up better offers. 

There has been immediate concern that the Australians are a newly established body still looking for funds to acquire an English club and that they wouldn't have the backing to fulfil their ambitions or that we would become a club focused solely on developing Aussie talent. Both of these may be true but for me, anything is better than an absent owner who has no footballing ambition and who has inflicted a disastrous Chief Exec on us and who has been too stubborn to remove her, allowing the problem to fester and the club to plunge into decline on all fronts.

The hope, of course, is that we are eventually acquired by serious football owners with ambition and backing. Given the loss Duchatelet faces on his investment, we also have to pray that whoever buys the club does not commit the cardinal sin of somehow failing to own the key assets of the Valley and Sparrows Lane. Left in the hands of Duchatelet you could see how he could eye a way to eventually recovering his losses at the expense of the football club and it's supporters he has so little consideration for.