Thursday 30 July 2009

Valley of Gloom

We have noticed since the recession started that the quality and value of goods at Tesco has declined. Hence, we have been doing more shopping at Iceland for basic products (a store that offers lower prices than Tesco) whilst buying more quality items at Marks and Spencers.

Supporters can't switch football clubs in the way that shoppers do. It's a matter of identity, often something that you are born with, although there was a time when I lapsed from the faith. Indeed, a Manchester United supporting friend of mine has told me more than once that my Addicktion is hopelessly retro and I should find a proper club to support.

This season I have something of a dilemma. Do I take a ten minute trip to Harbury Lane to watch newly promoted Leamington? This means that I can get some work done on Saturday morning and am less pressured to work on Sunday. Or do I take the two-and-a-half hour trip to The Valley to watch League 1 Charlton? I have already bought my season tickets for both clubs. In the case of Leamington, this includes access to the vice-presidents' lounge at half time, a free cup of tea and the biscuit of my choice.

Actually, having looked at my travel schedule for the next few months (Finland, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, States) I am going to miss quite a few match days at both clubs.

In practice if Leamington are at home and Charlton are away, I will go to Harbury Lane. I used to go to a lot of Charlton away matches, especially in the days when I could get a lift in the West Sussex minibus which stopped en route in the Midlands. It was always fun with Brian Cole as driver, although occasionally they used a guy who was a hearse driver in his day job and did we go slowly!

If Charlton are at home and Leamington are away, the choice is also clear. But supposing both clubs are at home? One factor that could affect my decision is the atnosphere of gloom and negativity among the Addickted.

Now they could reasonably argue they have good reasons to be gloomy. One well-known Addick commented on Facebook yesterday: 'anyone who hasn't had the effects of two relegations in three years, managerial instability, boardroom division, financial meltdown, mass staff redundancies, a total loss of PR judgment, a threadbare squad and the inability or unwillingness of key people at the club to answer simple questions about the future swept aside by the majesty of a meaningless pre-season 2-1 home win over Ipswich must indeed fall into the category of a 'moaner'...'

Fair enough. And then there is the Phil Parkinson question. I am not a great PP enthusiast. To paraphrase a comment once made about American vice-presidential candidate Dan Quayle: 'I knew Alan Curbishley. You are no Alan Curbishley.' However, PP inherited a poisoned chalice. In my view there was some improvement in performances after he took charge. And it may well be that he can function as a perfectly competent manager at League 1 level. At least he should be given a chance.

Fans have also been upset about the lack of communication from the board. This reminds me a little of the line in the famous television series The Prisoner. The hapless prisoner was constantly told, 'What we want is information', but the nature of that information was never specified.

Of course, what has frustrated fans, and understandably so, is the long drawn out 'takeover'/restructuring negotiations. Unfortunately, the board is constrained by both legal and commercial confidentiality considerations in terms of what it can say. What would seem to be the case is that the prospective owners don't have that much dosh and restructuring the club's debt without incurring a points deduction has proved difficult. But that debt is certainly well less than £40m.

The Australians like to call us 'whingeing poms' (although given how The Ashes are going it may be their turn to whinge). But they have a point. I have travelled extensively in Australia and I like the 'no worries' attitude of people there, a casualness which covers a helpful efficiency as I found when I missed a plane in Canberra earlier this year.

If I take the two countries I have lived and worked in, the US and Germany, Americans certainly have a more positive outlook. Germany is a different story, of course: 'ordnung' is the word that comes to mind.

Now I must say that I do prefer the British sense of humour to the American (even though I like Jon Stewart). Sense of humour in Germany is a tricky subject. When I was in Berlin in the time that it was a divided city, I treated the provocations I helped an American colleague to stage in East Berlin as the equivalent of a practical joke. This did not go down too well as he was seething with anger against the 'Commies' whereas I thought the East Germans were just ridiculous, althogh no doubt living there was not much fun (as some excellent films have subsequently demonstrated).

My stance did not also go down too well with my German colleagues in Goering's old Air Ministry building, although one Bavarian could see the funny side of things as well (but this led to the 'Apfel Strudel' incident, but I have digressed enough). Incidentally, one curious legacy of all this is that I am told I speak German with the accent of someone from a small town in East Germany.

Surprisingly, the East Germans did turn out to have a sense of humour. One day I went across on the U-bahn on my own to the weekly goosestepping ceremony at the war memorial in the vague hope I might locate some dissidents. Someone carrying the party newspaper Neues Deutschland and pretty evidently a Stasi operative sidled up to me and asked in German, 'Are you with the Party delegation?'

I am now off topic, although the point was to talk about cultural differences and how they affect attitudes to life, not least football. I am always sceptical about arguments that the crowd is the 12th man. Equally, if the first mistake is pounced upon by boo boys, it isn't going to do any good for team morale. Nor is a negative atmosphere going to attract people to The Valley.

Our situation is challenging in many ways. But being gloomy and pessimistic is not going to make it any better, rather the contrary. Now is the time to demonstrate and celebrate one's Addicktion which is why I shall make every effort to be at The Valley as often as I can be.


Anonymous said...

Sticking to the point!
As you say we have much to be gloomy/pessimistic/miserable and moany about.
All of which will be forgotten if we do something we've failed to do for three seasons.
Regularly win at home.......

Anonymous said...

Wyn the decisive criteria is of course whether the Leamington biscuit is dunkable - if not then it has to be the Valley for you.

Pembury Addick

Jan Becher said...

Wyn, a very interesting post. Also very interesting to read your thoughts on the German sense of humour.
The Charlton West Midlands support is heavily German, me and my three sons in Solihull. My two oldest sons wear their Charlton shirt at football training every Saturday morning, my middle son starts wearing a Charlton outfit as soon as he gets out of bed. This morning we all jogged together (well,my sons cycled), I in my Charlton tracksuit and them in their Charlton shirts. We got some dirty looks but who cares. So, we Germans may not have much of a sense of humour but we are loyal to the cause. I was also interested to read that you speak German so next time I meet you on the train down to The Valley I will check on that East German accent.
And I forgot, we Germans are also optimistic: Next year this time we will be looking forward to a season in the Championship.

johnny73 said...

I think our attitude to Charlton is determined by more than cultural differences.

In my everyday life (in my opinion) I'm quite laid back and positive. Take charge, work hard, don't moan, take responsibility and get on with it attitude.

The difference with Charlton is lack of control and communication.

Back to the real world and in most situations where control is missing a two-way line of communication can be established. This normally enables me to keep upto date on the situation and offer advice (or even keep quiet).

However when these avenues are missing (as they have been for the last year as a Charlton fan) my reaction becomes erratic dependent on the lastest information.

Of course internally I'm still applying my own moral standards of responsibility and accountability, and then projecting them towards those responsible (board, managers, fans).

Unless I win the Euro Lottery I will never gain control so the only resolutions open to me are:

1, Stop supporting Charlton - This is not an option.

2, Take the situation less seriously, relax and chill. - I care to much to have this attitude.

3, Use blogs, forums etc to express my views and hope to influence (open) lines of communication. Unfortunately in this world you sometimes obtain a better response by acting negitavely rather than positively.

Anyway enough about my internal machinations. Thanks for the post, thoughtful and intelligent.

Anonymous said...


Interesting points. I think there is no doubt all Charlton fans have had plenty to be miserable about. The question is, when do we collectively reach the point where we start to swing back the other way. It seems to me that succeess in football is much to do with momentum. We started to lose it in the last couple of Curbs years; the Board tried to get it going again with a change, and sadly it didn't work, and formard motion slipped imperceptibly into backward. Some clubs can buy their way to new impetus - like Chlelsea or Man City - we can't.

So at what point does backward motion turn imperceptibly to forward motion? I thought there were some signs at the Ipswich game (which by the way was very entertaining).

About the 12th man effect, I saw something interesting at the game. It was a bit quiet, lots of families, young children etc, as you would expect for a friendly. Coming in late behind me was a group of about 6 blokes, late 30's or so. I picked up that only one of them was a Charlton fan, the rest were there for a night out with him. Anyway, says the chap behind "It's a bit quiet" and for a laugh he started shouting, and he had a really loud voice - but really loud. After a few nonsense items he gets to "Red Army". Being at such volume, it was picked up well in the rest of the stand, and I saw the players visibly lift their heads, and it was at the point at which we were going forward. It seemed to me that they picked up the pace, ran a bit faster, more determindly. Lloyd Sam bursts into the box, penalty, game won.

I have never seen the impact of the crowd so directly before. The question is, can we collectively move the mood towards forward motion and create our own successful season?

Finally, the guy behind was called Paul I think, and he should get the assist for the first goal, and a complimentary season ticket if he can shout like that all the time. I think he said he was a Chelsea supporter.

Corner Counter

Wyn Grant said...

Thanks for comments. Jan it's nearly thirty years since I was in Berlin so my German is very rusty these days. Mind you I have to present to a conference in Kiel next month so I had better do a bit of work. Charlton stuff gets odd looks in Leamington, although I was on a bus towards the end of last season and I heard someone say, 'I'm having a hard time. I'm a Charlton fan.' Still I took my Charlton bag to Chile and to Canada. Good point from Johnny 73, about being positive in the rest of his life, hence cultural explanations are not much help (although going to a baseball game is a very different. experience from football). Also some interesting insights from Corner Counter.

Anonymous said...

I'd guess that an East German 30 years ago needed a sense of humour. Much as Charlton supporters do now.