Sunday, 23 March 2014

Divided fans - and no smoking gun

A long-standing fan who was with Charlton through the Selhurst Park and West Ham days yesterday said to me, 'I have never seen the club so divided.' Regrettably, I think that is the case. I find myself on the opposite side of the argument from Voice of the Valley to which I have contributed in the past.

Let me say that I still think VOTV offers good value. It is well written, well produced and printed on good quality paper and I can't imagine that Rick Everitt is making any money out of it, particularly once he has allowed his elves a bowl of gruel. The article I enjoyed most was Matt Wright's account of Alan Pardew which did contain some revelations which were new to me and confirmed my view that Pardew is less than a complete human being. Matt Wright also wrote an eloquent tribute to Chris Powell, drawing on his personal knowledge of the former manager.

Taken as a whole, it does, however, look more like the Voice of the Everitt than before with four articles by the Rickster. There was no sign of the Sage of Prague, Richard Hunt, who has an interesting perspective as a member of the CAS Trust Board and the Royal Oak group. The last article in this issue is a rather impenetrable account of the evidently fractious and ego ridden office politics of the former non-playing side management team at Charlton. I acknowledge that there are important points to be made about the treatment of loyal staff, but as an outsider I found it all quite difficult to follow.

There is then a detailed critique of the season ticket pricing strategy which may well be flawed. The argument here appears to be that there was a more robust testing of the model when the old management team was in place which may well be the case. However, again it has a 'back to the future' tone which is evident throughout the whole issue.

One time Valley Party candidate and former club employee Steve Dixon wades in with an account of how his breakfast was spoilt by Chris Powell's dismissal. Dicko goes in for some hyperbole about us becoming a 'basket case' club which some of us were concerned about under the old Slater/Jiminez regime, but their shortcomings seem to have quickly been forgotten.

Dixon does raise the issue of the club's identity and this is something that does concern many fans and has been puzzling me over the last few weeks as I try to work out just what is so special about Charlton. For the likes of Dixon and Everitt, it was clearly the whole Valley Party experience which was unique. Indeed, Peter Cordwell can't wait to relive his youth and get his fading banners out again, but even he acknowledges that then there was one clear target and today's fans may see themselves more as individual consumers rather than motivated by some sense of solidarity.

For me what is distinctive about the club is its extensive community work, but that is largely separately organised and funded (although Chris Powell was an asset to it). As far as I understand it, Roland Duchâtelet also values this work and there is no threat to it.

Anyway, let us turn to the main course which is Rick Everitt's article about integrity. As one would expect, this is an effective critique, although Everitt does have an 'aqueducts' moment when he acknowledges Roland's focus on youth development and the investment in the training ground, although we learn in another article that this was based substantially on work done by Peter Varney (Whom God Preserve).

The Rickster complains that Roland has weakened the team. However, Kermorgant is apparently now injured at Bournemouth and out for the rest of the season, while Dale Stephens has hardly set the south coast on fire. As for the imports, there is a failure to acknowledge that some of these, e.g., Koc, were brought in as development players. As for interference in team selection, it is only in football that you would be told that, having spent £16m on a business, you can have no influence on personnel policy.

My critique of the article is based on what is not there. First, what would Everitt have preferred to happen? Should Slater and Jiminez have turned down the Belgian offer and let the club go into administration? Perhaps he thinks that this would have produced a knight on a white charger, or rather Peter Varney coming up the North Kent line from Ebbsfleet with his much mooted consortium. Next week: Leamington's board decide to use this year's profit to launch a bid for Charlton.

Second, what do the VOTV crowd think is the way ahead for medium-sized clubs like Charlton that continue to lose money? I do agree with Everitt that Roland's break even objective is unrealistic, particularly given that I think that he places too much faith in the early arrival of financial fair play (something which curiously is not mentioned). The article resorts to the traditional argument that one should make a small fortune by starting with a large one and investing in a football club. However, I do not think that there are going to be enough benefactors of that sort around in the future.

Third, and perhaps most important, I had expected a smoking gun, some revelation that would unveil the true nature of Roland's dastardly plot to undermine the club and wreck his investment. But I couldn't find it.

Those of us who are well disposed to the takeover are now left with a dilemma. The CAS Trust is going to meet with Katrien Meire and they do make an effort to consult their members and seek their views. The Royal Oak group is also going to meet with her and they did try to cast their net as widely as they could in the time available. I was invited to attend, but was unable to do so. That was probably for the best, as younger fans seem to be conspicuous by their absence from this group.

One does get the sense that some of the Royal Oak group are Napoleonists. What I am referring to here is a book that was written about the mostly dotty aristocrats who supported Napoleon in England during the Napoleonic Wars (come to think of it, a similar group of people backed Hitler). However, the author goes on to make the more general point that there are some people who enjoy being in permanent opposition to whatever is the current regime.

Where this leads those of us who have a more measured view of the takeover is an interesting question as our voices are not going to be heard in Katrien's office. I certainly don't want to muddy the waters by forming yet another group to roam The Valley like some group of dinosaurs who know their time is up. One possible course of action is to write an open letter to Katrien and invite others to write in as well with their own version.


Anonymous said...

I don't know whether Katrien reads any of the fan blogs herself (or whether somebody on her staff provides her with a regular digest) but she can hardly be oblivious to the concerns raised by Rick and others. I agree that we are in danger of descending into a Monty Python-style splitist situation (People's Front of Judea etc)and my preference would be for the CAS Trust to lead - as the most democratically constituted of the various groups - in dialogue with the Board.

Malcolm said...

Wyn I cant agree with your last comment about writing in, thats a sure way to end up fragmenting the fan base.
We should be proud of what a solid fan base can do when it's together, and we should never forget that,the so called old and new still have a part to play in our great club, but as I have stated in a previous post on your blog, they need to get their act together.
I am becoming attracted to what the Trust are trying to do,and I may well join it, having a group appear for the odd topic is not the answer, having a voice for the fans over long term is the way forward, where trust can be built up, and the clubs board more willing to see it as a valued outlet to it's supporters.

Jack said...

Wyn, must admit I'm in agreement with your views.
Without recent investment we'd most likely be in administration and deducted 10 points and definitely for the drop.
As a third generation cafc supporter we've had many high and lows, from digging out the sand pit for the valley to the those premier ship years and quite a few lows... Im proud of a club with such a great community record and it's academy both of which the new owners look like supporting. They can't be blamed for a squad which doesn't have enough players of the right ability and little time this season to sort out.
As to the squad my own views are we don't have (apart from Wilson) anyone who is in form to play on the wings. We do have three good centre backs, and a number of midfielders who can play in the middle, so I'd change tack and go for 5-3-2 or 5-4-1. Wilson and wiggins have the legs to play as wing backs. Morrison can cover right back effectively when Wilson forward.
This would spare JJ , cousins or Pritchard playing wide .
Upfront Obika perhaps AA or another.....

I'd want to see our better players impositions where they can play and not lose more confidence.
Hope springs eternal.....

Dave said...

Wyn - I think you catch the balance well here. I am the 50's generation and a natural supporter of the Royal Oak Group. However, we have been usurped by the 20-35 year olds who don't have the same connection and will be naturally less immediately prone to see fear and doubt in everything. Whether I like it or not, there is a haughty arrogance from those who believe they know better and who believe they are entitled to a hotline to God. Yes, they have tried, in the time available, to reach out to other fan groups but they have left themselves exposed to the criticism they have received. Having said all that, it's for Roland
and Katrien to reach out and grasp the nettle but waiting until the close season is a lost opportunity and may not help their cause.

Anonymous said...

I want to believe in the RD project but the lack of strengthening up front and on the wings has severely undermined my trust in the mid and long term RD strategy.

As badly it has been handled, it has nothing to do with the change of manager. I am happy enough with what I see of Riga and of the better passing football.

I do question whether Charlton have the players to play 442. Riga has a poor hand of cards to play. I do not blame him for that.

I am not won over by RD. I will see how the plan plays out (there is no other choice). Yesterday did not encourage me to renew my ST.


When The South Africans Were Here said...

I am a member of the Trust and also a reader of VOVT and think there’s a place for both and the Royal Oak group. The Trust has been quite restrained in what it has said – maybe it needs to be. Equally, a more directly critical approach also has a part to play.

At present it feels like the new owner has already imposed most of what he wanted. The offer by Katrien Meire to discuss things at the end of the season appears to be a classic ‘delaying tactic’, hoping that by then we will not have been relegated and that much of the anger regarding Chris Powell’s sacking will have dissipated.

My opinion is that the fans do need to organise, if necessary by various means. Hopefully, the different groups will continue communicating and work as closely together as is possible. It doesn’t seem to me that the owner is that bothered about what the fans think at the moment but he may be so at a later point if things do not go all his way (season tickets, etc). It is then that already being well organised may be of use.

Anonymous said...

Wyn I agree with most of what you have said. The main point is we still have a club! Lets face it we had no one else who was seriously interested in buying Charlton so what do those fans prefer going into administration! Also had the manager not been a Mr Chris Powell, all those same fans would have been calling for the managers head, way beforehand with the mostly extremely poor displays, bottom of the league and very poor tactics. Another point, which those fans and some other sites keep on about is if we had kept Kermogant and Stephens we wouldn't now be in this position now. Thats rubbish Stephens, apart from a couple of games had not shone this season, his head went down as soon as we ever went behind and some of his wayward passing actually cost us goals, probably thats why he still hasn't been able to establish himself in the Brighton team! As for Kermy, a true great player for Charlton, he was never quite the same after his bad injury, he had lost pace and was not running around like he used to. He is not getting any younger and maybe the
monies we got for him at this time, were in fact good business as it appears he has now picked up another bad insury which looks like it will hamper his appearences for most of the remainder of the season. Just a lost note to ponder, the only two games we actually have won in 2014 were without Stephens and Kemorgant!

Terry Ryall said...

There have now been several comments promoting the theory that supporters should be grateful to RD for saving the club's very existence and that as a result there should be no criticism of his actions by bolshy fans of his plans for CAFC (whatever they might be) for fear that he will get upset, throw all of his toys (including CAFC) out of his pram and retreat back to the Continent.
It's probably a debate that isn't worth having because it cannot be known what would have happened if RD had not bought Charlton when he did. Administration? possibly and with the points deduction , certain relegation (still more than a distinct possibility), extinction of CAFC?-highly unlikely. The clubs currently listed on Wikipedia as having entered administration since 1984 (coincidentally Charlton are the first club on it) numbers 60. Only four are listed as having been dissolved but did actually re-form . At least three clubs on that list are currently playing in the Premier league and another, Leicester City are well on their way to the promised land. As I say, probably not worth debating but worth noting in passing that RD should not be regarded as some sort of Messiah, at least not yet.

Brian G said...

Terry Ryall's comments are very interesting and well considered.He is totally correct when he says that we will never know have might have happened if Duchatet hadn't come along. The facts of what has happened to clubs that have been into and out of administration are very interesting,particularly in Leicester's case. However,one of the things that happened at Leicester after their entry into administration was that a large number of small local suppliers with unpaid bills either went bust themselves or suffered a long period of financial difficulty. I know that we fans are tribal, exclusive and , therefore, selfish, seeing things only from our own point of view. However, we at Charlton do pride ourselves on the club's links to the community. Indeed, in the RD debate it has been frequently mentioned by fans as an important part of our image and culture. Would we have wanted people and companies in our community to have suffered in the hope that we would have been bought out of administration by a foreign millionaire? Perhaps we would have. Who knows? What this whole debate really does is to highlight the fact fans want to be an integral part of the running of a club,even to the extent of choosing its owner. It is a great diachotomy. We the fans are the club, the only reason for it's continued existence - at least until the money falls from the great Sky equally across the leagues, when we might not be needed at all - but,in reality, we have no ownership, no funds and no influence. Football in the divisions where aspire to be is a game played out by rich owners, some of whom may have an attachment to their clubs which is more than financial. Perhaps we need the club to keep going downwards and then we might get the chance to resurrect it in our own image at a relatively low cost, just as Wimbledon fans have done.I can only hope that that doesn't happen in the 10 years or so that hopefully remain for me to support Charlton.

Wyn Grant said...

Thanks for all the comments. I have decided not to write to Katrien as she has more than enough on her plate and anyway my French isn't good enough. I certainly support fans organising, but I would prefer this to be done through the CAS Trust which has a representative structure. I think that administration would be a perilous route: of course clubs don't get dissolved but there is reputational damage and the exit route can be rocky.