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.