Tuesday 7 January 2020

Why Charlton fans can be sceptical about owners

Given the history of Charlton Athletic, it's not surprising that some fans are wary of the new owners. I was criticised for not being quick enough to see what was wrong with Roland and his gang. Things became so toxic between fans that I was abused by a CARD activist outside the ground for not being militant enough, although one or two of Roland's running dogs thought that I was a pain.

If we look back at the history of the club since the return to The Valley, which is as long as most fans can remember (and many can only just remember the Premier League days) a narrative has been constructed that tends to overplay the role of Richard Murray, significant though it was, and overlooks the part played by others.

Nevertheless, the relationship between Murray and Curbishley saw the club flourish. I also take my hat off to chief executive Peter Varney. I had a run in with him after the sacking of Brian Cole when he suggested to me that my standards were lower than those of a journalist which is saying something consider that they rank lower than estate agents in many polls. However, I would admit that my friendship for Brian and my dislike of Palace clouded my judgment.

A few of you will remember one of the most frequently used adverts in the early days of commercial television, 'Murray mints, the too good to hurry mints': Murray Mints.

Unfortunately, Richard Murray was in too much of a hurry when he appointed Iain Dowie as manager. Dowie put on an impressive but standardised presentation in his enthusiasm to 'move north'. The board decided that it wasn't rocket science to appoint him. When I saw him on the pitch during the warm up (which had people to do for him) at one of his early games trying to inspire the players with a look of fanatical dedication, I felt obliged to reflect on how the decision had been made.

Pardew then managed to complete the destruction of the Curbishley legacy, although like many fans I initially thought it was a good appointment. Bizarrely he was later touted as a possible England manager, but summaries of his career generally managed to omit his achievements at Charlton.

Currency soon lost its value

The board eventually sold up to a shadowy group collectively referred to by some fans as 'the spivs'. This was a rather harsh term to use about businessmen of experience and integrity, but one of their number certainly had some encounters in court when he failed to impress the judge. It seems that the interest of their backer was in a property play which would see Charlton leave The Valley for a stadium on the Greenwich peninsula to be erected by Ikea: Court encounters and stadium move plans

After all this, it is possible to fall into the trap of being a 'Napoleonist'. This refers to the eccentric group of English men and women who supported Bonaparte during the Napoleonic wars, not exactly a popular stance. Edward Tangye Lean wrote an excellent book about them which made the more general argument that there are people who always oppose whatever regime is in place.

The one risk in the present situation is that excessive expectations have been generated. Just because the ultimate owner is very rich doesn't mean he is going to squander that wealth. Indeed, if he is a shrewd businessman, as appears to be the case, he would not do so but would proceed more prudently. What is important is that we have a leadership that turns up at The Valley, rather than enjoying a live feed, and is prepared to engage emotionally with the fans.

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