There’s a chance that next season could be hugely successful for Charlton. A new head coach and influx of players could lead the Addicks to the summit of the Championship table. Twelve months on from celebrating survival, we might well be celebrating promotion to the Premier League. Those players and coaches who have departed and look set to depart won’t be spared a thought as Johnnie Jackson lifts the trophy above his head on the final day of the campaign.
And there’s nothing I would love more than that. There’s nothing I would love more than to be bombarded with my own apprehension and worry-filled Tweets and blog posts in twelve months’ time after Charlton have had a successful season, in whatever shape that may take. I would love to be proven wrong.
But I, and so many others who share a sentimental approach to how they support their football club, will only be proven wrong to some extent. Right now, it’s almost impossible to predict success next season, but that is something that can be rectified. What can’t be rectified is the bizarre decision making, poor people management and actions that have caused a great deal of distress to many Addicks of Roland Duchatelet.
Results, it is argued, have justified Duchatelet’s decisions to date. We survived, so what’s gone before is irrelevant. It’s a perfectly reasonable and logical argument, but I think about football in a fundamentally different way. Even if I didn’t, I would still be mightily concerned at the risks Duchatelet took.
Maybe I’m too sentimental, the other end of the scale from those supporters who care only about results, irrespective of how they’re achieved and who achieves them, but I believe taking an unsentimental view to football supporting is incredibly narrow minded and makes that special feeling of being in love with a football club somewhat limited.
It’s true that I grew so attached to the staff and players that have represented Charlton Athletic over the past three seasons that accepting change, or moving on as some like to put it, was always going to be a challenge. It was a group of personnel I could believe in; there was a drive and desire to give them every ounce of my supportive energy even through periods of immense struggle.
I could, however, accept departures and dismissals if they occurred on good terms; if those players and personal left with the respect they deserve. Kermorgant was forced out, Powell was sacked in a way that continues to sicken me and players that have publically stated their desire to remain at the club, and deserve to do so, are seemingly about to become the first to leave. Of course it might well be the case that Ben Hamer and Dorian Dervite have been offered better deals, but given Michael Morrison’s recent revelation that he is yet to be offered a contract, it’s hard not to think that more players than just the vice-captain are waiting on a new deal to be presented to them. It can’t be emphasised enough that they deserve so much more, and it insults me probably about as much as it insults them.
It’s simple to point out that these are the players that were involved in a relegation battle last season, but they’re also the spine of the team and bunch of players who are certainly worth keeping. Forget my emotional attachment to these players for one second and consider how valuable they really are. They’re seemingly being let go, whilst poor players from Duchatelet’s network have been given long-term deals. On top of that, the one player to show any sort of quality from Duchatelet’s network, Astrit Ajdarevic, won’t be coming back. He’s not needed at Standard Liege, and he clearly enjoyed his time here. Why can’t he become an Addick on a permanent basis?
Then we come to today’s revelations that Jose Riga will depart, and will be replaced by fellow Belgian Bob Peeters. Peeters might well be the hidden Mourinho, but that doesn’t justify the manner in which another good man, who deserved more, has been shafted. Riga wanted to stay, I’m not Riga’s biggest fan but even I could see he deserved to stay, and he expected to stay. But he hasn’t even had the curtsey of Duchatelet explaining to him why Charlton’s owner is looking elsewhere.
The way in which Riga was appointed was wrong, but Riga had done a respectable job, and therefore you can argue that Duchatelet’s decision to employ the Belgian was a good one. He had the chance to win so many over by given Riga a permanent contract; letting him go and replacing him with another Belgian coach, with an arguably worse track record, seems counterproductive in so many ways. If he had replaced Riga with a British ‘manager’, which in fairness was what I called for, then it would have been understandable in a purely narrow minded directional sense. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t have justified the poor treatment of Riga; keeping the club in the Championship is surely enough to deserve to be treated with an ounce of respect.
Every decision and every departure leaves me more deflated, more disillusioned and more angered. I’m losing motivation and losing that sense of having a club and a team that I could believe in. All this without considering my worries about what sort of XI we’ll be able to field next season and whether Peeters is up to the task.
I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and say my perception of the direction we’re heading in is wrong, I want it to work, but Duchatelet’s poor treatment of so many won’t ever be justified by a win or two.
I don’t wish to engage in any discussion about the pros and cons of what Duchatelet has done or is doing. As mentioned above, most who will disagree with my view will have unchangeable views, as do I. But please don’t take my views as an expression of hatred towards the club, or disloyalty. I have legitimate concerns and I’m deeply upset with what has occurred recently, but I care about the club as much as anyone, just possibly in a slightly different way.