For some Charlton fans, praising Roland Duchatelet is blasphemy. I don’t need to tell you that I’m one of them. No decision made by the Belgian will ever have me singing his name from the Covered End, even if chanting the name of an owner was an acceptable act.
First, there’s the readiness with which genuine ‘Charlton people’ have been dispatched, whether that be the unfair and unprofessional sacking of Chris Powell or the removal of figures from inside the club.
Intertwined with Powell’s departure is the pressure the owner applied to have his dreadful January additions selected in the squad. Those signings, and the largely avoidable departures in January and at the start of the summer, are further cause for frustration.
Then there’s the board’s failure to talk properly to fan groups, despite stating that they would, and the general worries that Duchatelet’s network brings with it. You could also throw in the failure to reward Jose Riga, for good measure.
Whatever way you choose to dress it up, or tell fans to move on, it’s hard to argue against the suggestion that Duchatelet has made a lot of mistakes so far in his brief stint as Charlton owner. Mistakes that mean for every positive action, there’s a negative to reduce its impact.
But as Franck Moussa’s deflected effort rewarded the Addicks for a sustained spell of pressure on their pristine pitch in front of the cleaned up stands of The Valley, you couldn’t help but notice a difference.
The difference not that Charlton were victorious, but that there’s genuine ability among those in red, and a genuine feeling of hope in SE7.
The signings made are of high quality, going a long way to making up for the talent that has departed and the dross recruited in January. Duchatelet, and whoever it is that advises him on signings, has clearly learnt from the mistakes made in January and beyond, bringing in quality and, George Tucudean aside, not just lumping carthorses on us from his network.
A depleted squad, even if in such a state because of the owner’s previous actions, has been improved with the Belgian willing to dig deep into his pockets. If anything, it’s just a little frustrating that several of the players who have left would have added the finishing touches to this side.
The biggest positive from yesterday, although obvious, was the way in which we attacked in the final ten minutes. Through no fault of Powell, Riga or the players the pair had at their disposals, the Addicks were rarely capable of driving forward in such a manner last season.
Without the likes of Danny Haynes and Ricardo Fuller, and then Cameron Stewart and Yann Kermorgant, there were few match winners in Charlton’s side, and even fewer players capable of being at the heart of swift counter attacks. It was neither practical nor achievable to attack, and the points Powell and Riga won largely came from grinding games out. In fact, such a lack of quality makes those famous wins over QPR and Bournemouth, inspired by attacking intent in the final moments of the game, all the more memorable.
But this group of players have the ability to drive forward; it almost seems mad not to attempt to drive forward with so many capable of a match winning or changing moment. The delivery of Johann Berg Gudmundsson and the skill, strength and pace of Igor Vetokele particularly impressive and players with assets that were seriously lacking last campaign. Players of such quality will win games on their own.
It’s therefore also worth praising the head coach, for throwing caution to the wind and exploiting the game changing capabilities of his attacking players. Peeters enthusiasm and demand for an attractive style of passing play would appear to make him an exciting appointment; not making the dismissal of Powell nor the failure to reward Riga correct, but at the same time giving the club’s fans another boss you can believe in.
He’s also managed to blend new, young and old together, most importantly creating an organised defensive unit to assist those attacking talents. . We’re not quite the fully functioning model just yet, but this prototype isn’t half bad.
The investment in the stadium, too, not only making the win over Wigan more enjoyable, but a sign that Duchatelet is keen to correct earlier errors and bring the fans back on side.
I suppose there’s an argument to say my change of heart is traditional football fan fickleness, but that isn’t the case. It’s not really a change of heart, I’m still cautious and have plenty of concerns, but a genuine attempt has been made to put things right on the pitch, and those are actions I can only praise and respond to positively.
There are still plenty of questions that need answering, plenty of details that have me worried and even a few concerns with the squad. How will Duchatelet’s need to fund several other clubs, and the general lack of feeling like a separate entity, affect us in the long run, will these players eventually end up at Standard Liege and is the squad big enough are among my most pressing.
There’s also a danger of getting carried away too early, but safety was always my hope before this season and the early signs suggest we’re more than capable of that.
But, while events on the pitch are so encouraging, it’s easy to indulge myself in positivity and ignore the concerns that exist. Duchatelet remains on the naughty step, but he’s stopped trying put a dent in the nearby wall.