When Chris Powell was dismissed, I entered a state of depression. The man I adored, and who built a squad that almost every Addick fell in love with, unceremoniously dismissed. His crime partially not getting results with a depleted squad, but largely for failing to comply with the orders of Roland Duchatelet.
When Jose Riga wasn’t kept on, I was confused. I had at first been suspicious of Powell’s replacement, purely for the fact he was Powell’s replacement, but his tactical nous, enthusiasm and ability to maintain the spirit of that Charlton side meant I grew appreciative, and latterly fond. He seemed a good fit; it made little sense not to keep him.
Now that Bob Peeters has had his contract terminated, I feel apathy. The results poor of late, the performances even worse and the attitude of both Peeters and his players concerning, but there was widespread support for the likeable boss.
It was not universal, there were some who had lost faith, but most appreciated that to pass all the blame onto Peeters’ shoulders for the current run of form was misguided and simply irrational. He may have been provided with better tools than those who came before him, but only marginally.
Support from the board not there when the smallest of squads became depleted further. Options to change and rejuvenate a confidence-lacking side limited. Charlton would have struggled with any boss in charge; those above again should have taken a harder look at their own activities.
Alas, they backed him. There was support for Peeters in yesterday’s programme, so was there a bullish confidence from the man himself that meant he could laugh off talk of the sack. Expectations for the season still on track to be met.
There was not a clamour for him to be dismissed, and appreciation remained for his early season exploits. The attacking football sensational to start with, the defensive steel that followed something to be proud of.
Every Charlton fan was unhappy with the run of form, but no supporter was demanding Peeters lift the Addicks back into the top six. If anything, most were aware that a failure to strengthen during the loan window had played a larger part in Charlton’s decline.
Quite simply, it wasn’t Peeters’ fault. Just one cog, smaller than a few others, in a system that wasn’t working.
But he is gone. Another victim of the questionable decision making that has occurred at this club in the past 12 months. At best, they have been calls that haven’t made consideration of feeling, pride and emotional attachment. At worst, they have been calls that suggest Duchatelet is playing a game, using Charlton as a hobby.
And it’s that decision making, along with the way in which the ethos of the club has completely changed, that has led to my apathy.
I will be told, no doubt, that Duchatelet has done good things for us. I agree. The Valley had been glistened up, the pitch no longer causing me to waste £15.40 on a train ticket, the general infrastructure improved and there would appear to be financial security. He’s done well.
But as a football fan, and a football fan who believes heavily this game is about entertainment, emotional attachment and feeling sense of pride in your club, I don’t get any sense of enjoyment of those factors.
I don’t celebrate a pitch. I don’t send love letters to a spruced up training ground. I don’t get a buzz from remembering that time our bank balance looked okay. Those are, of course, things a club needs, but they should not be at the expense of the things us supporters adore that cannot be measured.
Football clubs are a business, and must be treated like one. But they are extra ordinary businesses. The customers are different animals. Profit important, but the feelings the club provides to its supporters equally so.
Such emotions may be because I allowed myself to grow so attached to Powell’s side, but I’m not sure that’s entirely the case. It’s more to do with the fact that I am trying so hard to fall back in love with this wonderful football club, and being shot down each time I try.
I feel like I am supporting one man’s toy, as part of a collection of toys, and not Charlton Athletic. I just have to accept that Peeters is gone, replaced by a man considered not good enough at Standard Liege, who fell out with several players shipped over to SE7. I know I’m not alone in such apathy.
Just over 18 months ago, I loved this club more than I can begin to describe. It wasn’t perfect on or off the field, but I knew that those representing our club on a Saturday were Charlton men. Even if they weren’t, the atmosphere around the club meant they would soon become one. They would give their all, and even if they didn’t win, there was something there to be proud of. The attitude positive.
Now, but for a handful of members of this squad who you fear will soon become isolated, I feel as if I’m simply watching a group of footballers. It’s difficult to say they’re Charlton footballers. It’s irrational, and I can’t fully explain why, but a number of men who have represented the Addicks in the previous 12 months have not been Charlton men. They have not become part of our ethos.
Some have. Astrit Ajdarevic, Igor Vetokele and Johann Berg Gudmundsson, certainly. But others certainly haven’t. Reza Ghoochannejhad, Yohann Thuram and George Tucudean not the sort of players I ever thought would become associated with Charlton a few years ago. It’s not about level of performance, it’s about attitude. An attitude that isn’t part of this club’s ethos, but has been allowed to creep in.
Why? Because all that matters for Duchatelet, well, I’m not actually sure what matters to him. Profit, certainly, but if it was profit entirely he’d bulk up the squad to the required standard and get us into the Premier League.
Maybe that’s what he wants. He’s spoken about a long-term plan, although what that is I’m not sure. Part of that long-term plan appeared to be around Peeters, for he played the young players Duchatelet craved as part of his project.
It just makes no sense. Strange decisions, decisions going against what was said a few days before they’re made. Again, apathy.
In truth, Peeters is just a small part of Charlton’s history. Like Riga, like Luzon will be. They’re irrelevant. It’s all about Duchatelet. The direction of this club not shaped by the man in the technical area, but seemingly only shaped by the man who is at The Valley once or twice a year. No owner should dictate and control like Duchatelet is, even if it brings success.
It means Peeters has, like Kermorgant, Powell and Riga, been treated harshly. I can only thank him.
Like the two men before you, Bob, you deserved a lot better and it’s a blessing in disguise you got out of this place in decent time.
In fact, the playing staff that left are all in better places. Ben Hamer, Michael Morrison and Yann Kermorgant. Hastily moved on despite being part of a spine that meant a Charlton side always gave their all. Their careers now better off away from The Valley’s confusing state.
And what about those who remain at the club, who have always given their all. They deserve better. Not least the skipper. Johnnie Jackson has led this club through the rough and the smooth in such a manner that he might well be my favourite Addick of all time. He deserves so much more than to be caught up in this.
And finally, Diego Poyet.
I want to feel the attachment I once did. It’s so depressing that such a level of love has been taken away. Please, Duchatelet, make me look like a horrible misguided fool and give me a reason to get attached again.