It started with hope. Hope that this would be better than what had gone before. Because what had gone before, having started well enough, had been a joke for far too long.
Our progress, and Chris Powell’s vision, had been forced to stall. A ten-foot road block in the way of his ambitions for Charlton Athletic Football Club. The owners, who did not speak and had seemingly lost their ability to fund the club, were holding us back and dragging us down. We deserved better than Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez.
Powell deserved better than Slater and Jimenez. With just some curly hair, some Jamaican flair and a change of position for the man from Harare differing from his League One squad, the flat cap wearer got over that road block and led his team agonisingly close to the play-offs. Had he been allowed to strengthen properly, and sign the targets we were often linked with, the top six might well have been achieved.
But now a 100-foot road block stood in Powell’s way. The budget cut further, Ricardo Fuller, despite wanting to stay, cut from his squad and strikers who hadn’t made the cut for other sides brought in.
The pitch a mess, Joe Pigott’s first touch causing distress and Charlton starting to seriously regress. The Addicks a laughing stock. We deserved better.
Then Lawrie Wilson and Yann Kermorgant downed Brighton, the inspiration leader Johnnie Jackson rescued a point at Ipswich and a saviour was seemingly found.
Roland Duchatelet was fresh. He had money, he provided stability and would surely see what Powell was trying to achieve and support his cause. We were going to go places. This was what we deserved.
Transfers arrived. The first a part-male model/part-footballer sort of hybrid called Astrit Ajdarevic. He had come from Duchatelet’s network, but had played in England before, and played with Powell while he was at Leicester City. Conspiracy theorists not yet enraged, and admirers of good coats impressed.
But more network signings followed.
A goalkeeper, when we already had two very good ones. He’d won some sort of award in French football and his cousin was Lilian Thuram, though, so Yohann Thuram must have been good.
A right-back when we already had two very good ones, from the mighty Ujpest. Loic Nego had some France youth caps, though, so there was promise.
Then there was Anil Koc. An 18-year-old who had played about three seconds of first-team football. He had a funny name, though, so a bonus.
So too was the name of the Iranian superstar, transferred to the Addicks to improve our wastefulness in front of goal. Reza Ghoochannejhad’s YouTube clips were marvellous, his goalscoring record respectable and maybe an example of how this network could work.
There were good noises from the club. Powell happy, Duchatelet saying the right things and Katrien Meire seemed intelligent. Finally, some reasons to be cheerful again.
But then came the worry. Why had Powell not been allowed to sign Cameron Stewart? Why was Dom Dwyer sent back to the USA despite the club wanting to keep him? Was Powell having an active say in the transfers, or just being told what to do?
It seemed to be the latter. That torrid night in Doncaster one those that were there won’t want to remember. A 3-0 defeat dragging us closer to the relegation zone, but three goodbyes from excellent players who didn’t deserve to be moved on.
Dale Stephens spoke of fears over Powell’s long-term future as he joined Brighton, Ben Alnwick sent to Leyton Orient without warning and a cult hero treated disgracefully. Worried turning to anger as Yann Kermorgant lifted up his Bournemouth. Powell deserved better, they deserved better, we deserved better.
But we were told not to worry. Along came Polish Pete. He knew who Matt Holland was and had scored some goals at some sort of level of football. He might even be better than Kermorgant.
But the performances that followed made you long for Kermorgant and co. There was fight at Wigan, but none from Thuram. Effort and aptitude missing when Birmingham visited The Valley. The new recruits not good enough. We deserved better.
And my god did we get it. If there’s a three day slot in my time as a Charlton fan where I feel more pride, I will never stop crying tears of happiness. The win over QPR an unforgettable moment and the cup success at Hillsborough one of the best nights I’ve experienced as an Addick.
This was why Jackson and his team played for Charlton. This was why Powell managed Charlton. This was why we supported Charlton. This was what we deserved.
Those two performances just about made the pain suffered at Brammall Lane bearable. But, when it was happening, nothing could have. The ethos of Powell’s team seemingly destroyed in two weeks. He and we deserved better.
He deserved better than to be sacked two days later. Duchatelet’s actions effectively constructive dismissal, and that despite promising a new contract. His treatment of a Valley legend poor; his lies unacceptable. Addicks everywhere emotionally scarred. We deserved better.
Jackson tried to give us it, his performance against Huddersfield heart-warming, but it wasn’t really enough. The mood low in SE7; views of Jose Riga still sceptical.
But the wins started. They weren’t pretty, but they were tactically achieved and utilised the spirit that remained within this squad. Dorian Dervite’s late winner, Ben Hamer’s penalty save and Marvin Sordell’s hat-trick providing the moments of sheer joy and pride we needed and deserved.
Survival followed. The Charlton side adored, Riga appreciated and some were even lauding Duchatelet. You couldn’t long for Powell to return, as we had survived. The owner’s actions correct. In truth, you couldn’t argue.
But then came more confusion. Riga treated poorly and not rewarded for his successes. Bob Peeters, a man who quite simply looked nothing like a
football manager head coach, replacing him. We’d just been through the mill and had to try so hard to regain our emotion attachment, and now it was being tested again. We deserved better.
Hamer, Dervite and Diego Poyet all departed. Every Addick wanted to keep the trio, and the first two at least wanted to stay, but they had all gone. A failure to award contracts quickly enough seemingly the reason. They deserved better, and they now have it. I bet their group chat is called “Thank fuck we got out of there”.
Latterly, Michael Morrison would be invited into that group chat. Given a two-year contract in the summer, the defender spoke with positivity, and it showed we weren’t complete pushovers when it came to holding onto players.
But Peeters treated him poorly, and another Valley stalwart was sent packing. Birmingham fans love him; more than a few Charlton fans crave him. He and we deserved better.
On the other hand, there’s an argument that Morrison left as the summer signings were better than him. And they were very good. Tal Ben Haim and Andre Bikey joined by Igor Vetokele, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Stephen Henderson, to name but a few.
It led to football that deserved at least eight flame emojis. The Valley had rarely seen anything like the performances that downed Wigan and Derby. Passion reignited, relegation fears immediately averted and promotion spoken about.
Then there was the pitch. That horrible swap replaced by a shiny new bit of green, while The Valley in general was made to look as it should. You couldn’t not praise Duchatelet for this. This was what we deserved and more.
It only got better. The old and new mixed to give us a perfect night at Norwich. Jackson’s goal sparking incredible scenes. Even a friend of mine, apathetic enough to make me look like the biggest support of this regime, enjoyed that one. Watching Charlton was a pleasure again; a positive mood around the club. Even the sceptics were beginning to think this might work out. We deserved this.
But then the wheels started to fall off. Performance levels dropping, draws holding us back and a handful of big defeats bringing about worry. The squad was too small, Peeters options limited, but we were told the loan market is about as useful as the sale rack in Top Man.
Alas, the sale rack sometime has a gem, and so does the loan market. Even after finding one of our own, Francis Coquelin, we didn’t look further. No support for an injured Vetokele, kids rushed through and Peeters forced into some bizarre tactical decisions, purely because his options were so limited. Not for the first time, although not as seriously, we were being lied to. The run that led to his dismissal began.
It started off as some indifferent displays, but then became performances that lacked the passion, spirit and determination we had come to expect from the Addicks. We deserved better than watching half-hearted performances.
Alas, there was still support for Peeters. His job a tough one; simply a cog in a system that wasn’t working. The Roland Duchatelet shaped cog the one with the biggest fault
And Meire, to an extent, seemed to agree. There was support for Peeters in the programme before the Brighton game. Then he was gone. Peeters lied to; the supporters lied to. He deserved better, we deserved better.
Alas, Duchatelet has made controversial calls before. Those that have replaced the outgoing boss have quickly won us over. His calls paying off.
But, in this instance, that seems almost impossible. On the footballing side of things, the man replacing Peeters doesn’t seem good enough. Riots at Standard Liege seemingly the perfect reflection of Guy Luzon’s ability.
So too are there players in Charlton’s dressing room who aren’t fond. Yoni Buyens and Tal Ben Haim having fallen out with him, while Ajdarevic’s criticism of the Israeli hard-hitting. It just doesn’t seem like it can possibly work.
But the appointment itself is one thing, the process behind it more distressing.
Meire spoke of a long-term appointment, and taking part in a process to find Peeters’ replacement. A day later, Luzon was named. We deserve better than being lied too, again.
That, however, was not the biggest lie. The biggest lie made by Duchatelet early on. He suggested his clubs were like his children, and as a result he treated them all equally.
Evidently, we are not equal. A man not good enough for Standard Liege is good enough for us. A man sacked six minutes ago by Duchatelet is now a talented coach. We are mugs.
Success may come, but it’s almost irrelevant. Feelings for the club no longer what they were to such an extent that any further success will be tainted. We’ve been lied to and the process is wrong. We deserve better.
For all the bits in between this period that we deserved, we’ve been given so much we didn’t that they’re effectively meaningless. Apathy is rife.
We don’t deserve success, but we do deserve an attachment to our club. We deserve to have our club treat us with respect. We deserve to feel like we are supporting our club, not a network or Duchatelet’s toy or anything else. We deserve to support Charlton Athletic Football Club.
We also deserve not to have gone through 18, if not 30, months of horrendous decision making and leadership. If we’ve moved in that time, it’s only sideways.
We deserve better. I so desperately hope we’re provided with it, but I’m not holding my breath.