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A Few Thoughts on Katrien Meire’s Interview

If you’ve not interviewed Katrien Meire this week, you’re probably not very relevant. With a radio appearance, TV feature and newspaper piece, she’s popped up everywhere, and seemingly at random.

Arguably the most interesting element of her PR drive was the interview she did with the London Evening Standard. Interesting not only because it focused more on Charlton explicitly than her other media appearances, but because it revealed a few things not previously said.

Some of it was promising. Particularly the admission that the criticism her and Roland Duchatelet received over some of the network signings has been fair. The players brought in last year, as she says, ‘were not of the right standard’.

That is probably the first genuine admission that they have, at times, got things horrendously wrong in the transfer market. For an ownership that I have, over certain things, found quite stubborn, it’s pleasing that someone within it has been a little more realistic and suggests that, possible lessons over things could be learned in the future.

Additionally, it also suggests that, to begin with, they were simply not aware of the quality needed to succeed in the Championship. Inexcusable that they came in without that knowledge, but excellent that have accepted the type of player Charlton require.

It should mean the dross flung upon us from the network or for the network’s purposes is minimal. Fewer Christophe Lepoints, more Tony Watts, and hopefully a few more Chris Eagles.

Personally, I’m still dubious about the overall quality within the network – as fellow blogger Valley Talk pointed out to me earlier today, Watt saved the network. A slogan I want to see on t-shirts before long. But an acceptance that we deserve better than Liege’s cast-offs deserves a fist pump or twelve.

Equally pleasing is the indication that Guy Luzon, as has been said before, will stick around for more than a few months. The process behind his appointment remains as wrong as it was at the time, but his achievements mean that those questioning his actual managerial ability, myself included, have been silenced emphatically.

Stability can only be beneficial, while the relationship between Luzon and the board means some compromise may be found over the demands to play certain players where it wasn’t with the previous bosses.

Speaking of previous bosses, less pleasing is the nonsense spouted over Chris Powell’s sacking, but I’ll choose to ignore that. The side of the story given by absolutely everyone else is the one I’m going to stick with. Moving on…

The continued drive to invest in the club’s infrastructure and financially support it is mentioned. That is something few, even the harshest critics of Duchatelet, have been critical of. The club does appear to be on firm financial ground.

So the suggestion that we have the third smallest budget in the league is very odd. How is that possible? It simply doesn’t make sense.

To me, that comment is very worrying. My fears that players will be sold in the summer only increases with it, and a squad that has shown it is capable of competing will be broken up.

Charlton have, of course, always been a selling club. But my fear with regards to selling is not just the loss of a player, but knowing the money gained may not be used exclusively for Charlton’s benefit. Has the money spent on Lepoint and Piotr Parzyszek benefited us?

Also concerning is the suggestion that the strategy involves having clubs at different levels.

There has been plenty of talk about Duchatelet’s goals not strictly being based around footballing success, and I think that comment goes someway to increasing that belief.

His ambitions in this project, of course, are purely financial and low risk. Keeping clubs at separate levels makes moving players easier, and means no additional investment needs to be made in order to push a club forward.

And it also means that clubs’ ambitions are restricted. We can’t dream of the Premier League because, weirdly, getting there doesn’t seem to suit Duchatelet’s project. Poor old Carl Zeiss Jena.

But, of course, we fans don’t understand.

With the rest of her comments interesting or leading to quizzical concern, I’m a little bit annoyed by the use of the phrase “fans don’t understand”. Patronising rubbish that increases the distance between board and supporters.

It’s used in relation to Duchatelet not having enough time to build a relationship with fans. The idea that his clubs are his children, as he suggested, dismissed. More distant cousins that get birthday and Christmas presents, with maybe the occasional Easter egg thrown in.

So, as with most things regarding the Duchatelet regime, some of it’s good, some it’s confusing, some it seems very wrong and some of it is incredibly frustrating.

I don’t criticise as I want it to fail, nor because I’m only capable of negativity, but merely because I remain extremely concerned

I’m not totally dismissive of this ownership and its strategies bringing genuine success. I would be a fool not to embrace the air of positivity, and I’m enjoying the recent performances as much as anyone. A genuine sign this could work.

At the very least, the promise of sustaining the quality brought in recently and letting a head coach do his job properly is great. But I remain concerned that pure footballing success will only come almost by accident.

For all the financial good he has done, Duchatelet’s focus on the pound sign is also a hindrance. He’s not trying to get us into the Premier League, merely exploit our existence as part of his game. Still, there is the feeling that Charlton Athletic Football Club is not a separate entity.

I’ve said this so many times before, but the ethos the regime has instilled means success, without losing any praise that will be deserved should it come nor enjoyment felt, will be tainted from the perspective of an emotional attachment to the club.


1 Comment

  1. vff1 says:

    Great thoughtful and balanced article.

    Katrien Meire is clearly an able and likeable person. it is good to hear an admission that some of the standard of the players brought in were of not sufficient quality, even if it is was only one sentence.

    Previously, Katrien at a Kent supporters club meeting (I understand) said that Roland Duchatelet thought that Charlton would get promoted this season.

    I guess it would have been a stop too far to admit openly that the squad was way too thin and only one decent striker was not enough. Hopefully that lesson has been learnt for next season.

    Southampton shows that getting a good return on talent nurtured club is better in the premiership. Keeping our best young players Joe Gomez and Jordan Cousins at the club is vital. Having a chance to keep those players at the club and not leave like Diego Poyet depends on the club being competitive and showing sufficient ambition to be in the top 6.


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