The emptying of the ground emphatic. Each supporter escaping The Valley another whose attachment to a club that once felt like theirs now damaged to a point which will take greater repairing than the faults in Charlton’s side.
Those that remained did so in an attempt to get their voices heard. To let those that matter know that their detachment is such that supporting this football club in its current state is now a chore that creates anger, and not an enjoyable experience that produces pleasure.
Seemingly a losing battle. The owner who they asked to leave their club not present. His CEO too stubborn to care or have concerns about what supporters believe. The head coach they want sacked emotionless, and too cowardly to admit the extent of the problems his side, if you can attach it to him, faced after full-time.
However, their voices were heard. Guy Luzon’s defiance not enough to keep him in a job. Sacked, despite receiving the support of those above him during the week.
The catalyst for such chaos was Lasse Vibe’s goal, striking beyond Stephen Henderson after yet another excellent Brentford counter attack. Their third goal of the game without reply, confirming a tenth winless game for the Addicks, and leaving them in the relegation zone.
But it was not the cause. The cause another performance without character, fight or effort. The cause utter disarray at Luzon’s decision making, and inability to lift his side. The cause a feeling that had grown over recent weeks that the head coach had lost the dressing room.
The result complete disillusion, once again, with Roland Duchatelet’s flawed structure.
In just shy of 22 months of this ownership, situations similar have occurred too many times. The brief moments of belief, one even provided today as the hosts started brightly but wasted several excellent openings, quickly overshadowed by utter despair, which soon followed as an unmarked John Swift headed in an unchallenged Judge’s cross with 26 minutes played.
And over that period, you cannot fault the resilience of Charlton supporters. They have often got behind their side in the toughest of circumstances, but this scenario a little too much. The players, so lacklustre and lazy, unwilling to fight adversity as the sensational Judge cut inside and curled beyond Henderson ten minutes after half-time.
That especially true given that more was expected from the Addicks and Luzon, with an almost fully fit pool of players to choose. The slight increase in expectation only contributing to what was ultimately inexpressible anger, as Vibe made it three with four minutes to play.
A defeat reflective of the difference in application and effort between the two sides. A gap as big as the one that now exists between supporters and club.
Change desperately needed. More than just the removal of a head coach whose tools have been as unsatisfactory as those who preceded him.
In truth, change was provided before kick-off. Six of them from the XI that gutlessly capitulated to Preston North End on Tuesday night. Six positive changes.
Stephen Henderson, having recovering from a shoulder injury, replaced Nick Pope in goal, while Patrick Bauer, after serving a one-match suspension, came in for the suspended Alou Diarra.
There were also recalls for skipper Johnnie Jackson and Franck Moussa, in for the hopeless El-Hadji Ba and Zakarya Bergdich respectively, while Johann Berg Gudmundsson returned from a dead leg to start ahead of Tareiq Holmes-Dennis.
And, after a suggestion that he may not be quite ready, there was also a start for Simon Makienok, in for Karlan Ahearne-Grant and forming a potentially threatening forward partnership with Tony Watt. Encouraging.
But a simple team selection was allowing few to get carried away. Energy, effort and determination needed to be seen from a side seemingly devoid of confidence for the rightly cynical Charlton supporters to get behind their side.
So the start, from the first minute fierce tackle by Jackson on opposition skipper and former Addick Alan McCormack, was exactly what was required. A sense existing that this side understood the importance of both the game, and the need to make an impression.
That particularly true of Tony Watt, driving past blue-shirted Brentford defenders with the pace, strength and skill that had not been seen since the start of the season. Only Moussa, having been unmarked just a few yards from goal, will know how he failed to capitalise after one of the Scot’s runs concluded with a flat cross falling to the Belgian’s feet.
Gudmundsson, too, should have done better after being teed up by the fired up forward. An excellent front-to-back move concluding with Watt playing the Iceland international through on goal, only for him to prod relatively tamely at Button.
And before the tenth minute had been reached, Watt himself had a chance to put the Addicks ahead. Driving in from the right, the Scot fizzed an effort agonisingly across the face of goal. The crowd on side, a feeling that Luzon’s side were about to right the wrongs of recent weeks.
But that feeling was tainted slightly by the fact such glorious openings were being wasted. Especially as Brentford grew into the game, with their cleverly worked passing moves and set-piece routines causing problems. James Tarkowski heading over before McCormack blasted off-target from distance.
And it was not long before Henderson, making his first appearance of the season, was seriously tested. The Bees’ passing too quick for a disorientated defensive line, allowing Swift to get in behind and force a strong palm away from the Irish stopper. Charlton fortunate that no one in blue could react quick enough to the loose ball.
Though the Addicks were not exactly penned into their own half, with Makienok’s volley narrowly keeping inside the earth’s atmosphere and Button required to push Moussa’s drive away from goal, it was certainly the case that by the 25th minute, the visitors were on top. Luzon’s side, as if naïve of their opponents’ threat, far too deep, and allowing the Bees plenty of time to pass at their own pace.
No man in red got close enough to Judge on Brentford’s right, and those inside Charlton’s box were left looking at each other in bemusement as Swift stole in to head home without pressure. The argument that the hosts, given their early dominance, were unfortunate to be behind squarely rejected by their supporters, with the first boos of the day heard.
And were it not for Jackson’s intervention, after Swift had got in behind a stationary back four once again, then the Bees could have been almost immediately two goals ahead. Frustration shared by crowd and skipper, as the ball across goal towards Marco Djuricin was intercepted.
The Brentford rampage, however, led largely by Judge and Ryan Woods’ decimation of a struggling Morgan Fox, did not ease up. The defending, though composed from the unflappable Bauer, pretty desperate.
Pretty desperate, however, was a touch better than hopeless. The fourth repeat of a Brentford corner routine still not understood, and Djurcin should have done better having been left unmarked at the back post. The cries of discontent drawing louder.
And were it not for angle-related maths far too complicated for my brain to understand, then that discontent would have multiplied before half-time. McCormack, easily bossing the midfield given that Jordan Cousins’ was uncharacteristically without energy or application, driving a fierce effort against the crossbar and down onto the line.
The end of the opening 45, met by boos before a round of applause that lacked any conviction, desperately needed. The bright start forgotten, with the Addicks flawed, and fortunate to not be further behind. Fox and Chris Solly being beaten again and again, Jackson having to do the work of two men in the middle, and Watt and Makienok not linking at all.
But while they were only one goal down, there remained hope. Hope that Luzon could solve the issues, inspire, and triumph in adversity.
Hope that, based on previous evidence, was always a little misguided. A lacklustre start to the second period, as if there was no interval, hardly encouraging optimism.
And any optimism that remained, only possessed by the delirious, was completely crushed ten minutes into the second half. Lee Carsley’s side breaking at pace, McCormack picking out an unmarked Judge, and the Irishman allowed to cut inside before curling deliciously beyond Henderson. Hopeless.
The reaction to going two behind, as negative as you might expect, only interrupted by movement on the touchline. A release of venomous anger as the hardworking Makienok, not fit for 90 minutes but looking fitter than most, was replaced by Reza Ghoochannejhad, a player who had no desire to remain at the club last summer. “You don’t know what you’re doing” sung by the Covered End.
Conor McAleny, replacing the struggling Moussa, was also thrown on, stinging the palms of Button on two occasions. But positive emotion from The Valley’s home ends had gone. A performance lacking effort and motivation had taken its toll.
The atmosphere too calm to be poisonous, but it was passionless. A group of supporters totally detached from their club, and neither head coach nor player was able to provide something worth getting behind. The attitude from those wearing red close to embarrassing.
It meant a venomous reaction was always likely, though still on hold as Gudmundsson narrowly missed a cross from Jackson, two of few players whose effort you could not question, before the Icelander blasted over. Just dejected moans. The collective ramble of those who had lost hope.
But then came the collective outcry of those who had been driven to despair. The Addicks, with men forward, left open at the back, Judge’s stunning ball forward was taken down well by Vibe, and the substitute finishing beyond Henderson. The boos loud, the clattering of seats deafening, the voices of anger that were to follow unavoidable.
“You Belgian wanker, get out of our club”, “we want Roland out” and “Roland, you’re a cunt” all belted out by the Covered End. All four sides of the ground in unison gave a rendition of “you’re getting sacked in the morning”. Supporters of the Bees then able to sing the name of their owner, Matthew Benham, as an unmarked Harlee Dean headed into the side-netting.
And though both Gudmundsson and McAleny had shots on target during stoppage-time, they were as tame and pathetic as Charlton’s overall performance. The only bite, the sort the players required, coming from the home supporters.
The full-time whistle met with the loudest boo yet, that would only get louder as Luzon walked towards the tunnel for what would be the final time. A club in crisis once again.
First, there is a game of football that must be exclusively focused on, if only so Brentford can be given the praise they deserve.
For the Bees were excellent. Pressing with intent, passing with style, and possessing a potent final ball. This was not the performance of a side who themselves were seemingly on the verge of crisis a few weeks ago.
But, as excellent as the Bees were, it takes absolutely nothing away from yet another atrocious effort from the Addicks.
The promising start is no excuse. There is no case for Charlton being unfortunate. The way this side responds to adversity is absolutely disgusting. No fight, no determination, no character.
And a large part of that, you feel, is Luzon’s inability to inspire. In addition to predictable and slow passing play, a complete lack of pressing, and almost no tactical fluidity.
Does that mean I agree with Luzon’s sacking? That is something I will discuss in more depth in a separate post, but I do feel he had lost the dressing room. A point of no recovery had been reached. Something had to be done, especially with the toxic reaction after the third goal and beyond.
But I do feel incredibly sorry for him. He should not have been appointed in the first place, but did a very decent job in winning supporters over, before falling victim of a regime whose attentions, whatever they might be, are not focused on footballing success.
Additionally, for Katrien Meire, increasingly appearing incapable, to oversee his sacking just a few days after supporting him does not help the lack of trust between board and supporters. The detachment growing.
How is that detachment solved? How do we get our Charlton back?
I cannot see a new head coach simply changing things to the point where all is well again. If they do, it will merely be temporary. The new boss will have the same restrictions, and ultimately the same failures, as the others.
Duchatelet’s flawed structure needs changing. Or, preferably, removed. I do not get excited by a balance sheet or a green pitch.
I need a Charlton I can feel inspired by, and get behind. Not one as pathetic as the one we currently have, both on and off the pitch.
As cringe-worthy as it sounds, I really do want my Charlton back.