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In Defence of Diego

From the sales of Yann Kermorgant and Dale Stephens, to allowing Ben Hamer and Dorian Dervite to be snapped up by other clubs without much of a fight, and Michael Morrison and Rhoys Wiggins being let go when there was seemingly still a need for them.

One of the many contributing factors towards Roland Duchatelet’s reign at Charlton Athletic being something of a failure is the departure of well-respected players that were Addicks long before he bought the club in January 2014.

Though there are exits that can be justified – the fee paid for Joe Gomez and Lawrie Wilson’s need to play first team football among them – it takes little away from the fact that moving most on broke up very strong supporter-player bonds.

So too does a general consensus exist that plenty of those who have left in the past 22 months would be welcome additions to this current squad. The leadership of Morrison, the dependability of Wilson and the brilliance of Kermorgant.


As such, players of that ilk representing opposition sides would receive a reception far greater than anything Duchatelet’s system has churned out, and since been moved on.

That reception warranted, through their endeavours and excellence for the club, while many of those that the questionable transfer policy has brought in have left without creating any sort of rapport with supporters, or doing enough exclusively on the pitch to earn respect.

But there is one departed player, whose contribution cannot be underestimated and route to the first team would normally be celebrated, who may not receive such a kind appreciation from his former supporters when he plays against his former club for the first time on Tuesday night.

In fact, there is every chance that Diego Poyet, currently on loan at MK Dons from West Ham, will be rather harshly booed by the Addicks brave enough to travel to Stadium:MK.

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Without Poyet’s contribution in the latter half of the 2013/14 season, it isn’t irrational to suggest that Charlton would not have avoided relegation. Despite being a teenager, and making his first 20 league appearances as a professional, the academy graduate became the side’s talisman, and was the catalyst for many important results.

But that has been overshadowed by the rather unceremonious split between player and club in the summer of 2014. Anger still existing over the manner in which he departed for Upton Park.

Maybe there is an element justification behind some Charlton supporters holding something of a grudge.

Given that Poyet had been developed, and given his chance, by the Addicks, the suggestion that he should have given something back has often been made. At least one more season, before walking away to a bigger club. Emulating the loyalty of many of his fellow academy graduates.

And you could argue that, with Poyet unable to break into West Ham’s side and ending up back at a bottom half Championship club, he has only gained financially from such a move. An accusation of greed, with money his motive rather than footballing development, often sent the young midfielder’s way.

Additionally, at the time of his decision to turn down a new contract at Charlton and move to West Ham, Poyet didn’t particularly help himself. A Tweet, since deleted, that suggested the truth would come out eventually was posted, but the youngster never got round to revealing said truth. His thank you to the club, which didn’t pay any particular attention to supporters, also didn’t please some.

However, both then and now, I can’t help but feel the anger towards Poyet is misdirected, and his positive on-the-pitch contribution should outweigh the negative scenario that was his departure from the club.

True, you can certainly argue that his decision to move to West Ham, in hindsight, maybe wasn’t the greatest. His career has not progressed, and another season at Championship level following his impressive contributions at the end of the 2013/14 campaign would have better suited his development.

But I don’t believe that is an error of judgement that deserves the sort of heckling that should be reserved for the likes of Yohann Thuram.

For though the West Ham switch was maybe a little misguided, his decision to depart SE7 is totally understandable, and even more so in light of recent events.

First, two successive ownerships had failed to tie him down to a new contract as a matter of urgency. A situation where he was given the opportunity to walk away should not have arisen, but both the Michael Slater/Tony Jimenez double act and Roland Duchatelet let months and months pass without offering what was evidently an exciting young talent a new deal. Suicidal.

Secondly, Poyet’s decision was quite evidently based around question marks over the state of the club. A manager and a head coach he respected removed, and still plenty of uncertainty over what Duchatelet’s ambitions for Charlton were.

Given the anger that now exists over Duchatelet’s ownership, quite clearly failing, it can be suggested that Poyet’s apprehension over signing a new deal was justified, and the anger over such a superb home grown player slipping through the club’s fingers should primarily be directed at those who run the club.

Of course, there will be those of you who still have little respect for Poyet given the nature of his departure, and that is understandable. But I do think it’s a little unfair that he has been painted as some kind of villain, despite his decision not to remain a Charlton player making more and more sense with each Duchatelet failing.

There will be those who will probably boo his, and Simon Church’s, every touch at Stadium:MK, but I will be given them both a decent reception before kick-off, before treating them with the same lack of emotion I show to any other opposition player once the game begins.

Poyet especially deserves better than to be subjected to boos. At the very least, he’s done more to earn my respect than a number of players in the current Charlton squad.


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