Initially, it seemed like a waste of time to send criticism the way of Karel Fraeye. The interim head coach, though quite evidently underqualified, taking on a role that provided him with an opportunity to progress his career, and his appointment merely a relatively small symptom of the overall crushing disease.
But it appears this symptom is one that greatly enhances the damage of the cancer that has spread through the club while it has been under the control of Roland Duchatelet. His tactical naivety, even more alarming than first feared as this dreadful winless run continues, arguably not Fraeye’s most damaging contribution.
For his press conferences, both pre and post-match, have been insulting. He proclaims to understand the frustration of supporters, but only enhances it with his misguided words.
Using his past in coaching U15s football as justification that he is experienced enough for Championship management, downplaying the severity of the defeats to Middlesbrough and Milton Keynes Dons, and this continued insistence that the mystery surrounding his role is not important all increasing anger towards Fraeye. There’s a stubbornness, the insulting of fan intelligence, and a misunderstanding of their worries that replicates those above him.
However, it is arguably his comments in the build-up to the game against Sheffield Wednesday that have infuriated supporters more than any others he has made. With the context of planned protests in mind, Fraeye wants supporters to “do their job”.
To an extent, you can probably suggest that such a request isn’t as unreasonable as I’m attempting to make out. He wants his team to be backed, for his confidence-crushed players to be encouraged, and The Valley crowd to create a home advantage. Fair enough.
But to look at that comment in such a manner is far too kind, and removes any of the context given to it by the current circumstances on and off-the-pitch.
First of all, it provides a suggestion that the supporters have not been doing “their job” throughout this run of 12 winless games. That the rather hostile Valley atmospheres have been a contributing factor to the continuation of this dreadful spell.
However, I seem to remember, along with an entire away end, encouraging the Addicks in the hope they would press for an equaliser in the dying moments against Reading. It was those in red not doing their jobs, as their heads dropped and the effort stopped the moment they were reduced to ten men and subsequently conceded.
I also recall the Covered End getting behind their side at various points in the catastrophic performances against Preston North End and Brentford. Particularly during the defeat to the Bees, with very vocal support offered before and after the opening goal.
And against MK Dons, there were cries of encouragement after the rare moments that the visitors tested the home goal.
But by the end of that evening at Stadium:MK, the pathetic performance had left supporters battling with emotions of anger and apathy. The mood turning in the home defeats after the third goal had been conceded, and there was no longer a desire to invest energy in such gutless efforts. The reactions justified.
Supporters are not robots, who must merely turn up and offer unflappable encouragement. Supporters have an emotional bond with their club, and should respond to any given circumstance on the basis of how their club is affecting their emotions.
You could, of course, point to those famous Valley afternoons and nights when the Covered End has certainly had an impact. In recent times, the 5-4 victory over Cardiff in 2012/13 is the obvious example – an incredible comeback that would not have been achieved without vocal support for Chris Powell and his side in somewhat turbulent circumstances.
But not only was that support that had been earned and deserved, it was support than was then used positively.
Regardless of whether we are doing “our job” in the stands, this current side are not doing theirs. Encouragement and support, continuously called for, has not been turned into positive results and performances. It has become difficult to offer full support to a side, but for the consistent efforts of one or two, that continues to capitulate in such depressing fashion.
Undoubtedly, there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Personal abuse, especially any sent through social media, is completely unnecessary, but the booing and anger that has come with the conclusion of recent games is the response of supporters hurt by effortless performances and the state of their club.
Regardless, such atmospheres should provide a motivational impact on those representing the Addicks. They are professional sportsmen, and will have had to overcome tough challenges, and prove themselves to have tough characters, in the past. Above all, they will have had to prove their worth to important individuals.
They should be wanting to answer those that criticise and boo with performances worthy of encouragement throughout the 90 minutes. It is always given to being with, but not enough is being done for a positive atmosphere to remain.
So too is it difficult to separate anger towards those at the top of the club, and those on the pitch. Results have obviously not helped, and the immediate response to a poor performance is to blame those directly at fault for it, but most supporters have linked the recent run of results to actions of the ownership.
The atmosphere most hostile when calling for Duchatelet to depart; the players, to an extent unfortunately, receiving some of that anger for their weak performances that are a symptom of the cancer that runs through the club.
Additionally, there has once again become more important concerns than simply winning games of football. On one side, there is the desire to dethrone Duchatelet, and the anger that has created. On the other, the apathy and disillusionment that his reign has instigated, leaving supporters unaffected by the results of games, and more interested in wanting their club to feel like theirs again.
A win changes very little. Protesting and expressing anger, once Duchatelet and Katrien Meire get round to opening their ears and stop being incredibly stubborn, could change everything.
As such, it is undoubted that there will be, to some extent, a hostile atmosphere tomorrow. The pre-match protest will release most of that, and create a galvanising effect in the stands. The board will be booed, but the players, initially, will be supported. It is again up to them to prove their mental toughness and prevent the atmosphere turning.
It’s the players’ job, especially while the board are not providing it, to give us something to believe in. To invest our emotions in. To provide us with reward for our support. Not just to win games of football.
Much like it is not just the “job” of a fan to simply support the side. The “job” of a supporter, if there is one, is to act in the best interests of themselves as a fan, and in the best interests of the club. To inject the sort of emotion that they feel is right, and to both applaud and challenge.
The job of a supporter is not to agree with every decision the club makes. The job of a supporter is not to place supporting the side above everything else. A supporter is not a machine designed to encourage.
Besides, if we agreed with and supported everything the club has done, we would still be at Selhurst.
On occasions, conventional support has to be sacrificed. This, unfortunately for Fraeye, is one of those occasions.