There is a heavy sense of resignation among supporters of Charlton Athletic. They have not accepted defeat in the fight to oust Roland Duchatelet, but for some time now have they known that change is not possible while he maintains control of this football club.
For this is not a genuine change. The shattered windows replaced, but the ransacked house remains in a desperate state.
This a totally predictable action, carried out in totally predictable shambolic fashion, by a regime unwilling to alter their strategy.
Eleven weeks required to determine that a head coach already on first name terms with Duchatelet was the right man for the job. Eleven weeks to decide that a man dismissed by Duchatelet on three previous occasions was the right man for the job. Eleven weeks to decide that a previous incumbent of The Valley’s home dugout was the right man for the job, despite not being so at the time when he was not retained.
Eleven weeks without a genuine search, while Karel Fraeye embarrassed himself and insulted supporters with the performances of his side. Eleven weeks without any sort of thought that a succession of failures had something to do with this poisonous ideology they continue to inject. Eleven weeks to decide that Jose Riga was the best possible candidate to represent the workings of this regime.
And less than a day required to carry out an extensive search after the dismissal of Fraeye. An extensive search of the very short list of names under the head ‘Puppets’ in Duchatelet’s phonebook, I presume. Lied to, once again.
In truth, maybe Duchatelet is right. Maybe there is no one better willing to limit their control of a side and potential ability as a coach than Riga. Maybe this is the only feasible appointment that gives this desperately woeful Charlton side a chance of avoiding relegation to League One, and subsequent oblivion.
It’s certainly the stance taken by those supporters wishing to view the return of Riga as a relative positive. An acceptance that it is merely a continuation of failing system never far from the surface, but that heavy sense of resignation meaning that they know he’s their best hope in the short-term.
He is not Fraeye. The clueless and cowardly puppet, whose final insult was a failure to explain himself and his side’s performance to the media after an embarrassing effort at Huddersfield. He could not continue.
At the very least, Riga’s previous exploits in SE7 mean a relationship between supporters and head coach will exist. Supporters more trusting and supportive, while the head coach is unlikely to behave in a manner that suggests he is against The Valley crowd. The mood, if only over the course of 90 minutes, should become somewhat less poisonous.
For those previous exploits were impressive. Chris Powell’s sacking could have been the final nail in the coffin in a side on the brink of implosion, but Riga, being wise enough to harness their spirit and unity, instilled confidence and resolve upon the group of players he inherited.
The five victories that moved the Addicks into a position were safety looked likely all hard-thought, and all by just one goal. The wins over Watford and Blackpool that confirmed safety and signed off the season featuring a slightly more expressive style of play, with Callum Harriott’s form the catalyst.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that such a scenario could be repeated. Organisation and resolve two of the key factors this side is currently missing, and factors that the Belgian boss may well provide again. There are players that impressed under him at the end of the 2013/14 season, such as Harriott but also Diego Poyet, Jordan Cousins and Johnnie Jackson, who will be under his stewardship again.
But those circumstances, in so many ways, are so very different to the one that Riga will face now.
He will not have the excellent group of backroom staff put together by Powell to utilise. He will not have a group of players who, despite some question marks over their quality, were totally committed to the Charlton cause and maintained the spirit and unity that their previous boss instilled upon them. He will not have the games in hand that made the club’s position a relatively false one, and a run-in that featured several fixtures against fellow strugglers.
Consider also the overall state of crisis the club is in, when compared to one of uncertainty two years ago, and the length of time he needs to sustain some fort of form for the Addicks to avoid relegation, and this is a situation much, much tougher than the task he was previously handed.
Additionally, his record since being ditched in favour of Bob Peeters at the end of his short spell in charge isn’t particularly impressive. Useful for Duchatelet and Meire in their attempts to justify not keeping him on at the time, but not so as they bring him back to the club.
His time at Blackpool, given their crisis makes ours look pleasant, can be ignored, but his return to Standard Liege and brief stint at Metz need looking at.
A fourth place finish, losing five out of ten games in the Pro League’s bizarre end-of-season play-off system, not enough for Duchatelet to keep his best pal at Liege, and a promising start at French second division side Metz eclipsed by three wins in 13 games.
There are, unquestionably, better managers out there. In fact, our chant of “we want a manager” has not been answered.
Irrespective of the respect Riga deserves, this is merely another appointment that allows Duchatelet and Meire to continue unchallenged. For their poisonous philosophy to spread further and deeper.
But there are probably no better head coaches willing to work under this dreadful regime.
It’s demoralising that this is now what we have to accept. That the best of a bad bunch has been appointed, that our ambitions are restricted, and that merely avoiding relegation would be some sort of relative success.
This isn’t a change. Just another insult. Another reminder of the lack of direction, strategy and competence at this football club.