Much like receiving an expected diagnosis, regardless of the fact you’ve long accepted what you’re about to be told, is equally as painful as the symptoms themselves, hearing Chris Powell confirm many of our worst fears about Roland Duchatelet’s treatment of him and running of Charlton Athletic, regardless of the fact only Katrien Meire remains in denial, leaves you as angry as the actions themselves do.
It reaffirms the severity of the cancer that Duchatelet’s regime has inflicted upon this football club, spreading through its ethos, its people and its supporters from the moment he took over in January 2014.
Such is the level of opposition, it’s hard to imagine that any sort of reaffirmation is needed, but to hear Powell’s words, always spoken with class and dignity, on TalkSport was like hearing of the death of another from the same illness you suffer from. An emphatic addressing of this ownership’s mistreatment of Charlton Athletic.
The flat-capped one merely laughed in response to presenter Andy Goldstein suggesting they “talk about [his] relationship with Roland Duchatelet”. Like there seemingly isn’t one between owner and club, and owner and supporter, there was no relationship between Powell and owner.
He knew from his first meeting with Duchatelet, before a game had been played or a signing made, that he would not be the manager of Charlton for much longer.
Before a signing was made, but not before Powell had been told who to sign. There were better players within the network, according to Duchatelet, than Ben Hamer, Chris Solly, Rhoys Wiggins and Yann Kermorgant. Duchatelet, assumingly on the evidence of his scouts or his bank account, did not believe the core of players that made Powell’s Charlton so strong and special even in times of adversity were good enough for the Championship.
Players that had proved their exceptional quality in the second tier, regardless of the lowly league position the Addicks occupied at the time, deemed not good enough by a man with no genuine knowledge of it or them. Powell particularly keen to express the quality of Kermorgant – the best player he believes he’s managed.
Instead, Piotr Parzyszek, Loic Nego and Reza Ghoochannejhad were thrown his way. Yohann Thuram turning up for training unannounced, and Powell only made aware of his existence once he’d received a phone call to tell him there was a new goalkeeper downstairs at the training ground. Though it was “never the players fault” that they were, players of low quality thrusted upon him.
And the suggestion, that Meire has so often sought to deny, that Duchatelet told Powell to play these players was confirmed. Powell, as you might expect, said no. He never said yes.
So too was he asked after each game why certain players did not play. That they weren’t ready or simply not good enough, based on Powell’s judgement as a manager and not one as Duchatelet’s puppet, not enough to convince the owner.
But he stood up for himself, for the club, and for us. You fear the other head coaches that Duchatelet has been keen to employ have not done the same.
In such circumstances, it’s easy to see why results and performances under Duchatelet’s ownership were largely poor for Powell. An impossible position for him, and the bulk of his players, to work under. The owner’s objectives not to win games of football, but to instil his flawed philosophy into the club at whatever cost.
It might even be the case that the celebrations in those victories over QPR and Sheffield Wednesday were a little understated. Not even the wild scenes at The Valley and his crossbar swinging antics doing enough to express the unbelievable achievement those two wins were.
Or maybe more extreme celebrations should be reserved for when Duchatelet and Meire finally depart, and take their cancerous ideology with them. A heavy sigh, the sort that many Charlton supporters have made in recent months, Powell’s response to the suggestion that this regime are here to stay.
When asked what their agenda is for this club, he could not provide an explanation. “That’s the question that I’d love to get an answer to. I can’t see what the end game is.” He, too, probably finding Meire’s pathetic PowerPoint presentation an insult.
The turnover of head coaches and players one of his many concerns. “Why they haven’t hired a British manager is beyond me,” said Powell, having asked how long a failing process can be repeated.
But so too, what with him being as connected to a club that he called “unique” on several occasions as any supporter, did the former boss raise what is arguably the greatest worry among supporters. Their failure to attempt to understand the club, connect with it, and connect with supporters.
“I bet they don’t know the club formed a political party to get back to The Valley. They need to know that.” And that has been proved by their constant attempts to belittle and undermine us; they have no idea the lengths Charlton supporters will go to fight for their football club.
And maybe we could get Powell, flat cap and all, to join in with the next protest in SE7. For he certainly won’t be coming back while Duchatelet remains in control. Dismissive of Goldstein even proposing a theoretical scenario where Jose Riga is sacked tomorrow, and he’s asked to come back. “That won’t happen.”
His was not, however, at all bitter. This not a rant or an expression of anger. Constantly controlled and thoughtful, he even reiterated that he was philosophical about his dismissal and that being sacked is simply “part of the journey”.
For Powell is an incredibly intelligent chap, and someone you would love to have a several-hour long discussion with about football. His insight on how to address the lack of black managers in the Football League, suggesting it was unfair to blame the system but that it was equally important to make sure potentially promising black coaches are not lost, absolutely fascinating.
Nonetheless, you could forgive him if he had entered a hate-fuelled moan about his treatment by Duchatelet. Horrendous treatment of someone that had given so much for the club, cares so much about the club, and held it so closely to his heart.
You were given another reminder of how just how closely Powell holds this club when he spoke about his playing career. Huge affection for Curbs expressed, Matt Holland described as the “perfect Charlton player”, and some regret over the “mental block” that was imposed after reaching 40 points each season in the Premier League because “we achieved what we had to do”.
You couldn’t help but smile in reflection, nor could you has Powell remembered his time as an England international. Real pride expressed, not only purely personally with his debut being “the best 45 minutes”, but a sense of pride that he’d been able to “put Charlton on the map” by being selected for the national team.
His England debut the best moment of his life, but winning League One the best moment of his managerial career. Signing those 18 players in the summer of 2011 described as a “gamble”, but one that certainly came off. A reminder that that title-winning season, Powell’s first full one in management, is an achievement you can’t underestimate.
A reminder, too, that as we head closer to a return to League One, it appears Powell’s efforts as manager are about to be thrown away. It almost as seems as if he did not rebuild a club after years of decline, reconnect disillusioned supporters, and build a squad that many Addicks will tell you is one of their favourites of all time.
Thrown away because of a flawed regime, led by an owner that continues to insult the club and a CEO that continues to insult supporters.
Powell deserved better. This club deserves better. We deserve better.
Unfortunately for Duchatelet and Meire, they can’t simply sack supporters for standing up to them, and replace them with new ones that they can control.
Big shout out to @CptBlackaddick, whose timeline I have scanned in addition to my own in order to put together this piece. He deserves your follow.