Of the many reasons Roland Duchatelet’s regime has proved so poisonous to Charlton Athletic, constant short-sighted, narrow-minded and selfish decision-making has arguably had the most disastrous impact on the pitch.
Decisions not taken with the primary purpose of increasing the chances of the Addicks competing to an adequate level in the Championship, but in order for Duchatelet to mould this football club into the ideal state from which he can exploit it for his, and his philosophy’s, own gain.
Informing Chris Powell that Ben Hamer, Chris Solly and Yann Kermorgant were not good enough, and that those recruited from within or by the network would be much better. Employing head coaches, occasionally on an ‘interim’ basis, not on their ability to lead a side in the Championship but on their willingness to work within Duchatelet’s methods. Not bothering to adequately supplement the squad with enough depth, instead forcing academy graduates into the high-pressure environment of first team football which many have not been ready for. That sort of stuff.
The irreplaceable Kermorgant still not replaced, a head coach able of working with the limited tools Duchatelet provides, let alone capable of uniting the club like Powell did, still not found, and the damage of weak squads about to extend beyond harming personal development to resulting in Charlton’s relegation to League One. Mistakes made, repeated and rarely adequately addressed.
The victims of those mistakes treated without the respect their efforts for this club deserve by those who now control it, but often viewed with more appreciation by supporters than many of those who remain in SE7. It is not an exaggeration to say that excitement exists when a victim of the Duchatelet regime returns to The Valley, and that once strong bond can be momentarily relived.
But that momentary distraction from the disconnection that Duchatelet has caused at Charlton is tainted by a feeling of frustration. Frustration that these once cult heroes, or even just competent battlers in some cases, are wearing another club’s shirt in front of the Covered End, while their opposite number in red has neither the ability nor understanding of what it means to represent the Addicks to be considered an adequate replacement.
When Kermorgant returned to The Valley with Reading, for example, there was an obvious joy to see such an adored figure, and a figure that stands with us against this regime, once again. A figure so adored that his goals for the Royals were applauded, but it was with sadness that such a reaction was given.
No supporter wants to celebrate the failings of their side, but this was a showing to Katrien Meire and co. that their attempts to smear Kermorgant will never be successful, their efforts to replace him have not been good enough, and our bond with him will always be stronger. Our bond with the theoretical idea of what ‘our Charlton’ is will always be stronger than the one that Duchatelet is providing.
And with another bizarrely sold and poorly-treated cult hero who hasn’t been properly replaced returning to SE7 on Saturday, it can be expected that home supporters will again have to contend with an opposition player offering them a strong feeling of connection and increasing their anger towards the current state this football club is in.
In fact, this will be the first time that Michael Morrison has returned to The Valley since it was deemed his services were no longer needed. A constantly composed and quality centre-back, the leader of Powell’s consistent back line, and a committed performer always at the heart of gutsy performances, unjustifiably handed to Birmingham City without a fee being paid.
The relative success of the partnership between Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim, and Meire’s narrow-minded incompetence, effectively forcing him out of the club in October 2014 despite agreeing a new two-year contract prior to the season getting underway.
To the surprise of no one, aside from Duchatelet and Meire, the qualities of Morrison have been desperately missed ever since. It would not be long before Bikey and Ben Haim completely imploded, replacements including Oguchi Onyewu and Roger Johnson weren’t good enough, and the backline has continued to lack a proper leader.
Even in the cases of Patrick Bauer and Jorge Teixeira, who both made excellent starts to their Charlton careers but grew progressively more sloppy and error-prone, they would have been better served forming a partnership with Morrison, and not attempting to replace his presence in the side despite having no Championship experience.
It’s that presence, with his ability to lead, organise and galvanise, that you feel could have made a genuine difference since the turn of the year. At the very least, there would at least be someone in the back line still fighting against adversity, and maybe doing something productive when defending a set-piece.
It’s a presence that Birmingham’s successful season, which it can be deemed regardless of whether they finish in the top six or not, has been built around. Morrison leading his defence superbly, and creating a base from which Gary Rowett’s side have been able to secure victory in tight games. The Blues winning eight games this campaign by the odd goal.
It’s a presence that will undoubtedly get the respect it deserves from Addicks at the weekend. As has been the case at St Andrew’s when Charlton have travelled to Birmingham, player and his former supporters will show each other their appreciation for each other.
A frustrating and disappointing shame, therefore, that Morrison was not given the respect he deserved by this regime.