For the two sets of supporters that will descend on Elland Road this weekend, events on the pitch have lowered in importance in recent weeks.
In part, that is the result of both sides having little to play for. Leeds United marooned in mid-table; Charlton Athletic’s relegation mathematically confirmed after an extended period where their fate had been accepted.
But it is largely the consequence of opposition to two ignorant, arrogant and failing ownerships growing to a point where ousting Massimo Cellino and Roland Duchatelet has, justifiably and understandably, become the priority.
Cellino has worked his way through six head coaches during his time in charge, faced various Football League charges for tax evasion, and lost a court case against former employee over unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination. Protest group Time To Go Massimo, whose tactics have included projecting images onto the side of Elland Road and a mock funeral, calling his reign a “farce”.
A similar description could be attached to Duchatelet’s control of Charlton, with unqualified head coaches on the basis of their relationship with the Belgian, supporters constantly insulted, and the ethos of the Addicks heavily damaged. His reluctance to sell, and Katrien Meire’s unwillingness to resign, in the face of CARD’s marvellous protesting efforts equally as farcical.
As such, the result on the pitch this weekend is a relative sideshow. The most important result for these two sets of supporters is to win their club back.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 0-0 LEEDS UNITED
Charlton and Leeds played out a rather lifeless goalless draw at The Valley in December, but both sides failed to take fantastic chances to claim all three points.
It was the Addicks who had the best of the early openings, with Reza Ghoochannejhad’s first-time prod from a tight angle rolling agonisingly across the face of goal and Marco Silverstri saving well from Ademola Lookman.
And United’s goalkeeper was alive again at the start of the second period to deny Ricardo Vaz Te.
But it was Leeds who created, and wasted, the game’s best chance. Tom Adeyemi played through, and only able to knock the ball against the post.
With rumours increasing that Cellino has already got bored of boss Evans and plans to ditch him at the end of the season, the former Rotherham manager has responded in the best possible fashion.
Three successive victories, followed by an 88th minute equaliser to earn a draw away at promotion-chasing Hull City, giving Evans the results to support his self-belief and confidence.
Ten points from four games, despite moving them into the top half of the Championship table, might not prevent Leeds’ season from being a relative disappointment, but a decent run of form does increase the support for Evans.
And with United promising slight refunds on next season’s season-tickets should the play-offs not be reached, the club backing the manager is particularly important. Evans will hope he’s done enough to lead Leeds into the next campaign.
Having offered a degree of fight in the weeks prior to the confirmation of their relegation, their fate being sealed has seemingly returned the Addicks to the side that have been on show for much of the season.
For while performances in the victory Birmingham City, the goalless draw with Ipswich Town and even the defeat to QPR were commendable, the efforts during the loss to Derby, the decisive draw with Bolton, and last weekend’s protest-filled reverse at home to Brighton weren’t so great.
Such poor recent performances have only increased the pressure on Jose Riga, who appears unlikely to remain in charge next season, regardless of who owns the club. A lack of cohesion and coordination in his side, not helped by lack of drive from many in red.
Understandable given that there no longer remains a cause to fight for, but not acceptable. A certain amount of effort and fight needing to be shown in the remaining two games of Charlton’s season, and not just from those in the stands battling to win their club back. .
Leeds will be without Gaetano Berardi after the full-back suffered ligament damage during last weekend’s draw with Hull.
The Swiss, who also sustained a similar though more serious injury during December’s draw with Charlton, was replaced by Lewie Coyle with 15 minutes to play at the KC Stadium on Saturday, and Coyle could start in Berardi’s place at Elland Road.
But Evans will be able to call upon the services of Alex Mowatt again after the midfielder completed his three-match suspension, dished out following his dismissal during the victory over Birmingham City.
Tom Adeyemi should also return having recovered from illness, but Mustapha Carayol remains doubtful with a hamstring issue.
Elsewhere, Jordan Botaka could come into the starting XI after impressing off the bench in recent weeks. The Democratic Republic of Congo international hasn’t started a game since October, but enjoyed a productive 45 minutes at the KC Stadium last weekend.
Doubt remains over whether Chris Solly and Johnnie Jackson will return to Charlton’s starting line-up after the pair were left out of the side last weekend for speaking out against Katrien Meire during the shirt sponsors’ evening.
The adored duo were seemingly punished for voicing their lack of respect for the failing CEO, with Solly revealing that there was an attempt to move him out on loan to Gillingham in January.
Stephen Henderson, absent for an extended period for similar reasons, is almost certain to be absent, while Yaya Sanogo is a doubt after making an early exit during the defeat to Brighton through injury.
KEY BATTLE – SUPPORTERS AGAINST DESTRUCTIVE OWNERS
There will be competitive battles on the pitch at Elland Road this weekend, not least in midfield, where Jordan Cousins will face up against fellow promising youngster Lewis Cook. It’s where the attention, in an idea world, would be. You know, on the actual football.
Alas, such is the situation at both clubs, two exciting young English talents competing with one another is eclipsed in its importance by the need for both sets of supporters to continue to battle against the destructive and poisonous ownerships that control their clubs.
Such is the resistance to offers for both clubs from those currently in control, you could suggest supporters are simply better off packing in their protesting efforts and letting Cellino and Duchatelet get on with it.
But such an attitude would, of course, only assist in the damage that both horribly misguided and failing owners are doing to their respective clubs.
Leeds, with its reputation as one of the most successful clubs in England, do not deserve to be blighted by Cellino’s madness. Charlton, once the model club for many with ambitions of holding their own in the top flight, need to escape from Duchatelet in order to rebuild.
Keep fighting for what’s right, chaps.
Is this season over yet? Leeds United 2-1 Charlton Athletic