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Alterations in the Dugout a Footnote Without Change in the Directors’ Box

The news of a head coach departing Charlton Athletic has become as much of a footnote as a squad player being released or a loanee’s temporary stay coming to an end. Quite extraordinary given that this is a club who once employed the same boss for 15 years, and whose supporters hold special bonds with several previous managers.

In part, it’s due to the seemingly never ending turnover of head coaches in SE7 under the leadership of Roland Duchatelet. Predictable that Jose Riga’s second spell as Charlton boss, not helped by this one being considerably less inspiring than his first, would end well before the natural completion of his 18-month contract. A sixth head coach to leave The Valley since March 2014.

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Apathy playing a role, too, in the lack of emotion felt over another boss departing. Disconnection from all aspects of the club an unavoidable consequence of the contempt with which this regime has treated supporters in recent months.

Then there’s the consideration that football itself has been rendered insignificant by the need to remove a club structure that is damaging, and littered with individuals who are ignorant and insulting. The news of Riga’s resignation swept under a sea of protests and anger.

But ignoring Riga’s departure completely would be a mistake. For that someone so loyal to Duchatelet and his mob, who has additionally spoken of an admiration for Charlton as a club, has opted to walk away is another huge blow for the already non-existent foundations from which this regime will attempt to rebuild some sort of reputation. This list of those opposed has a new important ally.

In fact, there was even a parting shot from Riga. “It’s about the club structure,” he said. His reluctance to remain in charge a direct result of the regime’s running of this football club. The Belgian evidently provided with no reassurances that, as promised, Duchatelet will be learning from his mistakes.

For there are unquestionably differences between learning from mistakes, and simply making alterations to a highly flawed philosophy.

And the issue for this regime is that so many of their mistakes, such is the damage that they have done over the previous two and a half years, are simply not fixable. You can make alterations to the recruitment strategy and give more freedom to the man in the dugout, but never will the relationship between this ownership and Charlton supporters be healed – the biggest mistake made.

Particularly not with support still being given to Katrien Meire. The supporter-loathing CEO whose appointment and subsequent granting of power were mistakes, who continues to make mistakes, and whose continued employment is the grandest of grand mistakes.

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Dismissing Meire would certainly provide a powerful statement that there is genuine desire to make meaningful change at the club, and that Duchatelet’s intentions have alerted from personal gain to bringing success to the club, but it seems incredibly unlikely to happen.

And even if the CEO was to be dismissed, and the suggestion that Duchatelet now cared for the success of the club was to be brought forward, then his continued reluctance to meet with interested parties would make such a notion wide of the mark.

The only way that the mistakes that have been made over the previous two and a half years can be corrected is by a complete change in the structure of the club. The playing side of things can be improved by this regime should it choose to make changes, but it will not prosper while such a poisonous ownership remains in control, who have no chance of regaining the trust of supporters.

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Trust that won’t simply be regained by the appointment of Chris Wilder, which appears surprisingly possible.

Particularly on the back of Riga’s parting words, and the criticism the club has faced from those on the inside in recent weeks, it seems hard to make sense of Wilder’s thinking. Why would a manager whose stock is so high, whose current club has momentum, and who holds a strong relationship with the staff and supporters of Northampton Town want to come to a club in such a state of crisis? This will surely conclude with a new contract being agreed with his current employers.

That, of course, is not to say the appointment of Wilder would in any way be a disappointment, or is one I wouldn’t want. His leadership of the Cobblers, particularly through the period in which their future appeared uncertain, has been absolutely fantastic, and the League Two title a deserved reward. A promising English coach to lead the rebuilding of the Addicks would, under normal circumstances, be an exciting prospect.

Alas, in the circumstances that Duchatelet has created at this club, it feels destined for failure.

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Quite rightfully, after two year and a half years of insults and failure, there is not trust in this regime. No trust that whatever Wilder has been sold in order to be convinced to take the job on will actually be delivered. No trust that a regime who decided to turn down signing Lee Tomlin and Yann Kermorgant in January will grant more power to those more qualified when it comes to recruitment.

The 48-year-old not simply going to sit down and accept heavy interference, should the regime retreat on promises. A scenario where Wilder walks just before or after the start of the season, should he be appointed, seems more realistic than one where he is allowed to bring success to the club.

And still, regardless of the appointment of a respectable head coach, there will remain the animosity towards the regime. Not the fault of supporters for having such anger, but the fault of this regime, through their failings and treatment of both club and fans, for creating it.

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They may have some indication of the damage they have done to the football club itself, which is why they have been forced into making attempts to improve the situation, but it’s fairly obviously they simply don’t understand the nature of the damage they have done to the relationship between club and supporters. That events on Saturday only heightened the animosity merely increases the weight behind that suggestion.

For now, the heart of the issue is not to be found in who sits in the dugout at The Valley. It a footnote to who sits in the Directors’ Box, or watches from afar, while Duchatelet, Meire and Richard Murray remain.

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