From the first month of Roland Duchatelet’s reign as Charlton Athletic owner, the phrase “move on” has been persistently used in an attempt to brush mistakes, insults, and the overall damage done to the club underneath the carpet. Or maybe underneath the sofa.
The relatively small sub-section of supporters that see getting behind the team as their only role often informing those who bemoan, criticise and protest with justification that they must simply ignore past events, and look into the future with unjustified confidence. A chuckle provided on the handful of occasions when it suggested to me that my blog name needs changing in order for myself to move on.
And it was Chris Powell’s sacking, in particular the way it was constructed and the horrendous way he was treated by Duchatelet and Katrien Meire, that made “move on” a phrase more widely used in SE7 than “the mist rolling in from the Thames”. Simply continue supporting the team, and disregard any emotion and connection you have towards a Valley legend.
But it player sales, beginning with Yann Kermorgant and continuing throughout each and every transfer window since, that have given the phrase its longevity. Ignore the way adored and/or talented players have been forced out of the club for less than they are worth, for they are now former Addicks, and simply support the dross that has replaced them.
The greatest issue with that, of course, is that while a certain number of supporters informed the growing majority of their need to move on, the regime were not. Mistakes worsening, insults more insulting, and damage greater. The only moving on occurring being that the regime’s actions were forcing supporters of many years to feel like they need to move on from what was no longer feeling like their club.
However, the combination of two stories in this previous week suggests that, after two and a half years of horrendous footballing decisions, Duchatelet’s regime might have finally moved on from their flawed transfer policies.
It would probably be expecting too much for perfection, and there has still be frustration during this summer’s transfer activity. Jordan Cousins, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, and Tareiq Holmes-Dennis sold for well below their perceived value, suggestions that boss Russell Slade had to fight against Meire in order to sign the players he desired, and the slowness in recruiting means that, even now, there remains a lack of cohesion in the side.
So too are numbers lacking in certain positions, with a failure to recruit beyond Fredrik Ulvestad on transfer deadline day leaving the Addicks a little light in midfield and up top.
But it’s another decision made on deadline day that implies a very definite change in policy. A very un-Duchatelet-like decision not to cash in on Ademola Lookman with a serious offer made, and instead see the value in retaining the exciting teenager.
It probably the first time that the early suggestion that we no longer need to sell our most promising young players at the first sign of cash appearing on the table has actually been backed up. It’s only taken 30 months for an acceptance that footballing success is actually quite important, and holds greater worth than offloading players without considering the consequences to on-the-pitch events.
And so too has it only taken 30 months, the destruction of a bond between supporters and club, and a relegation for the manager to finally be given reasonable power.
The signings belonging to Slade and chief scout Steve Head, and not the regime. The signings, while collectively not quite there yet, all making an immediate impact given the fact they all reasonable experience of either the English or British game. It’s only taken 30 months.
The signings, therefore, not belonging to a network scout. A network scout named Thomas Driesen, who has been revealed this week. The second part of the suggestion that the regime have moved on from their horrendous transfer policy.
For given the transfer activity overseen this summer, it’s apparent there is no longer a reliance on him, and that he no longer has the final say.
Driesen, as revealed by Belgian magazine Sport and followed up by NewsShopper this week, is a mysterious 20-something given power by Duchatelet to effectively have control of transfers at three of his network clubs (Charlton, Ujpest and Sint-Truiden) on the basis of a single email of Standard Liege-related analysis and some nonsense about Mario Balotelli missing a penalty.
He had no previous football experience, and his searches were carried out through analytics and statistics, which carried greater influence than the beliefs of any head coach or scout on the ground at Charlton. So too has it been said that he analysed matches, sending emails to head coaches post-match that were signed by Duchatelet and directed also to Meire.
It Driesen who thought Piotr Parzyszek was better than Yann Kermorgant, Loic Nego better than Chris Solly, and Yohann Thuram better than Ben Hamer. It Driesen who encouraged the wasting of millions on players who were not suited to the English game, or simply not good enough. It Driesen who prevented successive head coaches from building squads.
Bob Peeters spoke of him, he led to Phil Chapple’s departure, and Guy Luzon suggested that he could only make suggestions, with Driesen incredibly having the decisive say.
But only now do we know the full extent of the control the ‘network scout’ had, who he is, and how ridiculed he was by those behind the scenes at Charlton not connected to the network. That Duchatelet gave Driesen power is yet another insult to the club and its supporters, reaffirms it has been run as some kind of bizarre experiment, and is part of the reason why now find ourselves in League One.
And, as such, Driesen is a reminder that, for many supporters, moving on is not an option. In spite of those who might throw forward the move on arguments now able to suggest that the regime have done so, evidence such as the use of this network scout reaffirms that that the damage already done is impossible to ignore.
For the use of Driesen shows yet another insulting and damaging mistake by this regime that can’t just be overlooked. That means hatred against them will remain regardless of what they do. That means it’s impossible to feel any sort of proper connection to the club while those that run it have treated it with such distain.
Duchatelet and Meire don’t deserve this chance to alter things, and that’s without considering the fact that Charlton under this regime remains very much a pathetic parody. The mistakes since the end of last season numerous.
There will, however, be some supporters who simply do not care. Who have no interest in how the ownership has operated in the past, and are only focused on what the team can achieve this season.
And, of course, I share an element of that view. That the main focus remains on hoping the side can achieve. A side which is in a healthier state than I anticipated, and should be able to compete in spite of the slight lack of numbers in certain positions.
There certainly a greater ability to move away from the ownership issues over the course of 90 minutes, given that Slade and his side feels very distant from one previous ones, that had a greater connection to and sense of control from the regime.
But what cannot be ignored is that so many continue to oppose, protest and boycott. That the feeling against the regime, from supporters who so desperately wish they could simply support their side, remains as strong as ever. That the Driesen revelation has angered more supporters than the Lookman retention has provided with promise. That the past actions of the regime, and the mistakes they continue to make, mean supporters remain disconnected.
Even for those who demand that we all move on, the regime’s decision to employ Driesen means they are watching a lower standard of football this season. They may not feel insulted, but they must undoubtedly see the error.
Many, however, do feel insulted. And they feel insulted that this regime continue. How can any sort of trust develop when, in addition to every other insult and mistake made, a man like Driesen was given power? You cannot simply move on from that.
It’s far too late for change. A reminder that the only moving on that needs to happen is this regime from the club that they have insulted and damaged.